True, "effluent channel" and "sewage treatment plant" don't conjure up images of bird watching. Still, this is one of the few places in Minnesota where visitors, even in midwinter, can not only catch a glimpse of bald eagles, great blue herons, belted kingfishers, and hawks, but actually observe them hunting and feeding. The reason? The warm, treated effluent from the sewage plant is rich in nutrients and attracts huge schools of baitfish, especially shad, which in turn attract predatory birds. There are other feathered creatures here as well: dabbling ducks, coots, pigeons, and gulls. A stone's throw across in most places, the channel runs a quarter mile from the concrete outflow at the sewage plant to its confluence with the Mississippi, and there's not a bad seat in the house. It's easiest to reach by boat. So drop your vessel in at the public access off I-494 in South St. Paul, travel about a mile north, past Pig's Eye Lake, and take a right at the first rusty barge. Pedestrians willing to scramble through the low-lying woodlands near the sewage plant can also make their way to prime viewing areas.


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