The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and its partners offer the chance to discover a close connection with the bald eagle. The Eagle Days at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge Festival takes place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, and Sunday, Jan. 14.
Visitors can view eagles through spotting scopes staffed by trained volunteers at any time from the vantage point of the historic Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The bridge is part of the Mississippi Greenway, also known as the Riverfront Trail. On both days, the World Bird Sanctuary will be presenting an educational program featuring a live bald eagle, repeated every 20 minutes from 10 a.m.-2:40 p.m. Programming includes a hands-on exhibit of local birds presented by St. Louis Audubon, a full-size replica of an eagle’s nest, and warming tent activities, including children’s art.
Guests will also enjoy Lewis and Clark living history demonstrations at both sides of the bridge. The Missouri Bridge entrance will feature re-enactors from the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles both days. Visitors can see how Lewis and Clark and their crew lived, cooked, and traveled more than 200 years ago. Demonstrations will also include a flag raising at 10 a.m. and lowering at 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The Illinois side will feature re-enactors from the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Ill., on Saturday.
Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes (eagle viewing occurs at the center of the Bridge, a half-mile walk from each Bridge entrance), and leave their pets at home. Hot food and drink will be available onsite for purchase.
Eagle Days at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is produced through a partnership between MDC, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Great Rivers Greenway, and is sponsored by Cabela’s.
During the winter, the Mississippi River hosts one of North America’s largest concentrations of bald eagles; they are drawn to areas of open water in search of fish, their preferred food. The Chain of Rocks rapids to the south of the Bridge create open waters which are ideal fishing waters for eagles. This is a unique opportunity to watch them fish, ride ice floes, soar overhead and roost in nearby trees while having access to an educational program featuring a live eagle and warming tent activities.
Directions to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge from St. Louis: Take I-270 east toward Illinois. Exit at Riverview Drive exit and turn right. Turn left into the entrance of the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Park/Missouri Bridge. Parking at the Missouri Bridge entrance costs $5. (See below for free parking information.)
From Illinois: Take I-270 west towards Missouri. Exit at IL Route 3, go south to Chain of Rocks Road and follow west to the bridge entrance parking area (free). OR to park on the Missouri side, continue on I-270 west, over the Mississippi River; exit at Riverview. Drive and turn left. Turn left into the entrance of the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Park/Missouri Bridge. Parking at the Missouri Bridge entrance costs $5.
Free parking is available at two satellite lots in Missouri, the St. Louis Welcome Center at Riverview and I-270 and North Riverfront Park, off of Riverview south of the waterworks. A free shuttle will be available from both locations. Free parking is also available at the Illinois Bridge entrance.
For eagle lovers eager to see more eagles, MDC also sponsors another free Eagle Days event the following weekend at Clarksville Lock and Dam Number 24. It takes place Saturday, Jan. 27, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 28, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Clarksville is an exceptional location for eagle viewing. Visitors can see bald eagles through spotting scopes and at live eagle programs, along with many other educational activities. For more information on the Clarksville Eagle Days event, call 660-785-2420.
For more on Eagle Days at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, visit //greatriversgreenway.org/eagledays/. To learn more about bald eagle viewing opportunities throughout Missouri, go to //nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/events/eagle-days .