Route 79 offers some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Missouri, bald eagles included. The Missouri Department of Conservation has recognized Clarksville as the state's most outstanding local site for nature tourism.
The Mississippi River is a migratory flight corridor for approximately 40% of all North American waterfowl, and for many other migratory bird species, some of which end their migration here. Clarksville's winters are usually filled with many birds; herons, geese, cormorants, white pelicans, ducks, and fresh water gulls. The favorite bird of residents and visitors alike is by far the bald eagle.
The open waters below Lock and Dam 24 allow the eagles to hunt fish which is their main food. The eagles also seem to have some protection from the weather here. Many times the roosting location for eagles depends upon which way the wind is blowing. They do like to sit in the sunshine in the mornings along the river banks and get out of the wind on the south end of town. Some of their favorite places to roost are across the river on the island, on the the sandbars and up on the bluff at the north end of town. The number of eagles who stop here vary from year to year - Some years only a few dozen are seen, while other years a few hundred can be seen. It is all weather driven. Walter Crawford, past Executive Director of the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, called Clarksville "the eagle viewing capital of the lower 48 states."
The Clarksville Visitor Center, located on the north end of town just above Lock and Dam 24, has a wonderful view of the river and eagles in the wild. Visitors can enjoy the excitement of eagle watching in the warmth of the center. Spotting scopes and binoculars are available to visitors. The visitor center also provides visitors with free information on a variety of subjects.
One of Clarksville's main events, Eagle Days takes place the last full weekend in January and is hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Hourly programs are presented in the Appleshed and give visitors opportunities for great photos and to see these stunning and majestic birds up close and personal. After the live eagle program (which is free), a 20-minute film is also available in the Appleshed's theater. In Riverfront Park, the Conservation Department has spotting scopes for viewing and conservationists are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Bonfires will help keep you warm and eagles will fly by to thrill you!
Bring your camera, warm clothes and the entire family. Food is available at a number of locations around town and this is a sight you won't want to miss.
A FEW EAGLE TID BITS:
Male and female eagles are identical.
Both have the white heads and tails at maturity of 5 years old. Until that time, they are dark or splotchy (patches of white) here and there. The dark first year birds are sometimes mistaken for golden eagles.
Eagles mate for life.
Eagles will eat dead animals (easy pickings), they are opportunist, but they do prefer fish.
1994 - Over 500 eagles were counted from the Visitor Center. Clarksville, Missouri was named by The New York Times the "Best Winter Location to Visit".
2014 - 600 eagles were counted. We think it was more like 1,000. It was a totally amazing year!