MinneCulture | It started with Alice

MinneCulture | It started with Alice

The tiny Bluff Country town of Houston, Minnesota, nestled on the Root River in the southeast corner of the state, is home to a scientific education and research center that focuses wholly on owls. The International Owl Center is the only one of its kind in the United States.

The Center had an unlikely start 25 year ago when Biologist and Falconer Karla Bloem took the helm of a project to build a Nature Center at the Root River Bike Trailhead. She received advice that it would be best to develop a program for the public before opening the actual building. While looking for the main attraction, an injured and non-releasable Great Horned Owl named Alice came into her life.

Beautiful and commanding, Alice was a star from the start. Karla had two goals in mind: to attract tourists as well as to focus on environmental education. So she came up with the idea of a “hatch day” party for Alice which grew into an annual Festival of Owls, bringing in top experts and owl lovers from all over the world.

Today, the Center is housed in the former Skifton Department Store on Houston’s main drag, but a capital campaign has just started to build a more comprehensive facility. It will include biological and cultural displays, a rotating exhibition of children’s owl art from around the world, program rooms plus aviaries on site for the ambassador owls including Alice.

Outside in the park, there will be six walk-through naturally vegetated enclosures. These are designed to use the owls natural instincts to create a singular experience for the visitor with nothing between them and the owls.

KFAI’s Alison Young spoke with Karla about the Center’s origins and it’s future.

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Support for MinneCulture on KFAI has been provided by the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.


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