The act of viewing a bald eagle in flight is a memorable moment that brings excitement and joy to adults and children alike. One of the best times of year to spot these majestic birds is during the winter season as they migrate from Alaska and Canada to warmer climates. Visitors to the Lake of the Ozarks will have the opportunity to view these awesome feathered creatures and learn more about them and other birds of prey at Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days, January 9-10.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, more than 2,000 bald eagles are reported around the state's large rivers and reservoirs in the wintertime, making Missouri one of the leaders in bald eagle viewing in the lower 48 states. The bluffs and large wooded areas surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks make this area a popular stop during their annual exodus from the frigid temperatures of the north.
Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days activities allow attendees to see the birds in a natural setting, perched in the trees or in flight, as well as offering opportunities for up-close viewing at programs offered by the World Bird Sanctuary from St. Louis. Events on Saturday, Jan. 9, begin at 9 am and continue until 5:30 pm. On Sunday, Jan. 10, events begin at 10 am and end at 4:30 pm. All Eagle Days activities are free and open to the public and take place in Lake Ozark, all within a short drive of one another.
When Sue Westenhaver, chairman of the board of the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association, owner and operator of Inn at Harbour Ridge Bed and Breakfast and one of the original organizers of the Eagle Days event at the Lake, first moved to Missouri from northern Illinois, she had no idea bald eagles inhabited the Lake area, much less that they were so plentiful. After attending her first eagle viewing event in Warsaw, Mo. at the Truman Dam in 1983, she wanted to establish a similar event at the Lake of the Ozarks. Westenhaver recruited some good friends and together they orchestrated the first program at the Lake, which was initially a one-day event held at the School of the Osage Heritage Elementary School and the Bagnell Dam Access. Over the last 30 years, this celebration of America's national bird has continued to grow in scale and popularity from a couple hundred spectators that first year to nearly 4,000 expected over the course of the weekend for the 2016 event.
"My favorite part about Eagle Days is watching the beautiful birds flying, swooping, dipping and dancing right above everyone's head," Westenhaver says. "That, and seeing the children's eyes light up when they get to see a bald eagle up close during the naturalist programs. The little kids get so excited and just start to squeal in delight. It's just wonderful."
Wild eagle-viewing activities are hosted by the Camden County Astronomy Club and will take place at Willmore Lodge, 1 Willmore Lane, and the Bagnell Dam Access, located off of Highway 54 on Osage River Bridge Road. Eagle-watchers are encouraged to dress for the weather and bring cameras and binoculars. Interactive exhibits and crafts will be on display at Willmore Lodge each day, and eagle nest-building and rope-making exhibitions will be held at the Bagnell Dam Access. Free hot chocolate will also be available at the Bagnell Dam Access to help birders of all sizes stay warm and enjoy their time outdoors.
At Osage National Golf Resort, 400 Osage Hills Road, live eagle programs presented by the World Bird Sanctuary begin on the hour at 9 a.m. with the last of the day starting at 3 pm on Saturday. And, on Sunday, the first program begins at 10 a.m. and the last begins at 2 pm. Naturalists from the World Bird Sanctuary will be on hand to interact with attendees as they show off live birds, explain about what makes these birds unique and answer questions from the audience.
School of the Osage Heritage Elementary, 1571 Bagnell Dam Boulevard, will feature two programs by Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo. The "Day Shift, Night Shift and Garbage Gal" program provides information about hawks ("Day Shift"), owls ("Night Shift") and turkey vultures ("Garbage Gals"). The second program, "Live Owls of Missouri," features information about the species of owls indigenous to Missouri. These shows will be held every hour on the half-hour beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the last program of the day beginning at 4:30 pm on Saturday. On Sunday, programs begin at 10:30 am with the last occurring at 3:30 pm. There will also be photo contests, coloring contests and other activities for kids, as well as nature-related exhibitors including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Lake of the Ozark Eagle Days is made possible by the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau, Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Osage National Golf Resort, FaceLift Marketing, School of the Osage, Camden County Astronomy Club, Missouri Master Naturalist - Lake of the Ozarks Chapter and Boy Scouts of America.
More details on Eagle Days, including a complete schedule of events, listing of 2016 vendors as well as photos from past events, can be found at www.LakeoftheOzarksEagleDays.com.
Many visitors build a winter weekend getaway around Eagle Days to take advantage of the off-season lodging rates and smaller crowds at the various year-around attractions and activities at the Lake. For other fun events, or for more information on all attractions and lodging and dining options at the "Best Recreational Lake" in the Nation, visit the the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's award-winning website, www.FunLake.com,