Few words can describe the thrill of seeing America’s national symbol soaring through the air in the wild, or close enough to touch. During the winter, the Mississippi River hosts one of North America’s largest concentrations of bald eagles; they are drawn to areas of open water in search of fish, their preferred food.
The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is open daily from 9am to sunset. Eagle enthusiasts are welcome to plan their own visit to the bridge.
The parking lot on the Missouri side of the bridge is currently closed, but access to the bridge is available from Illinois: To get to the bridge, take I-270 and exit at IL Route 3, go south to Chain of Rocks Road and follow west to the bridge entrance parking area (free). (Link to google map here.)
Best Greenways for Spotting an Eagle
There are many greenways in the St. Louis region where you can see bald eagles, both year-round and during winter migration. Check out some of these greenway locations below for the best chances of bald eagle viewing.
- Mississippi Greenway: Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
- Missouri Greenway: Riverwoods
- Meramec Greenway: Simpson Lake
- Meramec Greenway: George Winter Park
- Centennial and St. Vincent Greenway: Forest Park (Follow Forest Park Forever on Facebook for tips on where to look!)
The Mississippi River hosts one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles!
Did you know the Mississippi River hosts one of North America’s largest concentrations of bald eagles? They are drawn to areas of open water in search of fish, their preferred food. The Chain of Rocks rapids to the south of the Bridge create open waters which are ideal fishing waters for eagles. The colder the weather, the better the chances of seeing them fish, ride ice floes, soar overhead and roost in nearby trees!
Fish are the food of choice for bald eagles, so these birds often make their homes in tall trees near large bodies of water with easy access to their favorite food. Depending on what other food is available in the area, bald eagles may prey on a wide variety of other foods such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and invertebrates.
Location, location, location!
When choosing a home site, bald eagles choose locations high up in trees with a wide view of their surroundings and easy access for soaring through the sky. Their nests are some of the largest of all bird nests – up to 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep and weighing up to 2 tons.
Bald eagles often travel alone but may gather in large groups to feed or to sleep, especially in winter in places with plenty of food. Some bald eagles live in the same location year-round, some migrate only short distances, and some migrate over 1,000 miles. Migration decisions are made based on food availability, weather (such as if the water freezes), the bird’s age, and where it breeds.
The comeback of our nation’s symbol is a conservation success story. In 1978, the bald eagle was placed on the Endangered Species list. Since then, the pesticide that prevents its eggs from hatching has been banned. By 2007, the number of bald eagles had increased significantly enough that the species was no longer listed as endangered.