Bald Eagle Appreciation Days

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days are held the third weekend of each January. The American Bald Eagle visits Keokuk from November to March. Some are present as early as October, and can be seen as late as April, but they are harder to find. As the Eagles’ primary feeding areas in Canada and Alaska begin to freeze over, the birds fly south along rivers to find fish in the open waters. As many as 1,400 Bald Eagles winter along the Mississippi between St. Paul and St. Louis. Keokuk enjoys one of the highest concentrations of the feeding eagles in and around the open waters of Lock and Dam 19. Because of the tremendous drop from above to below the dam, the waters remain open and provide the eagles their primary food source – fish.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days feature many free indoor and outdoor programs including:

Hourly seminars featuring live Bald Eagles
Lectures
Exhibits
Films
Special events
Manned observation areas along the Mississippi Riverfront
Spotting scopes available
Conservation officials and biologists on hand for questions

The events take place at the Keosippi Mall and the riverfront. A free shuttle service runs all weekend between these areas.

When viewing Eagles, please remember one important thing: During the winter, they are under pressure to consume enough food and expend as little energy as possible to maintain body heat. They frighten easily to the point that they can fly off and burn up badly needed energy. You can help the Eagle survive by staying in or next to your car. Please do not approach them.

Tips for finding and viewing eagles:

The best time to view eagles is in the early morning. This is their prime feeding time when they can be seen soaring and diving for fish, and the colder, the better. When eagles are not feeding they can be seen most often sitting in large, mature trees closer to the river. They are also commonly seen on river ice near openings. Strong binoculars or a spotting scope are usually necessary for eagle viewing unless you are lucky. They are only a few locations where they are not needed.

Where you can find eagles to view:

Keokuk Riverfront Area – The riverfront south of the bridge (downstream) can be one of the nation’s finest areas for viewing Bald Eagles. Scan the trees on the Illinois shore, watch for them flying over the river, and look down river to Mud Island near the Illinois shore. Occasionally they will be seen in the trees along the Iowa side. During Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, manned observation points are set up along the river front to help the observer. Southside Boat Club, at the far end of the riverfront, provides not only a good view of the eagles, but also warm surroundings when the observer wants to take a break. Although this is a private club, visitors are always welcome, and the members will give assistance by showing you the best places to look.

Lock and Dam 19 – The raceway behind the dam is also excellent for viewing eagles. Go to the Corps of Engineers headquarters, cross the catwalk to the dam and walk toward the powerhouse. When you are looking over the river, check the trees, ice, small islands, and rocks.

Montebello Access – This location is on the Illinois side of the Keokuk/Hamilton bridge. Cross the bridge, and go about mile, turn left (upstream) into the Montebello area. This area was once an excellent location to view eagles in overhead trees, but increased disturbance has frightened the eagles, and the area has limited value. Please stay in your car.

Warsaw River Road – This location is on the Illinois side also. Cross the bridge, turn right (downstream) toward Warsaw. Eagles can also be seen overhead and to the left in trees, and the river overlook near Warsaw can also be good. You will need binoculars or a scope.

Lee County River Road - Upstream from Keokuk, this location can be found by turning north from Keokuk’s Main Street onto 7th Street. After you reach the T-intersection, turn left on Grand Avenue. Bear right as you enter Rand Park and follow the road down to the riverfront. While eagles can be seen occasionally in trees or near openings in river ice, the best place is about seven or eight miles, just below Montrose.

The majority of funding for Bald Eagle Days comes from the Iowa and Illinois Non Game Programs. We urge you to support your state’s Non Game Wildlife Program check-off on your tax form.

Sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Non Game Wildlife programs within the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Department of Conservation, as well as the Lee County Conservation Board, Keosippi Mall and The Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. For more information, contact The Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau at 401 Main Street, Keokuk, Iowa, 52632, (319) 524-5599, or (800) 383-1219.