We arrived in La Crosse in time for a sunset cruise on the Mississippi on a little shallow boat that goes into the backwaters to spy for eagles' nests and other wildlife you don't see from the big paddleboats steaming down the center of the river.
The park near the dock was the site of a wedding reception and we enjoyed seeing the bride and groom and the festivities. There were fountains and statues and it was a beautiful spot to linger as we waited for departure time.
The naturalist on board told us about the life on the Mississippi as we pulled into channels, one with a beaver dam, as we played I spy on the river.
We saw several eagles' nests (inactive since the fledglings leave the nest by July), turtles on logs, three eagles either sitting in trees or flying, deer walking in the distance on one of the islands, boathouses that float on the edge of the river but don't move (as differentiated from houseboats which go from place to place which we also saw).
She had hands on nature exhibits: two turtle shells, a model eagle skull (what eyeholes! They can see three miles away.), feet from a red-tailed hawk, a goose, and a barred owl, and other things.
It was a painless way to learn a little about nature and she drafted several "junior naturalists" to carry the items around the boat for display. When one little girl came to show us the beaver skull, Larry commented on what a dental bill the beaver would have!
It was a delightful and relaxing two-hour respite after several very busy days. Many people out boating called and waved to us. The river folk are definitely a friendly breed. We saw several with children on tubes being pulled. They were practically flying over the surface. What a river! We'll cross it again on our return trip and it will be like meeting an old friend.
If you've never read Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, I heartily recommend it. .