Great Birding Sites
in the Middle Mississippi River Valley


Photo of Pelicans near Grafton, Illinois by Betty M. Bannister
   




greatriverroad.com covers an approximately 400 mile stretch of the Mississippi River. In this region the National Audubon Society has identified locations that are the best places to look for birds in its Great River Birding Trail project. Listed are easily-accessible sites that are along or close to the Great River Road such as parks, overlooks, and wildlife refuges where people can observe a variety of bird species and enjoy the scenic beauty of the river valley. greatriverroad.com has detailed coverage of many of these sites and added a couple of our own. We hope that you will find our information useful when you are planning a trip to get a look at some of the 326 species that use the river corridor as a home or a stopping off point during their migration.

30 Great Places for Birding
Locations geographically listed from north to south
Nauvoo State Park
50 N. Wells Street
Nauvoo, IL
217-453-6252
  This 148-acre park includes the 13-acre Lake Horton with a mile-long shoreline. In addition to fishing, boating, camping and hiking, people return to these serene surroundings for the park's recreational features. Bird watchers should look for White Pelicans, Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaup, and Caspian Terns may all be seen in Nauvoo State Park during migration. Bald Eagles may also be seen during migration as well as winter.
   
Wakonda State Park
32836 State Park Road
La Grange, MO
573-655-2280
  Wakonda State Park is composed of land that once was mined of gravel used to surface Missouri's secondary highways. The land has been transformed into a recreation area featuring six lakes, hiking and bicycling trails, and a rare sand prairie. 87 bird species have been recorded for the park. Look for grassland species such as Lark and Field Sparrows and the Dickcissel. Also, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, American White Pelicans, and Bitterns may be seen along with various waterfowl and wading birds.
Quincy Bay
State Fish and Wildlife Area

Off IL-24
Quincy, IL
  Located just north of Quincy this site consists primarily of Mississippi River floodplain forest and wetland habitats interspersed with various water bodies. Bird watchers should look for American white pelicans and various waterfowl during fall migration and bald eagles in winter. In spring and summer look for various wading birds, ospreys, and neo-tropical songbirds
For more information and directions visit the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail.
Ted Shanks
Conservation Area

3643 Pike 145
Ashburn, MO
573-258-2530
  Located on Highway TT off US 79 between Hannibal and Louisiana, this 6,705 acre area wetlands is teeming with waterfowl, songbirds, mammals and wildflowers. This site features primitive camping, boat ramps, and a staffed office with exhibits. Bald Eagles can be seen from late fall to early spring. Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets can be seen from late spring thru autumn.
The Clarksville
Tourist Information
Center
and
Lock and Dam #24

Highway 79
Clarksville, MO
573-242-3132
  Overlooking the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam #24, the Clarksville Tourist Information Center offers information about the town, its history, and local attractions. Binoculars and spotting scopes are available during the winter for Bald Eagle watchers. Lock and Dam #24 has an observation platform. Due to funding problems the Clarksville Tourist Information Center is open only during special events and by appointment.
   
Two Rivers
National Wildlife Refuge
County Road 1
618- 883-2524
  This refuge consists of a variety of habitats and is a major migration corridor for waterfowl, bald eagles and other birds. The refuge is closed mid-October to mid-December, but the office/visitor center is open weekdays and some weekends during that period.
   
Pere Marquette State Park
5 miles west of Grafton
on Route 100
618-786-3323
  Illinois' largest state park, Pere Marquette is famous for the beauty of its fall colors and as a home for bald eagles in the winter. Plenty of year round activities.
   
Melvin Price Locks & Dam
2751 Berns Highway
East Alton
877-462-6979
  Visitors can watch river craft use the locks and the area is a favorite site for bald eagles in the winter. Free tours are available daily.
   
Riverlands Migratory
Bird Sanctuary
301 Riverlands Way
West Alton, MO
636-899-2600 or
1-888-899-2602
  1200 acres of wetland area managed by the Corps of Engineers across the Clark Bridge from downtown Alton.
   
Confluence Point State Park
1000 Riverlands Way
West Alton, MO
636-899-1135
  This 1,118-acre park is located on the north side of the Missouri River at its confluence with the Mississippi River. A short trail leads visitors where the two rivers meet and the area is noted for bird watching.
   
Columbia Bottom
Conservation Area

801 Strodtman Road
St. Louis, MO
314-877-6014
  The managed wetlands at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area provide resting and feeding areas for ducks, geese and other migratory birds including herons, egrets, and pelicans. An accessible boardwalk over the bottomland waters make it easy to get into the natural area. The site also offers superb birding opportunities in the spring.
Weldon Spring Conservation Area
MO-94 South
St. Charles County, MO
636-441-4554
  If you’re a birder the than 8,000 acres, a variety of habitat types, several access points and nearly 30 miles of trails, make this area is a great place to add a few species to your life list. Among the over 200 bird species listed area are the worm-eating warbler, painted bunting, and blue grosbeak.
Watershed Nature Center
1591 Tower Road
Edwardsville, IL
618-692-7578
  The habitats at the 40-acre Watershed Nature Center include mixed hardwood forests and grassy meadows. A 1-mile path around its two main ponds gives easy access to birders looking for waterfowl. A raised walkway through wetlands and pond edge has been added to a 3000-foot handicap-accessible path. Birders can expect to see a wide range of waterfowl, many herons or egrets, hawks, sparrows, and other songbirds.
For more information visit www.watershednaturecenter.com.
Horseshoe Lake State Park
3321 Highway 111
Granite City
618-931-0270
  2,960 acre park centered around an oxbow lake with bird watching, nature trails, camping, fishing, hunting and other recreational activities.
World Bird Sanctuary
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road
Valley Park, MO
636-225-4390
  With over 130-acres the WBS is home to eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, parrots, mammals and reptiles. A team of Naturalists offer an array of education programs covering a variety of environmental topics. Admission is Free but there is a fee for programs and guided tours.
For more information visit www.worldbirdsanctuary.org
Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve
Bluff Road
Valmeyer, IL
618-458-4674
  The 532 acres of upland habitat of this area attract a variety of birds throughout the year. Birds that are commonly sighted during spring migration are a variety of warblers, American redstart, rose-breasted grosbeak and wood thrush. Turkey vultures, often seen in groups of five or six, are common in the fall. Also seen overhead from September through November are migrating hawks such as red-tailed, broad-winged, Cooper's, and sharp-shinned hawks as well as osprey and northern harriers. An occasional bald eagle may be seen during the winter months.
Valley View Glades
Conservation Area

Route B
Hillsboro, MO
636-458-2236
  Glades usually are small, rocky openings on hills in forests, woodlands and prairies and there is a large complex of glades in central Jefferson County. Bird watching includes glade and woodland species throughout the year. The Audubon Society maintains a checklist of 48 species have been recorded being seen at Valley View Glades Natural Area.
Pickle Springs Natural Area
Dorlac Road
Ste. Genevieve County, MO
  Designated a National Natural Landmark, this area has geologic features and plants that occur in few other places.
   
Hawn State Park
12096 Park Drive
Ste. Genevieve County, MO
573-883-3603
  With pine and oak forests, sandstone bluffs and canyons, and clear sand-bottom streams, this nearly 5,000 acre park is considered on of the most scenic in Missouri. The park has many nature trails, picnic areas and a campground for those who wish to get out and enjoy nature.
Turkey Bluffs State Fish and Wildlife Area
4301 S. Lakeside Drive
Chester, IL
618-826-270/6
  This site consists of open areas, cultivated fields, hay fields, brushy areas, and mature stands of bottomland and upland forest. Scenic overlooks provide good views of the Mississippi River. Picnic areas and scenic overlooks provide good views of soaring eagles and hawks during fall migration. Forested areas provide good locations for observing neo-tropical migrant species.
   
Tower Rock Conservation Area
PCR 460 (off Highway A)
Perry County, MO
573-290-5730
  Tower Rock, also known as Grand Tower, is a small landmark limestone island carved by the Mississippi River. The mainland offers picnic facilities and a 1/4 mile hiking trail to a viewing platform that offers a scenic view of Tower Rock. The island itself is accessible if the river is particularly low, otherwise it is only accessible by boat. Tower Rock is a designated National Historic Site as it is mentioned in the journals of the explorers Marquette and Joliet in 1673 as well as Lewis and Clark in 1803.
   
Kinkaid Lake
Jackson County, IL
618-684-2867
  Lake Kinkaid is a 2,750 acres body of water located in the Shawnee Hills region of southwestern Illinois. The lake attracts anglers because of its abundance of game fish and over 90 miles of shoreline and water depths to 75 feet. There are three recreation areas along the lake and the area offers picnicking, hiking, wildlife viewing, swimming, horseback riding, and camping opportunities.
   
Little Grand Canyon
Hickory Ridge Road
Jackson County, IL
618-253-7114
  The Little Grand Canyon National Natural Landmark is a small, but dramatic, part of the 280,000-acre Shawnee National Forest.  A small creek with a tiny watershed has carved an impressive box canyon, more than 200 feet deep, leading down to the Big Muddy River. The Little Grand Canyon area features loop Trail that is a challenging 3.6-mile hike offers scenic views, chances to see wildlife, and interesting geological features. The site offers picnic facilities, restrooms, and interpretive signage.
   
LaRue-Pine Hills
LaRue Road
Wolf Lake, IL
618-687-1731
  As with many places in the Shawnee National Forest, the beauty we see today is rooted in its geologic history. At LaRue-Pine Hills it took millions of years to form its bedrock before nature’s erosive forces took over and created the 150-foot limestone bluffs that now rise out of the Mississippi floodplain. These massive bluffs extend roughly 5 miles along Highway 3 are as impressive today as they were to explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1803. There are two hiking trails at LaRue-Pine Hills. The Inspiration Point is a 1/4 mile trail that leads to a rock pinnacle called Inspiration Point. White Pine Trail is a T-bone trail with stretches of 2 miles and 2 1/2 miles.
   
Trail of Tears State Forest
3240 State Forest Road
Jonesboro, IL
618-833-4910
  Trail of Tears State Forest is one of five Illinois' state forests in a system that was established to set aside lands for the growing of timber needed in production of forest products, for watershed protection and to provide outdoor recreation. The Forest consists of just over 5,000 acres and lies within the southern section of the Illinois’ Ozark Hills region, one of the most rugged landscapes in Illinois. The name is a memorial to the winter of 1838-39 forced migration of the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw nations through the area. During the 1930s a Civilian Conservation Corps camp operated in the Forest constructing many of the stonework stabilization walls and log stone shelters within the picnic area and along the Forest roads. The park offers picnicking, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities.
   
Trail of Tears State Park
429 Moccasin Springs
Jackson, MO
573-290-5268
  Trail of Tears State Park is a memorial to the members of the Cherokee tribe that lost their lives during their forced relocation in the winter of 1838-39. The peaceful, serene setting and the abundance of recreational opportunities of the 3,415-acre park are in sharp contrast to the tragic history that gives the park its name. The park preserves the native woodlands much as they appeared to the Cherokee. Mature forests cover much of the park, which is characterized by sharp ridges and steep ravines. Located directly on the Mississippi River, visitors can view the plentiful wildlife, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, hawks and foxes. The park offers camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, backpacking, primitive camping and equestrian pursuits.
   
Union County
State Fish & Wildlife Area

2755 Refuge Road
Jonesboro, IL
618-833-5175
  The Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area was acquired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the late 1940s and developed a wintering goose population in excess of 50,000 birds by 1964. The area encompasses 6,202 acres in the Lower Mississippi River bottomlands division of Illinois. Public use in the refuge is limited. Sightseeing and wildlife photography are permitted and the area is one of the few places in Illinois where so many wild geese can be closely observed and photographed in their natural habitat. Fishing is permitted from March 1 to October 15 on the area’s two lakes. Approximately 2,050 acres at the south end of the main site are designated as a Public Hunting Area.
   
Horseshoe Lake
State Fish & Wildlife Area

Illinois Route 3
Miller City, IL
618-776-5689
  Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area is a 10,200 acre area that includes a 2,400 acre shallow oxbow lake located seven miles north of Cairo. Visitors may be reminded of the Deep South with the abundance of bald cypress, tupelo gum, swamp cottonwood trees, and wild lotus. The first 49 acres of the park were purchased by the Illinois Department of Conservation in 1927 for development as a Canadian Goose sanctuary. The site offers picnic, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, and hunting opportunities.
   
Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road
Columbus, KY
270-677-2327
  Columbus-Belmont State Park sits on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The park is the site of a Confederate fortification built during the Civil War to prevent Union forces from using the river. Some of the artillery and the six-ton anchor that held the great chain stretching across the river are on display in the park. In 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps built a stone monument to hold the chain. The park hosts an annual Civil War Days reenactment that includes battle re-enactments, living history exhibits and military encampments in October. There is a 2.5-mile self-guided hiking trail in the Park. The park features seasonal facilities that include a Civil War Museum, a snack bar, gift shop, and miniature golf course. A river cliff campground is open year round utility hookups and grills.
   
Ten Mile Pond
Conservation Area

MO-102
East Prairie, MO
573-649-2770
  Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area is a 3,755-acre area that was once a lowland hardwood forest intermingled with cypress sloughs. Most of the area is flooded seasonally and was an important habitat for wintering waterfowl, furbearers, eagles, and other wildlife species. Visitors can view wildlife from the handicapped accessible Richard T. Reed Observation Platform located at the C/D parking lot. Duck and goose hunting and viewing waterfowl are the most popular outdoor activities on the area. Bald eagles are common on the area from late fall through early spring.
   
Big Oak Tree State Park
13640 MO-102
East Prairie, MO
573-649-3149
  Big Oak Tree State Park is an oasis of forests located in the abundance of farmland of southeast Missouri. In the 1930s, citizens of southeast Missouri began to realize that their magnificent lowland forests were about to disappear forever and began a campaign to save a large oak tree and 80 acres surrounding. The campaign attracted statewide attention and in 1938 over 1,000 acres were purchased and dedicated as Big Oak Tree State Park. Today, trees in the park are unsurpassed in the state for their size with several trees more than 130 feet tall and four trees qualifying as state champions. The park features a boardwalk that winds its way through the park past some of the park's largest trees and gives visitors a chance to view a variety of wildlife. An interpretive center explains the forest and swamp ecosystem in the park. Big Oak Lake provides 22 acres of fishing. Picnic sites, a picnic shelter, and a playground are all nestled under towering trees, which makes the park a great place for a family to spend the day.
   
FEATURED ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
Lewis and Clark
State Historic Site
Mastodon
State Historic Site
Foundry Art Centre
St. Charles, MO
Cuivre River
State Park
     

whatbird.com - A very good site with comprehensive information on the American White Pelican and over 800 other birds.

 
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