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Birders craving an excuse to "head on down to the river" during the months of December through March, take note! The major concentrations of American bald eagles in the entire continental U.S. now winter near the open waters at the Locks and Dams of the Mississippi River--and from Red Wing, Minnesota, to Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, organized public eagle watches are celebrating one of our nation’s brightest environmental come-backs.



Guided Eagle-Watch Activities Along the Mississippi River  
Story by Pat Middleton and may not be used without written permission from Great River Publishing

See also: Eagles the Comeback Birds  |  Eagles on the Mississippi River     |   Eagle Events on the Mississippi River

We're Birding on the Mississippi River! 


Public Eagle watches are well attended along the entire length of the Upper Mississippi. Read details below for general general information on Eagle Watching events operating at specific locations. Call for specific dates annually or CLICK HERE to see the updates we have for THIS YEAR.

Reelfoot Lake Tennessee
Reelfoot Lake claims the highest concentration of wintering eagles east of the Mississippi River. Guided eagle watches are available from January through March. Call first to reserve your spot. The Airpark Inn Resort within the park offers a marvelous opportunity to stay in a comfortable stilted townhouse apartment located right over the waters of Reelfoot Lake. Phone 901-253-7756. Unreleasable raptors are caged outside the park visitor center for easy close-up viewing of eagles, hawks, owls.

Keokuk, Iowa. Excellent eagle viewing at the lock and dam. Eagle Appreciation Days January 15 & 16, 2000, include presentations by the DNR, Raptor Center, Corp of Engineers, etc. Keosippi Mall. For detailed Information contact the Keokuk CVB or email keokukia@interl.net 800-798-8844 or 319-556-4372. Morrison Manor,located in Fort Madison, midway between Keokuk and Davenport, Iowa, offers immaculately comfortable lodging to eagle watchers.

Muscatine, Iowa, Bald Eagle Watch
Outdoor Viewing at Lock & Dam 16, 8 – 11 a.m. Indoor raptor program. Call 319-263-7913 for details.

Bellevue Bald Eagle Watch, Bellevue, Iowa
Outdoor viewing at L&D 12. Indoor programs at Bellevue Elementary School. Call 319-652-3783


Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch, Dubuque, Iowa
Outdoor viewing at L&D 11, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Indoor programs at Marshall School, 1450 Rhomberg Ave. For details call 319-582-0881. A meal at the Tollbridge Restaurant combines fine dining and eagle watching at it’s best.

Guttenberg, Iowa, EagleWatch weekend is Jan 15 & 16 2000
Outdoor viewing with spotting scopes provided at L&D 10. There will be live eagles on display, ice carving demo's, snow sculpting for kids, and soup/sandwich specials in many restaurants.
 Call 319-252-2323. 

Dresbach Dam, Dresbach, Minnesota. Late December and early January at the Information Area

Wabasha, Minnesota, Eagle Watch. At Wabasha’s City Deck on Pembroke Avenue & Lawrence Blvd. November through March, Sundays from 1-3 p.m. Staffed by volunteers trained by the Raptor Center of St. Paul, Minnesota. 1-800-565-4158. Viewing scopes are provided, bring your binoculars! The Raptor Center presents live birds of prey and an informative slide presentation in Mid-March at the Felix Auditorium.

Approximately 50-75 bald eagles overwinter in the Wabasha/Reads Landing area of the Mississippi River. The river stays open due to inflowing current from the Chippewa River on the Wisconsin shore. Best viewing December through March. The drive on Hwy 61 between Camp Lacupolis often yields many eagles.

WINONA, MINNESOTA, Eagle Watch Weekend, March 6 & 7, 1999 at the Quality Inn. Wildlife lecture at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday 1 p.m. bus field trip to eagle concentrations along Hwy 61. Cost $8 adults, $4.50 children. Refreshments. Reservations required. Call 800-657-4972 or email: altwncvb@luminet.net http://www.visitwinona.com Request their excellent full-color birding brochure.


The 12th Annual Quad City Eagle Watch, Jan 8, 9, 10, 1999. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. —call for details. 309-788-5912-

10,000 to 12,000 people visit the annual display at the Quad City Conservation Alliance (QCCA Expo Center) in Moline, Illinois. The Eagle Expo includes an Environmental Fair with displays of live eagles and exhibits by various conservation organizations and an art show with regional wildlife artists. Eagles forage over the river at the dams most of the day and roost ˝ to 1-mile inland of the feeding areas.

Most eagles in the Quad Cities are concentrated at Locks 14 (Arsenal Island) and 15 (Hampton, IL-LeClaire, IA) with excellent viewing from the public levee and the casino riverboat in Davenport, IA. The river access at Sunset Park at the lower end of Rock Island is very good, as is Credit Island and the Modern Woodman property below L&D 15. Walkways on the Modern Woodman property are open to eagle watchers. As many as 40 eagles have been spotted feeding on discarded piglets at a hog operation near Andalusia, Illinois.

The Potter House B&B and Victorian Inn are located in Rock Island, just blocks from the riverfront casino and the historic arts and entertainment district. Contact the Quad Cities CVB at 800-747-7800 for complete accommodation listings.


Bald Eagle Watch, Clinton, Iowa. 1st Weekend in January
Outdoor Viewing at L&D 13, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at Albany Boat Landing. Indoor programs & exhibits at Clinton Community College. Programs feature live birds of prey, free busing from the college to outdoor viewing areas. Call 815-259-3628

Bald Eagle Watch, LeClaire, Iowa, 1st Weekend in January,
Outdoor viewing at Lock & Dam 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., indoor programs at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center. Call 319-289-3009

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Important Eagle Watching Tips

The best eagle viewing occurs when it is cold enough to freeze large stretches of river so that eagles must concentrate at specific feeding areas. Mild winters mean eagles are more widely dispersed and spotting them is that much more difficult.

For eagle watchers, the combination of guides, equipment, and an opportunity to view "up close and personal" the many wintering eagles along the Mississippi River has proven irresistible. Eagle watch volunteers need to carefully monitor the interaction between viewers and eagles.

"Humans," says Pat Schlarbaum, "must also do their part. We need to learn to watch, but not disturb. We in Iowa feel strongly that we are only acting as hosts for these marvelous creatures. Come March, we want them returning to their nesting sites in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada, in good health. Therefore we need to take a holistic view…protecting the quality of the water and the fish, the air, the trees." To that end, Pat offers these suggestions to eagle watchers:

Above all, do not disturb the birds. Eagles spend about 98% of their time roosting or perching. Loud noises, movement, trying to approach to closely will cause the birds to fly away, thus wasting valuable energy needed just to hunt and survive.

Use spotting scopes and binoculars so you can stay a good 100-400 feet away from the birds. They are visible with the naked eye, but to really view their bright yellow beaks and piercing eyes, the truly beautiful white head and tail feathers, binoculars are best.

Stay in a parked car when viewing so that your movements don’t frighten them. Birds are most susceptible when roosting and roosting areas must not be disturbed at night.

If you find an injured or dead eagle, leave it where you found it and call your local DNR. Though no longer endangered, eagles are still listed as threatened, and it is against the law to kill them for any reason.


MORE  Eagle-Watching Links

Eagles on the Mississippi River          The Comeback Bird           Eagle Events on the Mississippi River

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MISSISSIPPI RIVER HOME  |  WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS  |  River Books, Note Cards and Gifts  |  Feature ArticlesFISHING|
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