A riverfront park an hour from St. Louis where you can hear owls in summer and watch eagles and pelicans in winter.
By Charlene Oldham | Published: 6/16/2014
Although Pere Marquette State Park is best known for winter eagle watching, its woodlands and other habitats offer opportunities to find birds any time of the year. I most love bundling up for a cold-weather hike, when bare trees make it easy to spot Red-headed Woodpeckers and ubiquitous Northern Cardinals. Sunny winter days are also the ideal time to sit along the harbor, where American White Pelicans feast and a Great Blue Heron once came close to sharing a bench with me.
Bald Eagles often stop traffic along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway (Hwy. 100), and I’ve seen a flock of Wild Turkeys crossing the road, so plenty of birding can be done from the comfort of a car. Warblers, thrushes, and other migrants pour through in spring and fall. A good spot to see them is along the Ravine Trail near the visitor center.
Visitors at the annual hummingbird festival can watch banders weigh and measure tiny Ruby-throats. Plus, guided moonlight hikes let you hear Eastern Screech-Owls and Barred and Great Horned Owls before ending the night at one of the park’s campsites or cabins. — Charlene Oldham
Charlene Oldham is a teacher and journalist. She has written about birds for Backpacker Magazine, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and other publications.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Deciduous forest, prairie, river, wetlands, and lakes.
Trails range from easy to challenging. Many birds easily spotted from car or paved surfaces around harbor across from main entrance.
About 230 species. Spring through fall: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged, Yellow, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, and Worm-eating Warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, flycatchers, woodpeckers, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (uncommon). Winter: Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Great Horned and Barred Owls, American White Pelican. Rare in winter: Northern Saw-whet, Long- and Short-eared Owls.
When to go
Checklist and restrooms at visitor center. Nature programs, including eagle-observation drives and guided night hikes. Annual hummingbird festival in late June. Restaurant in Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center. Overnight accommodations in the lodge, cabins, and campsites.
State park. Admission free. Ample parking.
Scenic Dr., the main road through the park, may be closed in winter, so call ahead. If it is, visitors can still access Ravine Trail and harbor area.
For more info
Two Rivers NWR
Across Illinois River from park. Wetlands, open water, bottomland forests, and prairies attract waterfowl, eagles, and other birds.
Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
About 24 miles east of Pere Marquette at 301 Riverlands Way, West Alton, Missouri. 300 species, including Trumpeter Swan and Bald Eagle.