It's a new year and a perfect time to think about new places you might like to explore. I'm going to throw some ideas out to you...places and events you can work into your calendar...and invite you to come explore the great state of Iowa!
Let's start with:
January in Iowa
Winter can be cold in Iowa, just like right now! But, one of my favorite things to do in winter, especially on a sunny day, is to visit Lake Red Rock in south central Iowa and check out the eagles. These majestic birds are also very prevalent along the Mississippi River this time of year, so many locations there, and along other major rivers, host eagle days and festivals. I often think how GREAT it is that I can drive down Interstate 80 between Bass Pro Shops Altoona and my home, 25 miles to the east, and spot a resident eagle or two roosting along the Skunk River or feeding out in the corn field year round.
I'm most familiar with Lake Red Rock, my stomping grounds. Located between Knoxville and Pella, Iowa, Red Rock is an Army Corps of Engineers property, with state and county property bordering it. It is an outdoor lovers mecca. From boating, to fishing, to camping, to hiking, to paddling the water trails, there is something for everyone.
For the eagles, go below the Red Rock dam by Howell Station Campground for the best viewing. What remains of the old Horns Ferry Bridge has been turned into a viewing platform for the eagles, hundreds of which nest in the area over the open water this time of year. The bridge is from the late 1800s and was the first river crossing for the Des Moines River in Marion County. If the water is low enough you can go walk below the bridge along the shore for another interesting perspective.
Just a little walk up the riverbank sidewalk, towards the dam, is a full bridge across the river. It's part of the Volksweg Trail around the area. Hop onto the Eagles' Lair Loop, a 1/2 mile dirt path nature trail just after you cross the bridge. This is named for the eagles perched above you as you walk through the woods, part of the Gladys Black Bad Eagle Refuge. The bridge, and the west side to which it takes you, provides additional and different perspectives for eagle viewing and the dam.
As you leave the Horns Ferry area, go back up to the stop sign, turn left and then turn right at the next stop sign back on to T15. Follow this highway to the next stop which is County Road G28. This road takes you around the north side of the Lake and to Roberts Creek County Park. You will see eagles nesting near the small ponds along this road and when you arrive at the Roberts Creek boat ramps, you will have another grand viewing area along the south side of the bridge, facing the Lake. Renovations have created actual trail space here and you can't stop along the bridge any more, so make sure to park in the new parking lot on the west end of the bridge. On the north side of the bridge is Roberts Creek. You'll no doubt see some ice anglers out sharing space with some eagles.
The next crystal clear sunny day during January and February, head out to view the eagles.
Throw on some warm clothes, grab your binoculars and camera (don't forget the zoom lens) and enjoy the feeling you'll have watching these symbols of freedom.
Eagle Viewing Events on the Mississippi
Eagle Festivals Around the Country
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