RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota has played a big role in the comeback story of the American eagle. Their numbers have increased dramatically here over the past few decades, especially along the Mississippi River.

In fact, in the southeastern part of the state, you’ll find eagles year-round. And there’s a boat cruise, specially designed to give close-up views.

Rusty’s Red Wing River Rides
operate five days a week on the Mississippi. The colorful commentary from the man behind the wheel, Rusty Mathiasmeier, is part of the appeal.

“Look here, I’ve got one, two, three, four, five nests in a row,” he said. “Eagles everywhere! This year we’ve got 12 more nests than we had last year. (The eagles) see us every day, so they’re pretty used to us. They always say, ‘what’s he doing? Is he back here again?'”

Mathiasmeier knows the river very well from more than 40 years as a riverboat and towboat captain. For five years now, he’s run his own ship, providing his own names to the majestic birds nesting above.

“We’re going down to Connie and Gary’s, then we’re going to Henrietta and Baldy’s,” he told his passengers. “This is ol’ Benji right here. He’s married to a little ol’ girl named Marilyn. So they’re the only eagles we had last year that had three babies. Babies’ names were Lincoln, Blinkin and Nod.”

Rusty’s shipmates include his wife, Deanna, and their two dogs, Skipper and Tipper. It’s about a 90-minute river cruise: part nature tour, part comedy show.

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