The Alton region is a unique and special location along a migratory flyway. The region is located at the confluence of three of our nation’s greatest rivers—the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers. The lands along the rivers provide migrating birds with a place to rest and feed during their long journeys.
Not only can visitors see wonderful forest birds such as warblers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and cuckoos, but other iconic waterbird species can also be seen along the river, including herons, egrets, pelicans, and trumpeter swans.
Begin your bird-watching journey in Alton at the Melvin Price Locks & Dam #26. Watch for wildlife from eight stories in the air atop the Melvin Price Locks & Dam. As one of the largest locks on the Mississippi River, the locks and dam is central to river traffic for soybeans, corn, grain, asphalt and other commodities that are transported via the river and a great place to spot birds and other wildlife that are abundant in the area.
In the winter, from late December through the end of February, hundreds of American Bald Eagles reclaim their nests along the Mississippi River bluffs and feed in its waters.
Your next stop should be the Audubon Center at Riverlands. The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary hosts an abundant array of waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors to delight bird watchers of all ages. The sanctuary is a wintering home of the eagles and trumpeter swans, and it is a year-round rest stop for great white pelicans, shorebirds and wading birds. The sanctuary plays an important role in the migration of countless bird species.
Finally, visit The Nature Institute (TNI), which is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, Ill. Since its founding in 1980, The Nature Institute’s board and staff have worked to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world through preservation, restoration, and education. TNI also owns and manages over 450 acres of protected land, such as the Olin Nature Preserve, the Mississippi Sanctuary, the Kemp and Cora Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary, and the Heartland Prairie Project at Gordon Moore Park.
On day two of your bird watching experience, start at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Brussels. The 8,501-acre Two Rivers Refuge is one of five refuges in the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The refuge is managed for migratory birds, endangered species and migratory fish. It is an important link in the chain of resting, feeding and wintering for migratory species using the Mississippi Flyway. Spring and fall are a prime time to witness migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. Wintering bald eagles are plentiful from late December through February.
End your day at Pere Marquette State Park, the largest state park in Illinois. With nearly 8,000 acres of scenic beauty, Pere Marquette State Park is one of the most picturesque and beautiful locations on the Illinois River. Visitors love coming to the park to bird-watch and to also hike, bike, fish, horseback ride and take scenic drives.