Wintering American bald eagle returns to southwest Illinois

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Eagles are returning to their winter homes in southwest Illinois and the region is ready to welcome visitors from around the Midwest to southwest Illinois for the winter travel season. Our area is more commonly known for summer and fall travel, however the winter months between late December and early March have become just as popular with visitors eager to catch a glimpse of the American bald eagle and other birds that call the Mississippi River home for winter.

The Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau has several options for visitors to enjoy the American bald eagle. Every Saturday in January visitors can hop on a shuttle tour in Alton or Grafton. In Alton, the popular 45-minute guided eagle tours will showcase the best places to see wintering eagles. Tickets are $10 per person. The remaining tours are scheduled for Jan. 22 and 29 and will begin and end at the Alton Visitor Center, 200 Piasa St., Alton. Tours are available at 10 a.m. and noon.

Grafton eagle watching guided shuttle tours are two hours and will begin and end at the Grafton Visitor Center, 950 E. Main St., Grafton. Tours are available Jan. 22 and 29 at 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 per person. Tickets for both tours must be purchased in advance on the tourism bureau’s website at www.riversandroutes.com

Eagle watching guided tours are a great way to celebrate the winter tourism season. We want to encourage people to take an eagle watching road trip to visit the region and guided tours are a large part of that adventure. During the winter months, up to 1,000 eagles call the region home. Seeing eagles in the wild is a one-of-a-kind experience that really seems to light up outdoor activities in southwest Illinois.

In addition to the guided tours, the Tourism Bureau is also encouraging self-guided eagle watching with its eagle watching mobile passport. The Eagle Watching Passport, which is free to download to mobile phones,…