Rivers Project


Eagle Viewing at Riverlands

Each year during the winter months, visitors to the Mississippi River are treated to a special site...hundreds of American Bald Eagles. These bald eagles flock to the Rivers Project Area and can be seen flying over the bluffs that surround the river, sitting in trees along the shoreline, or swooping down to catch a fish below the massive locks and dams. Those areas consist of 110,000 acres of public land and water in and around Mississippi River pools 24, 25, 26, and 27.

Eagles migrate down the Mississippi Watershed from Canada and the Great Lakes during the winter months looking for open water areas to feed. Eagles usually stay in the Rivers Project Area until mid-March when spring warm weather begins moving in. The eagles once again begin their migration back north until next year.

Birding Opportunities at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Eagles can be viewed all along the Upper Mississippi Watershed during the winter months. Within the Rivers Project Area, several sites have become known as good gathering areas for eagles and visitors.

Lock & Dam 24- Clarksville, Missouri: This area has some of the largest eagle populations from mid-November until mid-March. The eagles roost in the trees alongthe Missouri shoreline and the bluffs along the Illinois shoreline. Visit the Clarksville Visitor Center and get a birds-eye-view of the River.

Lock & Dam 25- Winfield, Missouri: This area also offers visitors the chance to get a good view of the eagles. An eagle-viewing platform, constructed by volunteers from the Nature Conservancy, allows visitors to view the eagles, which feed around the lock and dam structure. Lock and Dam 25 may be closed for security purposes. Contact the Rivers Project Office for more information.

Melvin Price Locks & Dam- Alton, Illinois:This area also has large populations of eagles flying and feeding around the massive structure. Eagles can be viewed from the Illinois Overlook offering visitors the opportunity to view birds as they feed below the dam. The overlook also allows visitors to view the large population of birds roosting on Maple Island, on the Missouri shoreline. Melvin Price Locks and Dam may be closed for security purposes. Contact the Rivers Project Office for more information.

The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, West Alton, Missouri: Thus area is one of the best eagle viewing areas for visitors within the St. Louis Metro Area. You don’t have to travel far from home to see these magnificent birds. Eagles roost in the trees on Ellis Island and feed around Ellis Bay. Visitors may also drive below the dam on the Missouri shore to view large numbers roosting in the trees on Maple Island. Rangers staff the buildings on weekends and answer questions on eagles and other animals and will point out anything interesting in the area. Visitors can meet a ranger at the Rivers Project Office located just off highway 67 North just before the Clark Bridge. 

Eagle Counts at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge
 Trumpeter Swans
Visitors to the St Louis area are fortunate to have a small population of these extremely rare birds visit the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary during the winter months, from early November through mid February. The reason for swans to congregate in the Riverlands Area is because its 1200 acres Environmental Demonstration Area serves as a wildlife refuge during the winter months. In 1992 four Trumpeter Swans from the Wisconsin Trumpeter Swan Recover Program migrated to the area and settled for months in Ellis Bay. Every year since, the number of individuals has increased.
 Interior Least Tern Floating Habitat Project, West Alton, MO
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in close collaboration with the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, is maintaining an Interior Least Tern (LETE) nesting habitat on two sand filled barges. The floating habitat is located in Ellis Bay at Mississippi River Mile 201.7, within the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Download the "Interior Least Tern Floating Habitat Project Brochure"
 Osprey Nesting Structures, adjacent to Rivers Project Office, West Alton, MO
The basket-like platforms sitting atop utility poles are designed to serve as habitat for ospreys, a bird of prey that normally begins nesting in late February.

Ospreys normally nest in large trees that are completely surrounded by water, giving them a 360° view of potential predators. Because availability of this type of habitat is limited, ospreys are opportunistic and readily build nests on man-made platforms. 

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 Wildlife Overlook at Ellis Bay, adjacent to Rivers Project Office, West Alton, MO
Completed in September 1999, this Wildlife Overlook was developed and constructed through partnerships between U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Clark Marketing and Refining, Triad Industries, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A paved pedestrian trail leads up to the entrance ramp, making facility access barrier free all the way up to the viewing scope which is modified for individuals in wheelchairs.
 Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary Trails
Ellis Island has reduced use from April 16 through October 14 and no access from December 15 through March 15. This trail is for hiking or biking.

Two Pecan Trail and Heron Pond Trail are closed from October 15 through April 15. This trail is for hiking ONLY.
 Roadside Birding along the Sanctuary and River
Too cold for standing outside, too hot for a hike around the ponds? Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary offers great birding opportunities no matter what the weather condition, from the comfort of a vehicle. Riverlands Way offers great views of Ellis Bay, Teal and Heron Pond, as well as seeing Melvin Price Locks & Dam from both sides.

The Ellis Island parking lot provides great eagle viewing during the winter as well.
 Maple Island Access
Provides viewing of the downstream side of Melvin Price Locks and Dam. Depending on the season, Ring-Billed Gulls, Bald Eagles and American Pelicans feed at this location. 

Riverlands Migratory Bird Checklist - A copy of this checklist is available in the Rivers Project Office or the National Great Rivers Museum.
 Pelican Viewing at Riverlands
American White Pelicans, Pelecanus etythrorhynchos, are one of the largest birds in North America. They average 60 inches in length, 107 inches in width, and weigh 16 pounds on average. Their wingspan is an impressive 9 to 10 feet. The bodies of pelicans are white with black wing tips, which are only visible when the bird spreads its massive wings. The legs (which are short in length) and feet of the pelicans are orange. Their orange feet are webbed not only between their four front toes, but also between the second toe and inwardly directed back toe. A Pelican’s bill is pale yellow with a yellowish pouch connected to the lower mandible of the bill. The pouch can stretch up to six inches and can hold three gallons of water!

Pelicans can be found migrating through the Riverlands area in October and March. 

Download Pelican Fact Sheet