It’s that time of year for bald eagle spotting. That is because when the Illinois River freezes over … a small area remains unfrozen (caused by the running water of Starved Rock Dam). This creates a fishing location for all of the bald eagles in the area.
These five positions – no matter the temperature – should give you the best chance of seeing a bald eagle. (Keep in mind, there are no guarantees …)
5. STARVED ROCK LODGE VERANDA
The large deck around the Starved Rock Lodge is elevated, giving you a great view of the river – as well as Starved Rock and the surrounding skyline. Best advice is to search for eagles where they can still survey large amounts of the area from its “perch.” An additional plus, you are just a few short steps from warming up in the Great Hall or the Back Door Lounge of the Lodge.
4. ILLINOIS WATERWAY VISITOR CENTER
Observation decks look right at Starved Rock, as well as Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary. This is the bigger island that you see to your right (if you’re looking from the Visitor Center deck), which is owned by the Illinois Audubon Society. There are also a few telescopes that you can use to gaze a little closer on the island. If you get a little cold, go inside and look at their displays – including the wheelhouse of a barge!
3. STARVED ROCK
This vantage point is probably the most trafficked throughout the year – because, well, it’s the name of the park. This spot is also going to give you the closest view, as well as an elevated view, of Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary.
TIE FOR #1. LOVER’S LEAP OVERLOOK AND EAGLE CLIFF OVERLOOK
This is going to actually give you a few different places to look, all within a short walk of each other. You’ll have a great view of the dam (and any flying eagles looking to fish). From Eagle Cliff, you will be able to see quite a distance down the Illinois River as well. Walk slow between the two overlooks, keeping an eye on the treeline. You may just see one perched. (I was about 20 feet from this eagle when I took this photo below)
There are, of course, many other places that you could see a bald eagle – including at neighboring Matthiessen and Buffalo Rock State Parks. Make sure you keep your eyes to the skies – as well as the tree lines – and enjoy the beauty and majesty of these creatures. Remember not to get discouraged as well if you don’t see any eagles and to remain patient. The best times for viewing are in the early mornings and during the colder weather.