January is one of the greatest months on the calendar here in Southwestern Illinois.
Ok, I can hear you. "Nancy, are you crazy? It's cold. Sometimes it snows or ices. Christmas is over and Mardi Gras isn't here yet. There's nothing good about January, so what the heck are you talking about?"
I'm talking about the eagles, my friends.
American Bald Eagles makes their winter home here on the Mississippi River. They build massive nests in the tall trees near the Father of Waters and spend the days fishing and gliding on air currents above the tall limestone bluffs. There's nothing like seeing one of these American treasures soaring overhead. It truly is a breath-taking experience.
To see these majestic creatures, just drive up the Great River Road, beginning in Alton and continuing through historic Elsah, into charming Grafton and all the way to Pere Marquette State Park. Take binoculars and keep an eye out for the more experienced eagle watchers. If you see someone pulled over on the side of the road and looking up, chances are you've found the eagles. (The photo that accompanies this blog post was taken near Grafton, Illinois last weekend.)
Next weekend, January 17 & 18, Trailnet will host its annual Eagle Days celebration on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis. (The bridge -- which once carried Route 66 across the river -- stretches over the Mississippi from Madison, Illinois to St. Louis, just south of the I-270 bridge.) You can watch eagles from the bridge deck and see birds up close courtesy of the World Bird Sanctuary. Learn more about the event here.
The Alton Visitor Center, located in downtown Alton, Illinois across from the can't-miss-it Argosy Casino, also offers eagle-watching materials and great advice on where to go to see the birds. On specific days you can enjoy eagle meet-and-greet sessions and organized tours of eagle country.