The Mississippi River is the second most-visited U.S. natural resource (after the Grand Canyon). The bald eagles find it a pretty popular place to visit as well.
Each year from December through February, thousands of bald eagles migrate south to winter along the Mississippi River near the lock and dams. Turbulence created below the dams provides open water and a smorgasbord of stunned fish for eagles to feast upon. In addition, the wooded bluffs that overlook the Mississippi are excellent habitat for roosting and an increasing number of cases nesting. It’s not uncommon to see more than 10 eagles in one tree!
Bring your binoculars and take a trip this winter to this Upper Mississippi River region in Iowa and Illinois to catch a glimpse of the country’s national symbol. Take part in the many Bald Eagle Watches in January and February 2017 that happen in the communities that line the banks of the Great River Road from Dubuque, Iowa, south to Quincy, Illinois. For more information to start planning a winter Mississippi River getaway, visit www.TravelMississippiRiver.org
Bald Eagle Days is the feature celebration on January 6-8, 2017, at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Avenue in Rock Island, Ill. 2017 is the 50th anniversary eagle watching event. It is the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to the United States’ national symbol of freedom. Hours: Friday 4-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $1 for kids. The annual event includes: live eagle programs and live bird of prey demonstrations and Jim Nesci’s Cold Blooded Creatures. There are over 100 display booths. There will also be spotting scopes set up and manned by the Quad City Audubon Society at Sunset Marina in Rock Island for a great eagle watching opportunity with free shuttle bus service from the Expo Center. Visit www.qccaexpocenter.com for more information.
The Clinton/Fulton Bald Eagle Watch is Saturday, January 7, 2017, at Lock & Dam 13 (Fulton, Ill.) and Clinton Community College for indoor exhibits. Outdoor viewing is at Lock & Dam 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Exhibits and programs at Clinton Community College, 1000 Lincoln Blvd. in Clinton, Iowa, are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is a free bus shuttle from the college to the outdoor viewing area. For more information, call the Thomson Ranger office: 815-259-3628 or visit www.clintoniowatourism.com or www.cityoffulton.us.
LeClaire, Iowa, hosts a Bald Eagle Photo Presentation on Sunday, January 15, 2017, at the LeClaire Civic Center, 127 S. Cody Road. At 2:00 p.m., wildlife photographer, Burt Gearhart, will give a free all-ages slide presentation and lecture about Bald Eagles and their everyday lives in Iowa. LeClaire has great eagle viewing at Lock & Dam 14. Visit www.visitleclaire.com for more information.
The annual Keokuk Bald Eagle Days are January 21-22, 2017, with free indoor programs and an Environmental Fair from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the River City Mall, 300 Main St., Keokuk, Iowa. It includes live eagle programs, Native American activities, Woodcarvers' Exhibits and Demonstrations, World Bird Sanctuary Presentations, interesting seminars, children’s pioneer activities, and an Artifact Road Show. There is also eagle viewing with spotting scopes at the riverfront on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Visit www.keokukiowatourism.org for more information.
During the Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch on Saturday, January 21, 2017, you can join in on the fun from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by participating in children’s activities at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell Street, in Dubuque. Exhibitors will also be available with educational displays. From 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. enjoy outdoor viewing at Lock & Dam 11. Visit www.traveldubuque.com for more information.
The Quincy Bald Eagle Watch is January 21-22, 2017, with indoor exhibits and activities from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Oakley Lindsay Civic Center, 300 Civic Center Plaza in Quincy Illinois. The event honors Native American traditions with a variety of sacred ceremonies and entertainment features. New this year is the acclaimed Omeyocan Dance Co. performing Saturday from 2-3pm, featuring Aztec dances, art work and drumming with majestic costumes culture and traditions. Quincy Drum Circle will entertain the audiences with interactive drumming Sunday at 2 pm. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of eagle-watching on Saturday and Sunday at Quincy’s Lock & Dam 21 from 9am-4pm. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers rangers will be available with complimentary scopes at the site. For more information, call the Quincy Ranger office: 217-228-0890 or visit www.seequincy.com
Learn about bald eagles during an Eagle Watch on Saturday, January 28, 2017, from 10 a.m.-12 noon at the Welcome Center at the Port of Burlington, 400 N. Front Street in Burlington, Iowa. Then go out and help physically count eagles at Lock & Dam 18. For more information, contact 319-753-5808 or www.greaterburlington.com
On Saturday, January 28, 2017, go eagle-watching in Muscatine during the day with outdoor viewing from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at Lock & Dam 16. There is Live Eagle programs at 9:30 & 11:00 a.m. and environmental exhibits at the Pearl City Station, 1100 Harbor Dr. in Muscatine, Iowa, in Riverside Park. For more information, call the Muscatine Ranger office: 563-263-7913 or visit www.visitmuscatine.com.
The Muscatine County Arts Council presents the Eagles & Ivories Concert Series Weekend on January 27-29, 2017. The Eagles and Ivories concert series features Ragtime’s greatest. Evening concert tickets are $20.00 each and are available at the door, or you can purchase the three-day concert package for $50.00. Children 16 and under are free to all events. Visit www.muscatineartscouncil.org for more information.
Have a chance for multiple sightings during the Bald Eagle Bus Tours on January 21, February 11 and 25, 2017. This four-hour bus tour stops at multiple sites to show bald eagles feeding, roosting, and/or nesting. Reservations required; adults are $67.50, youth under 17 are $45. Each tour departs at 8 a.m. from the Best Western, 9923 US Hwy 20 W., Galena, Ill. Contact 815-594-2306 for reservations or go to www.eaglenature.com. Visit www.galena.org for more information.
More than a dozen Travel & Tourism groups in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois have joined forces to promote traveling along the Mississippi River Valley. Visit www.TravelMississippiRiver.org or find us on Facebook to check out regional events, trendy shopping areas, charming restaurants and historic sites. Use the website to plan your next weekend getaway!