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Bald Eagles in Illinois: 11 Best Eagle Watching Spots You Must Visit

If you’re looking for some of the best places to see bald eagles in Illinois, you’ve come to the right place!

If you love seeing majestic birds, majestic vistas, and enjoying the great outdoors, there’s no shortage of opportunities for doing so in Illinois.

In fact, it is one of the best places in the U.S to see the Bald Eagle. The Great Lakes State is home to a number of scenic parks and preserves that are prime eagle habitats.

Keep reading to learn more about where to see bald eagles in Illinois.

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Illinois is home to lots of bald eagles.

How Many Bald Eagles are There in Illinois?

Are you curious about how many bald eagles there are in Illinois? The answer may surprise you – the eagle population in Illinois continues to grow!

With over 200 confirmed nests, the state is home to more bald eagles than ever before.

Eagles can be found in nearly every county, and their numbers continue to rise.

During the peak eagle season, you can catch a glimpse of over 3,100 bald eagles in Illinois.

When Can You See Bald Eagles in Illinois?

The best time of year to see bald eagles in Illinois is during the winter months.

This is because Illinois has more wintering bald eagles than any other continental state.

During the cold season, you will have the opportunity to see thousands of majestic bald eagles in Illinois.

Many towns and parks throughout Illinois will host unique eagle observation programs to accommodate guests who flock to witness these captivating birds in all their glory.

close up of a bald eagle

Best Time of The Day to See Bald Eagles in Illinois

Since they are typically more active in the early morning, the best time of the day to see bald eagles in Illinois is from sunrise to about 10 a.m.

Throughout the afternoon hours, eagles are more likely to be soaring throughout the skies while they hunt for their prey.

For that reason, you may be able to catch a glimpse of them gliding through the air in the early afternoon.

During the late afternoon, birdwatchers may notice an uptick in bald eagle activity as they make the most of the remaining daylight hours.

This is also a great time for bird photographers to snap some gorgeous photos of the powerful bald eagle.

Where can You Watch the Eagles in Illinois?

There are plenty of amazing places to watch bald eagles in Illinois!

In this post, we will walk you through an expert selection of the best locations to see bald eagles in Illinois and discuss what makes them unique from the others.

Many of these locations will also host events that are designed to enhance your bald eagle-watching experience in Illinois.

Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois is a unique region in Illinois that is known for its exciting culture, exquisite nature scenes, and rich history.

It’s also full of amazing places to see bald eagles in Illinois.

If you’re planning a trip to northern Illinois, we’ve got you covered! Check out this post about 17 amazing things to do in Northern Illinois.

French Canyon Falls in Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock is also known for its many waterfalls

Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park

If you’re looking to watch some non-stop bald eagle action all day long, this state park in Northern Illinois is the perfect place to visit.

With an exciting set of trails and activities to choose from, this is a great place to watch the bald eagles in Illinois.

Here you find the so-called Starved Rock, a 125-foot sandstone bluff that features panoramic views of the Illinois River and the surrounding bald eagle activity.

Embark on one of their Bald Eagle Trolly Tours where you can explore the local bald eagles and learn about their history in the region.

It’s no surprise that Starved Rock State Park is one of the best places to spot bald eagles in Illinois.

Highlights

Known for its bustling bald eagle activity, this is an amazing place for bird watching in the winter.

There are plenty of unique experiences for bird watching such as their educational trolly tours and rustic trails to the overlook at Starved Rock.

Address

2678 E 875th Road

Oglesby, Illinois 61348

Bald Eagles can be spotted along the banks of the Mississippi River

Quad Cities Region

Each winter, thousands of people flock to the Quad Cities Region to witness the mesmerizing bald eagles in northern Illinois.

Here, you’ll uncover a plethora of unique birdwatching activities that are unlike any other!

The bald eagles will gather along the wooded bluff that lines the banks of the Mississippi River along their annual migration from Canada.

In celebration of the return of these magnificent birds, you can find a variety of bird-watching experiences throughout the Quad Cities, including the Bald Eagle Days Environmental Fair in Rock Island, Illinois.

So bundle up and head out to the banks of the Mississippi to see some of the most beautiful bald eagles in Illinois in their natural habitats.

Highlights

The Quad Cities Region is one of the most popular bald eagle-watching destinations in Illinois and it’s easy to see why!

Along the banks of the Mississippi, you’ll find hundreds of bald eagles taking shelter along the wooded bluffs.

Address

Various locations surrounding Moline, Illinois

Galena is also a great place to see bald eagles
Galena in autumn

Galena

As you travel north along the Mississippi River from the Quad Cities, you’ll uncover another popular eagle-watching destination in Galena, Illinois.

This historic gem of Illinois boasts some of the state’s most nature-centric locations for watching the bald eagles.

Head over to Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve where you’ll get the chance to explore the eagle habitats in over 85 acres that encompass the bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Or you can head over to Apple River Canyon State Park where you can witness the soaring eagles above as you trek through a natural canyon.

You can also embark on a 4-hour guided bus tour which will take you on a journey through all of the areas most popular areas for eagle watching.

Highlights

There is no lack of places to watch the bald eagles in Galena, Illinois!

Here, you’ll find a variety of parks and nature preserves where you can find these majestic birds of prey in their natural habitats.

You can even embark on a bus tour of some of the most amazing places to spot bald eagles in northern Illinois.

If you are a wine lover, you should definitely visit one of these amazing wineries in Galena.

Address

300 East Hickory Street

Apple River, Illinois 61001

A bald eagle fishing

Central Illinois

There is no shortage of things to do in Central Illinois, including witnessing the mesmerizing bald eagle in its natural habitat.

This region in Illinois is known as one of the most popular travel destinations in the state and it’s easy to see why!

Here are some of the best places to see bald eagles in Central Illinois.

Gladstone

Nestled within the small town of Gladstone, Illinois, you’ll find unique access to the exciting bald eagle activity that takes place at Lock and Dam #18.

This lock and dam is located within the Mississippi River and it is a popular place for the bald eagles to catch fish among the roaring waters.

The excitement begins as soon as you pull into the parking lot, where you will see eagles perched above you, taking a break from the action of the hunt.

You won’t want to forget your camera when you’re eagle-watching in Gladstone, Illinois.

Highlights

Bundle up and head over to Lock and Dam #18 in Gladstone, Illinois.

Here you will witness some of the most exciting bald eagle activity in Illinois. They swoop into the Mississippi River to catch themselves a fresh meal.

Address

Lock and Dam Number 18

Gladstone, Illinois 61437

Quincy Memorial Bridge
The Quincy Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi river

Quincy

Another popular location for watching bald eagles in Central Illinois is in the stunning small town of Quincy.

Quincy, Illinois borders the Mississippi River where most of the bald eagle activity in Illinois takes place.

You won’t want to miss their Great River Eagle Days gathering that takes place in January each year.

Here, you can help the town celebrate the return of the National Bird with a non-stop weekend of fun and educational activities that the entire family can enjoy.

This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Native American history of the area, support local businesses, and watch the bald eagles at Quincy’s Lock and Dam #21.

Highlights

Head over to Quincy, Illinois to learn about the local history of the bald eagle and experience these majestic birds of prey in action.

Each winter the town hosts a gathering in celebration of the bald eagle’s return to the area equipped with a variety of family-friendly activities.

Address

532 Gardner Expy

Quincy, Illinois 62301

Southern Illinois

If you’re looking for one of the most popular regions to spot bald eagles in Illinois, look no further than Southern Illinois.

This is an exciting area that features a wide range of historic attractions and state parks.

If you’re planning a trip to Southern Illinois, you’ll want to check out this list of 27 epic things to do in Southern Illinois before you go!

The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

There is no shortage of bald eagle activity at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

Here, you’ll find over 4,000 acres of naturally preserved land where you can explore a wide range of plants and wildlife in Illinois.

During the winter season, one of the most popular attractions at this location is the bald eagle.

In late January, people from all over the Midwest flock to Crab Orchard to experience guided tours of the bald eagles in Southern Illinois.

You might even catch a glimpse at some of the resident bald eagle nests that they have on-site!

Highlights

Embark on a unique adventure through Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refugee to witness the bald eagles in Southern Illinois.

Here you’ll gain access to a guided tour to all of the bald eagle hotspots throughout the park.

Address

8588 Route 148

Marion, Illinois 62959

Beautiful fall colors and the Original Office building in the Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois
The old visitor center of the Pere Marquette State Park

Pere Marquette State Park

It’s easy to see why Pere Marquette State Park is one of the most popular places for watching bald eagles in Southern Illinois.

Each January, people flock to the Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton, Illinois to celebrate the return of the bald eagles to the region with the Bald Eagle Festival.

Here, you can catch exquisite displays of bald eagles in action in the Master of the Sky Show hosted by the World Bird Sanctuary.

Afterward, you can warm up with some cocoa and treats inside the Pere Marquette Lodge. For more information, head to their website.

Highlights

Celebrate the return of the bald eagles to the region of Southern Illinois when you attend the Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Illinois.

With indoor and outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy, it’s no surprise why this is one of the most popular destinations for bald eagle watching in Southern Illinois.

Address

13653 Lodge Blvd

Grafton, Illinois 62037

The Grafton Loading Dock
The Grafton Loading dock (photo credits: bk1bennett)

Grafton

There are plenty of opportunities to watch the bald eagles in Grafton, Illinois.

Your best chances of spotting bald eagles in Southern Illinois are at the Grafton Riverfront, Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Grafton Visitor Center, the Loading Dock, and Brussels Ferry entrance.

Throughout January, you can experience a wide range of events at these locations including a meet and greet with a live bald eagle at the Grafton Visitor Center!

Highlights

Head over to Grafton, Illinois to discover a variety of unique eagle-watching experiences including an opportunity to get up close and personal with a live eagle at the Grafton Visitor Center.

For more fun things to do in Grafton, click here. Wine lovers should check out these great wineries in Grafton.

Address

950 East Main Street,

Grafton, Illinois 62037

Statues where the Lincoln - Douglas debate was held in Alton
Alton was also the place of one of the famous Lincoln – Douglas debates (photo credits: ksablan)

Alton

Located just 20 miles down the scenic Great River Road from Grafton, you will find another bald eagle hotspot in Illinois in the town of Alton.

One of the most popular locations to witness bald eagles near Alton, Illinois is the Audubon Center at Riverlands, Missouri on the other side of the Mississippi river.

Here you can catch a glimpse of the captivating presence of the bald eagles all year round.

Their expert team of staff is always available to help answer your questions and guide your focus to the nearby resident eagles’ nest in the area.

They also hold educational eagle-watching events throughout January including the popular Eagle Ice Fest. Head to their website to learn more!

Highlights

Alton, Illinois is another amazing place to catch a glimpse into bald eagles in their natural habitats. Here you can visit the Audubon Center at Riverlands to witness the majestic birds of prey all year round.

Address

301 Riverlands Way

West Alton, Missouri 63386

Union County State Fish and Wildlife Area

When you embark on an exploration of the Union County SFWA, you will uncover over 1,000 acres of diverse aquatic ecosystems.

These water areas are prime locations to spot bald eagles in Southern Illinois.

Guests will have the option to witness eagles from the warmth of their own vehicles when they drive along the main road which cuts through the vast park.

If you are feeling adventurous, bundle up and embark on a hike along one of their numerous trails for an opportunity to see a bald eagle up close.

This is a great place to snap some photos of the majestic birds in action so make sure you don’t forget your cameras and binoculars!

Highlights

Check out the Union County SFWA for the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing bald eagle in its natural habitat.

There are plenty of unique ecosystems to explore within this massive sanctuary, so you will want to make sure that you bring your camera.

Address

2755 Refuge Road

Jonesboro, Illinois 62952

Great Rivers & Routes

For an all-encompassing eagle-watching experience in Illinois, you will want to embark on a three-day journey along the captivating Great River Road.

This three-day eagle-watching trip through Southern Illinois is the perfect way to familiarize yourself with the local eagle population.

To make this trip a more interactive experience, make sure that you download their unique eagle-watching app.

This app is designed to guide you through all of the eagle-watching hotspots in Southern Illinois and give you greater insights into the annual eagle migration.

You won’t want to skip out on a visit to the TreeHouse Wildlife Center in Dow, Illinois where you will get the chance to have your very own meet and greet with a live bald eagle on weekends in January and February.

Highlights

Take your family on an eagle-watching trip in Illinois unlike any other with Great Rivers and Routes.

This journey along the scenic Great River Road will lead you to all of the most exciting eagle-watching hotspots in Southern Illinois.

Address

200 Piasa Street

Alton, Illinois 62002

More tips for an unforgettable eagle-watching trip in Illinois

  • Check the weather: Getting stuck in the snow can really put a damper on your eagle-watching trip. That’s why it’s important to check the weather before you decide to head out for the day.
  • Arrive early and be patient: The best time of day for spotting bald eagles is between sunrise and 10 a.m. For that reason, it is best to arrive early at your eagle-watching destination and be patient while you wait.
  • Dress accordingly: Winter in the Midwest is notorious for its below-freezing temperatures and snowy terrain. If you’re embarking on an eagle-watching trip in Illinois during the wintertime, you will want to dress warmly by bundling up with layers.
  • Bring binoculars and your camera: In order to get the most out of your bird-watching experience, you will want to bring binoculars and a camera. Binoculars are especially important for getting the best views. Here are our recommendations for the best binoculars for birdwatching.
  • Respect eagle-watching etiquette: With so many eagles on display in Illinois, it’s easy to forget that they are an endangered and protected species. For that reason, it is important to respect their natural habitats by following the local guidelines.

Conclusion

Thanks to their annual migration along the Mississippi River, bald eagles are one of the most popular birds to watch in Illinois.

They can be found in many unique habitats, including rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

There are several different ways to watch bald eagles in Illinois including seasonal festivals, guided tours, or visiting nature preserves.

Looking for more fun things to do in Il, click here.