Bald eagles fuel tourism along Mississippi River - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Bald eagles fuel tourism along Mississippi River

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

One event is fueling tourism along the Mississippi River, and it comes at absolutely no cost to local chambers of commerce: the bald eagle migration.

December through March is a key time to spot bald eagles in Eastern Iowa.

Of course, the number of eagle watchers soared to new heights after last year's wildly popular Decorah eagle cam.

A new effort now is benefiting both bird watchers and local economies.

Keith Rahe is the president of Dubuque's Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said communities along the Mississippi River are teaming up to promote eagle tourism.

"We really, really want to, you know, develop and promote this as a major destination for bird-lovers," Rahe said.

New this year, through Travel Mississippi River, cities along the river are partnering in a bald eagle watching contest. People can enter to win an eagle watching weekend getaway.

Also, once again this year, Dubuque is hosting a Bald Eagle Watch at the Grand River Center. It's on Jan. 21 and free to the public - just one of many bald eagle events throughout the winter.

"These are going on all the way up and down this portion of the river, so people can pick and choose which one they want to, they can attend all of them," Rahe said.

Fortunately for both bird watchers and local tourism bureaus, "The eagle populations are increasing all the time. They're getting very good numbers, where it used to be kind of a rarity," Mark Wagner said. He's the education director at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.

He said bald eagles and other birds are attracted to the open water, where they can still hunt for fish.

In cold winters, some of the only open water is near the locks and dams, but with this year's warm temperatures, he said, "Sometimes we don't see a concentration right around the locks and dams, but we do find that people are seeing more eagles out and about, away from the Mississippi River."

"Bird watchers, that's a huge demographic," Rahe said, "and that's something that we're working very hard at, because we've got this natural resource right here, once again, with the

Mississippi River and the eagles and all the other wildlife and birds that are attracted to it, so we feel that's just a huge asset for us."

 

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