Get Ready For Eagle Season

A bald eagle swoops in over a body of water with snow in the background in the Great Rivers & Routes region.

(Alton, IL – Dec. 20, 2023) Great American Bald Eagles are coming to their winter homes in southwest Illinois and everyone is getting ready to celebrate the official start of Eagle Season with a full schedule of events, including a kick off festival on Saturday, Jan. 6.

To honor the return of this majestic American icon, the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau along with FLOCK Food Truck Park, the Audubon Center at Riverlands and National Great Rivers Museum will host the annual Eagle Ice Festival, Saturday, Jan. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Eagle Fest is a great way to kick off Eagle Season and gives people the chance to celebrate the return of American Bald Eagles to the region for winter,” said Cory Jobe, President/CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. “This is a very popular festival with the visiting public and is an opportunity for people to travel throughout the Alton and Grafton area and enjoy a wide variety of free activities including seeing a live bald eagle, watching ice carvers and so much more.”

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a free Eagle Meet & Greet event will be held at FLOCK Food Truck Park, 210 Ridge St., Alton, where Liberty, the American Bald Eagle from World Bird Sanctuary, will be on hand with his handler to welcome visitors. Learn more about bald eagles and take photos during this event. IceMan Tools ice carvers will also be at FLOCK creating a live ice sculpture during the event. Free face painting for kids is also on tap. S’mores kits are available for purchase so festival goers can enjoy s’mores by the firepits. FLOCK will also host three different food trucks and will have winter boozy drinks available.

Also from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be family-friendly activities at the Audubon Center at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, 301 Riverlands Way, West Alton and National Great Rivers Museum, #2 Locks & Dam Way, Alton and the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower, 435 Confluence Tower Dr., Hartford.

The Audubon Center will have outdoor learning activities about eagles and nature along the birding sanctuary’s trails. There will also be guided bird hikes and exploration of the trails at Riverlands along with firepits, make and take crafts, and sessions on local raptors with TreeHouse Wildlife Center

The National Great Rivers Museum will celebrate Eagle Fest with children’s crafts, open tours of the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, and a ‘Nest Watch Station’ with spotting scopes to view a resident eagles’ nest.

TreeHouse Wildlife Center will be at the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with several birds of prey found in the region. This free educational session will focus on what kinds of birds can be seen in the winter. Following the presentations, take a tour of the Tower and try to spot local raptors.

Jacoby Arts Center in downtown Alton will host its first-ever Alton Eagle Ice Fest Art Market featuring work of local artists and artisans in the Main Gallery. The market will run concurrently with Eagle Fest. It’s Raining Zen, a shop in the Mineral Springs Hotel, also in the downtown district, will give away free stone carved eagle figurines to the first 70 children 12 and under who stop by the store.

Eagle Watching Shuttle Tours will also kick off on Saturday, Jan. 6 in Alton. The tours will be held every Saturday in January and February. In Alton, enjoy a 45 minute shuttle tour highlighting eagle watching hot spots. Two tours each Saturday will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours begin and end at the Alton Visitor Center, 200 Piasa St.. Tickets are $15 per person and must be purchased online in advance. Tickets for the Alton tour are available for purchase here:

Every day visitors can travel along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway to visit the “Eagle Watching Tour” featured on the Great Rivers & Routes website. The tour is also available via an integrated mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The new tool provides a new way to explore what the area has to offer and includes places to stay, popular restaurants, activities and more. IPhone users can download the app here: and Android users can download here:

Annually, the opportunities for eagle watching continue to grow in the Alton region. Visitors can head out to view the eagles on their own, or they can take part in some of the traditional eagle watching events in the region, including eagle meet & greets, eagle watching tours and live bird demonstrations. Events take place nearly every weekend and throughout the week in January. A full list of events can be found online at:

For visitors who would like to make eagle watching a winter getaway, there are numerous eagle packages and specials available at hotels and bed & breakfast inns in Alton, Grafton and Elsah. Find out more at:


(The Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau is a certified Destination Marketing Organization serving Madison, Jersey, Calhoun, Macoupin, Montgomery and Greene counties and East St. Louis in St. Clair County. The bureau is dedicated to educating visitors about the region by providing information regarding the area’s history, unique landmarks, recreational opportunities, leisure attractions, special events and scenic marvels.)