Eagle Days
St. Louis County Missouri & Madison County, Illinois

January 17- January 18, 2015
9 am - 3 pm
Free

One of the better places to look for bald eagles on selected weekends in the Middle Mississippi River Valley is the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge that connects St. Louis County, Missouri with Madison County, Illinois. Built in 1929, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was once part of historic Route 66. The bridge is 5,353 feet long and is one of the longest continuous steel truss bridges in the country. One of its most distinctive features of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is the 22-degree bend in the middle that allowed southbound riverboats to align with the current, slip between the bridge's piers and avoid crashing into two water intake towers midstream just south of the bridge. Traffic on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge dramatically decreased when the opening of the toll-free I-270 bridges in caused a decline in traffic and was closed to vehicle traffic in 1968. The bridge was renovated in 1999 by Trailnet and is one of the nation's longest pedestrian/bicycle bridges which features level access and a cement surface.

During the winter, the Middle Mississippi River Valley hosts one of North America's largest concentrations of bald eagles, who are drawn to areas of open water in search of fish, their preferred food. The 2925 foot low-water River Dam #27 just south of the bridge, often called the Chain of Rocks rapids, is a permanent rock-fill dam built in 1960 to insure adequate depths for the old Alton Locks. The rapids insure that water stays free of ice and attracts bald eagles looking for easy fishing.

Since 1996 a group of environmentally oriented organizations have been holding the annual Eagle Days event. The World Bird Sanctuary holds an educational live eagle program (photo left) where visitors can view an eagle up close. This program is repeated every 20 minutes from 10 am to 2:40 pm. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides a life-sized replica of an eagle's nest that children love to explore. In the warming tent on the middle of the bridge the St. Louis Audubon and The Confluence have informational and educational exhibits.

 

Spotting scopes (top photo) manned by volunteers are spaced along the center of the bridge to view eagles diving for fish or roosting in the trees along the shoreline. The volunteers will have the eagles already sighted for easy viewing. Remember, eagle spotting is an outdoor activity, so be sure and bundle up, as it can get quite chilly on the bridge. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own binoculars.

Eagle Days also features Lewis and Clark reenactors who will have a camp set up reminiscent of the 1804–1806 Corps of Discovery Expedition to give visitors a glimpse of life during the explorers’ time. The Lewis & Clark State Historic Site from nearby Camp River Dubois in Hartford, Illinois will have a pirogue (photo left), a replica of one of the boats used on the expedition with site interpreters explaining how this type on boat was instrumental on Lewis and Clark's journey.

  

Directions and Parking: n Missouri, free parking is available at the Missouri Tourist Information Center (Riverview Drive just north of I-270) and at North Riverfront Park (Riverview Drive south of the water treatment plant.) Free shuttle buses will be available at both locations to transport visitors to the Missouri bridge entrance. For a fee of $5, visitors may park at the Missouri entrance to the Bridge; handicapped visitors may park in this lot free of charge. In Illinois, free parking is available at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge entrance. Visitors to this entrance will notice the improved and expanded parking. This improvement is the first step in a long-term project of the city of Madison to create an Illinois visitor center for the bridge and Chouteau Island. From I-270, drive south on IL- 3 to Chain of Rocks Road, turn right (west) on Chain of Rocks Road and cross the Chain of Rocks Canal. Follow the road and park near the Illinois bridge entrance.

For more information on this event call call 314-877-1309

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