If you are interested in exploring a wild area that is literally within walking distance of civilization, it would be hard to beat the La Crosse River Marsh. Each season has a lot to offer to bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Winter finds the pristine beauty of the fresh snow and ice and you almost forget you are so close to a large city. Birds and other animals are somewhat limited at this time of year, but you are sure to be joined on your hike by the Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals and various species of woodpeckers as you walk the trails. Tracks of fox, deer, raccoon, rabbit and other animals might be seen in the snow on an early morning hike, giving you a hint of the fascinating creatures that are sharing the marsh with you.
Early Spring brings with it a better chance to see the majestic Bald Eagle as it soars over the marsh or circles the top of the bluff in the distance. As the waterfowl make their way northward along the Mississippi flyway, you can be sure of seeing many species of ducks, as well as Canada Geese, Coots, Grebes and Mergansers. Other water-loving birds, such as herons, egrets and a variety of marsh-dwellers will be arriving with the warm weather. Any time you leave a green space within an urban area you are going to find a haven for birds resting during their long migratory trek, and the La Crosse River Marsh is no exception. A birder on the trails in mid-May will find that the trees and shrubs in the area are populated by a large number of warblers, finches and thrushes, as well as many other species.
Some of these birds will stick around to nest, as will a few species of waterfowl and waders. The marsh rings with the various bird calls and songs at daybreak. Mammals and other wildlife can also be seen best in the early morning. Watch for Beaver, Muskrat and even a River Otter as they wend their way through the sedges of the marsh.