It’s Not Always About Food
As some of you know, I just love birds, wild birds in particular. I live near a major fly-way for migratory birds which is at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers. Like Lewis and Clark themselves, we set out to explore the very point of the confluence . While we got to see some really awesome birds, we also got a really good history lesson as well as a lesson in wind patterns. While we were at that point, we experienced a unique shift in the wind. While on the Missouri side of the point the wind was nearly absent but just ten meters away and heading towards the Mississippi side of the point, the wind was rather brisk. The difference a few meters of distance made was drastic and really cool to feel. We walked back and forth a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke. There really was a major difference in wind speed. Not only the wind was different but you could actually see the difference in the color of the water. The Missouri was much muddier looking. There is a little park there where we read about the history of Lewis and Clark launching their expedition and other historical events that took place where the United States’ two largest rivers join…and it really is a great place to watch for eagles too. It’s the end of Bald Eagle season, and near Alton Illinois, one might be able to spot 50 or 60 eagles in an afternoon. I only saw eight but I don’t have the fancy lenses that reach miles down the riverbanks like some folks out there had.
The wetlands in this area are an important feature in this fly-way, for food and breeding grounds, and I’m proud of the Army Corps of Engineers for what they’ve done (and are doing) to restore these wetlands to a much more hospitable environment for dozens of species of migratory birds. Eagles, terns, and even swans have been in danger of extinction, but the work they’ve been doing for the last few decades has brought back their numbers to something more promising. Many birds are much better off today.
Alton is a unique and historical city across the river from St. Louis. There is The Great River Road that curves around Alton’s West side…one side of the road is the Mississippi River and the other side has towering bluffs where the eagles have recently begun to come back to nest every Winter. In 1992 only 6 nests could be counted in the area. Once an eagle builds a nest they become permanent residents and stop migrating. Today the experts count at least 40 nests! That’s so great! An avid eagle enthusiast group of tourists has also come to the Great River Road area during the nesting season.
This tourist attraction road is peppered with awesome sights, quaint shops and restaurants, and is a very popular drive for motorcycle enthusiasts during the warmer months. For us, it was an hour long drive full of wildlife adventure that ended in a ferry-boat ride back over into Missouri.
When we got home it was getting late… time to prepare for work/school the next day. Bathing and a couple of loads of laundry ensued. Finally, as I was tucking Julia in, she and I talked more about our visit and the history of that great river confluence. She was very interested in the Lewis and Clark expedition and the men camping on the very spot we visited. She conked out pretty quickly after a day of hiking and driving. I suppose she began dreaming of being an explorer, seeing all the new and wonderful sights along the rivers.