January & February are Peak Times for Eagle Watching | Migrators Gather Along the Mississippi River


Bald eagle (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Did you know that the Mississippi River is the second most-visited U.S. natural resource (the Grand Canyon is number one)?  It’s a very popular destination for bald eagles, too.

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 nests.  It’s not uncommon to see more than10 eagles in one tree!

bald eagle

Bald eagle (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

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 2014 along the banks of the Great River Road from Dubuque, Iowa, south to Quincy, Illinois.  For more information on planning a winter Mississippi River getaway, visit www.TravelMississippiRiver.org

Read more about the return of bald eagles to Iowa

bald eagle

Bald eagle (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

The Mississippi River Visitor Center on Arsenal Island, between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois, offers free eagle watches and Clock Tower tours every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from January 4, 5, 25, 26 and February 1, 2, 8, 9, at 9:00-10:30 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m.  For required reservations, call 309-794-5338.  www.missriver.org 

Have a chance for multiple sightings during the Bald Eagle Bus Tours on January 11, and February 8 and 22, 2014.  This four-hour bus tour shows bald eagles feeding, roosting, and/or nesting.  Reservations required; adults are $70, youth under 17 are $50.  Each tour departs at 8 a.m. from the Stoney Creek Inn, 940 Galena Square Dr., Galena, Ill. Contact 815-594-2306 for reservations.  www.galena.org

The 30th annual Keokuk Bald Eagle Appreciation Days are January 18-19, 2014, with free indoor programs and an Environmental Fair from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the River City Mall, 300 Main St., Keokuk, Iowa.  It includes 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 am-4:30 pm.  www.keokukiowatourism.org

During the Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch on Saturday, January 18, 2014, you can join in on the fun from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. by participating in children’s activities at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell Street, provided by E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, Swiss Valley Nature Center, Hurstville Interpretive Center, National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, and the Iowa DNR Fisheries Bureau.  Exhibitors will also be available with educational displays.  From 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. take a free trolley ride to Bald Eagle viewing hot spots.  www.traveldubuque.com 

The Muscatine County Arts Council presents the Eagles & Ivories Concert Series Weekend on January 24-26, 2014.  The Eagles and Ivories concert series features Ragtime’s greatest.  Concert tickets are $15.00 each and are available at the door, or you can purchase the three-day concert package for $40.00. Visit www.muscatineartscouncil.org for more information.

On Saturday, January 25, 2014, 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.

Learn about bald eagles during an Eagle Watch on Saturday, January 25, 2014, 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

The Quincy Bald Eagle Watch is January 25-26, 2014, with outdoor viewing at Lock & Dam 21 from 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. and indoor exhibits and activities from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Oakley Lindsay Civic Center, 300 Civic Center Plaza in Quincy Illinois.  Food, Architecture & Bald Eagles (FAB) is the winning combination for the annual getaway weekend.  The FAB weekend package is multi-faceted, gender friendly and appealing to all ages. While centered on eagle-watching, guests will also enjoy Quincy’s spectacular architecture, museums, and culinary offerings.  For more information, call the Quincy Ranger office: 217-228-0890 or visit www.seequincy.com

Bald Eagle Watch & Expo. Saturday, February 8, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Coralville Lake. 

Exhibitors, activities, and guest speakers will provide enlightening and entertaining information for folks of all ages. This special event is free to the public.

The indoor Expo features noted Iowa author & wildlife photographer Ty Smede promoting the second edition of The Return of Iowa’s Bald Eagles. Mike Havlik from the Des Moines Y Camp will bring his owls , and Luke Hart from the Macbride Raptor Project will talk about hawks.

Then brave the cold, and go out to the lake to view real eagles in action! The observation area will be in the Coralville Dam area. The picnic shelter in Tailwater West below the dam will have a warming fire along with free hot coffe or hot chocolate. Volunteers from the Iowa City Bird Club and the Iowa DNR will be on hand with scopes and binoculars (or bring your own) to help you view the birds along the river downstream. North Central Junior High, North Liberty. (319) 338-3543

Gray’s Lake Valentine’s Day Bald Eagle Program at noon to 12:30 on Friday, February 14. Calling all "love birds." Celebrate Valentine’s by bundling up and heading out to Gray’s Lake over your lunch hour to see a pair of love birds in the wild. The City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation and the Iowa DNR are teaming up to host wildlife expert Pat Schlarbaum to check out our nesting love birds, a pair of bald eagles, and present a free eagle program. In the past, this bald eagle pair has successfully fledged eaglets right here in the heart of Des Moines. Bring your lunch or simply enjoy the complimentary hot beverages at Gray’s Lake. Meet-up at the Gray’s Lake northwest parking lot off of Fleur Drive. 515-283-4294

Effigy Mounds Bald Eagle Watch, Feb. 22. Harpers Ferry. Outdoor viewing at selected sites around reservoir, start at Visitor’s Center. For more information call 515-276-4656

O’Brien County Bald Eagle Watch, March 1, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Prairie Heritage Center, 4931 Yellow Ave., Peterson. Spotting scopes and binoculars available. Ty Smedes will be presenting his book “The Return of Iowa’s Bald Eagle” at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information call Charlene Elyea 712-295-7200  Sioux Rapids, March 22. American Legion Building, 200 Main Street, Sioux Rapids. Registration from 8:30 to 10 a.m.  Speakers from 10 a.m. to Noon. Outdoor viewing at selected sites. For more information call: 712-296-4920 or 712-295-7200.