Eagle Watching

Here they come -- convoys of birds looking for winter homes throughout the Great Rivers & Routes region, 25 miles north of St. Louis on the Mississippi River.

Hundreds of American Bald Eagles, thousands of Trumpeter Swans, ducks, geese and even the occasional Snowy Owl take up residence in the region from late December through early March.

Facts & Information On American Bald Eagles

  • Eat fish, carrion, smaller birds and rodents
  • Soars through the sky rather than flap wings
  • There is a large amount of bald eagles in Alaska and Canada
  • Use their talons to fish or steal the kills from other animals
  • Live near coasts and lakes where there is a large amount of fish
  • Can live up to 28 years
  • Both female and male bald eagles have a blackish-brown body, white head, neck and tail, yellow feet, legs and beak and pale yellow eyes
  • Bald eagles weigh anywhere from 6.5 pounds to 14 pounds
  • Their body is usually 34 inches to 45 inches long. This is similar to that of a 6 foot man!


The population of eagles inhabiting the Rivers & Routes region in winter is one of the largest bald eagle populations in North America. Read on to learn how you can see eagles in the Rivers & Routes Region

Eagle Meet & Greet

Have you ever wanted to see a live eagle up close and personal? Well, now you can!

The Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau will be partnering with the World Bird Sanctuary again this year for the wildly popular "Eagle Meet and Greet" events. Throughout January in Alton and Grafton, visitors can meet a live American Bald Eagle. On Saturday, Jan. 8 and Jan. 22, the eagle will be at the Alton Visitor Center. On Saturday, Jan. 15 and Jan. 29, journey to the Grafton Visitor Center to see a live bald eagle up close and personal. These events are held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each location. Learn more about this beautiful bird of prey from a professional handler. Demonstrations are free.

To request a free Visitor's Guide for the Rivers & Routes region, please click here.

Eagle Fest Rivers & Routes region
Want to Meet an Eagle?

Before dawn breaks on the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, the eagles begin to soar over the Mississippi River. From late December through mid-February, every day is eagle day.

Eagle Watching

Gather your gloves, parkas, hats, boots and binoculars and spend time outside along the rivers and bluffs of the region in what becomes a bird watchers paradise each winter. Look for eagles in the trees and bluffs lining the Mississippi and Illinois rivers or on the open river waters.

Three Ways to See Eagles in the Rivers & Routes region

1. Driving along the byway from Alton to Grafton to Pere Marquette, visitors can experience several great viewing spots and see anywhere between 25 and 150 eagles on their journeys. You can also marvel at the beauty of trumpeter swans that make the Audubon Center at Riverlands their winter home. For more information on this and other scenic drives, click here.

2. Take a brisk winter hike on the historic Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge to discover new ways to eagle watch.

3. Take a self-guided eagle watching tour with the new Great Rivers & Routes Eagle Watchers Mobile Pass, visit 5 out of the 10 eagle watching hot spots and enter to win a two night/three day stay in southwest Illinois this summer!

2022 Eagle Watcher's Pass

Download your Eagle Watcher's Pass here for insider tips on the best spots for eagle watching! Download Now

Eagle & Swan Sightings: Current Counts

Eagle Count

Count as of Feb. 17, 2022 (Updated weekly on Thursdays)

  • Audubon Center at Riverlands, West Alton: 30
  • National Great Rivers Museum/Melvin Price Locks & Dam: 15
  • Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Grafton: 8 (In addition 16 eagles were spotted at Gilbert Lake)
  • Grafton Visitor Center: 4
  • Great River Road between Grafton and Alton: 20
  • Pere Marquette State Park: 4 (Bald Eagle Days Tour -- 80 spotted)
  • Grafton to Pere Marquette State Park Visitor Center: 10
  • Brussels Ferry: 5
  • Loading Dock, Grafton: 5
  • Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, Hartford: N/A

Trumpeter Swans

  • Audubon Center at Riverlands: 800
  • Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge: N/A

For more information on eagle watching, please call the Great Rivers & Routes Visitor Center at (800) 258-6645. Don't forget to take a break and warm up at local restaurants. And be sure to spread out your bird watching fun with an overnight stay.

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