Southwest Illinois becomes Winter Wonderland

Monday, November 13, 2023



As winter blankets the Midwest, the enchanting landscape of Southwest Illinois transforms into a haven for nature enthusiasts drawn to the mesmerising spectacle of eagles soaring along the bluffs overlooking the majestic Mississippi River.

Eagle Season kicks off with the Alton Eagle Ice Festival on January 6, a celebration where visitors can witness the splendor of American Bald Eagles up close. FLOCK Food Truck Park, the festival’s vibrant hub from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., hosts a free Eagle Meet & Greet, offering a unique chance to capture memories alongside America’s national symbol.

Beyond eagle encounters, the Eagle Ice Festival promises a day filled with excitement. Attendees can indulge in delectable treats from food trucks and enjoy refreshing beverages from the FLOCK bar. The atmosphere is set with DJ tunes and live ice carvings by Ice Visions, creating an immersive experience. Eagle enthusiasts can embark on shuttle tours from the Alton Visitor’s Center, ensuring optimal eagle-watching opportunities.

For those seeking warmth, Old Bakery Beer Company presents the Eagle Fest Beer, perfectly complementing the festival ambiance. Families can gather around fire pits, savoring s’mores kits for sale, while children delight in face painting.

Simultaneously, the National Great Rivers Museum offers free family-friendly activities, including talks by eagle experts and eagle film showings. The museum provides spotting scopes for eagle nest viewing and invites creativity with make-and-take eagle crafts, such as eagle head wraps.

Bird lovers can venture to the Audubon Center at Riverlands, just across the Mississippi from Alton, for live displays of eagles and owls from the TreeHouse Wildlife Center. Guided bird hikes, eagle crafts, and s’mores by the firepits add to the day’s enchantment.

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower stands tall, inviting visitors for eagle observation tours from heights of 50, 100, and 150 feet. A Birds of Winter educational session, featuring local raptors from the TreeHouse Wildlife Center, enhances the experience from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with admission required for tower tours.

For a more extensive exploration, Eagle Shuttle Tours are available every Saturday in January and February, departing from Alton or Grafton. Meet & Greets in both Grafton and Alton offer additional opportunities for eagle enthusiasts to connect.

Extend the experience by staying overnight at Pere Marquett Lodge, Alton Cracker Factory, or Aeries Resort, immersing yourself in the captivating allure of Southwest Illinois during this annual celebration of nature’s regal raptors.

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