American bald eagles
Looking for family fun this winter that won’t put a huge dent in the budget? Put the kids in the car and explore the Meeting of the Great Rivers region, search for the elusive wintering American bald eagles and pick up an official eagle-watching T-shirt.
The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is once again offering free T-shirts to visitors of all ages who stop by eagle-watching hot spots now through the end of February. This annual promotion provides families with the opportunity to explore the Meeting of the Great Rivers’ attractions along the Mississippi River from Hartford to Grafton, see bald eagles in the wild and receive a T-shirt.
Visitors can pick up an eagle-watching punch card at any of the following hot spots: Pere Marquette State Park, Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Alton Visitor Center, Audubon Center at Riverlands, National Great Rivers Museum, Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower, Lewis & Clark State Historic Site, Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, TreeHouse Wildlife Center and the Grafton Visitor Center. The card will be initialed by a representative at each site and once it is filled, the card can be taken to the Alton Visitor Center at 200 Piasa St., Alton, and redeemed for a T-shirt. This promotion is available while supplies last. The T-shirt is sponsored in part by Alton Memorial Hospital and Phillips 66. For information, visit www.VisitAlton.com/EagleWatcher.
There will be a live meet and greet featuring an eagle from the World Bird Sanctuary at the Alton Visitor Center every Saturday in January. This is a free event. Additionally, the CVB will offer eagle-watching shuttle tours that will provide visitors with a guided first-hand look at eagle-watching hot spots. Shuttles leave from the Visitor Center. The cost for these 45-minute tours is $5 per person and reservations can be made at www.visitalton.com/shuttle. Tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and the last shuttle tour will depart at 1:30 p.m.
Every day, visitors can travel along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway to visit the “Eagle Watching Hot Spots” featured in the 2016 Eagle Watcher’s Guide. Again this year, the Alton eagle-watching app will guide visitors during their eagle-watching adventure. The free app, available for iPhone and Android, will lead visitors to the hot spots, provide information on events and festivals, allow visitors to share photos, offer deals from restaurants and shops, as well as list shops, restaurants, attractions and lodging found along the byway.
Opportunities for eagle-watching continue to grow in the region. Visitors can head out to view the eagles on their own, or they can take part in some of the traditional eagle-watching events in the region, including eagle meet and greets, eagle-watching tours and live bird demonstrations. Events take place nearly every weekend and throughout the week, from January through March. Plus, most of the events in the region are free. A full list of events can be found online at www.VisitAlton.com/Seasons/Eagle and in the Eagle Watcher’s Guide.
For visitors who would like to make eagle-watching a winter getaway, there are numerous eagle packages and specials available at hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns in Alton, Grafton and Elsah. Alton is the place to be for the best eagle events and the largest concentration of American bald eagles in the state of Illinois. For the latest eagle-watching updates or to receive your free Eagle Watcher’s Guide, call (800) ALTON-IL or go to www.VisitAlton.com.