On Eagle’s Wings

Betty and Dan on a tour of Lock and Dam 24 in Clarksville, MO.

Dan and I have been wintering. You know. Staying home. Keeping warm. Not doing a whole lot. But with a rare 50 degree and a sunny day predicted in late January, we decided to stretch our wings and go to Eagle Days in Clarksville, Missouri.

Clarksville, Missouri, is a tiny town (population 351) about an hour north of where we live in St. Charles. We took Highway 79, a scenic two lane highway which parallels the Mississippi River and runs through farms, small river towns, cows and conservation areas with river access.

Lock and Dam 24

Lock and Dam 24

Our first stop was at Lock and Dam 24 in Clarksville. This site is normally not open for tours. However, Eagle Days in Clarksville are kind of a big deal, so free tours of the lock and dam are given by the Army Corps of Engineers. The tour lasted about 45 minutes, and our tour was even more unique than usual.

It so happened that this year, 2023, Lock and Dam 24 was in a “de-watered” state and would remain so for 45 days. During these 45 days, all river traffic was halted while inspections and repair work could be done on the lock and dam. The last time the lock and dam were de-watered was back in 2000.

It all began back on July 3, 1930 when Congress authorized the Rivers and Harbors Act. This allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a series of lock and dams on the upper Mississippi which would create a 9 foot navigation channel allowing for safe and reliable transportation on the river.

From the first lock near Minneapolis, Minnesota to the last lock near St.Louis, the river has a fall of about 420 feet. Each lock was built in a strategic location, so as to maintain that 9 foot channel and allow the vessels to navigate the river. What’s interesting is that the rising and the lowering of the water in the locks is all done by gravity.

Another interesting fact is that there are no locks and dams on the lower Mississippi. This is because several rivers, including the Missouri, flow into the lower Mississippi making it wider and deeper.

As someone who has lived near the Mississippi River my whole life, I feel the river is part of who I am. It runs through me. I found the tour of the lock and dam – even in its de-watered state very interesting. I had only ever toured locks once before in my life. That was when I was growing up, and my parents took us on a tour of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. All I remember is being cold, and my dad trying to explain the lock process to me. I wanted to tour the locks in Clarksville, so I could compare it to hopefully, a future repeat tour of the Soo Locks.

Informational display explaining how a Lock works.

Our guide at Lock and Dam 24 mentioned several times the nearby Alton Lock and Dam. Apparently, this is a bigger operation, with tours given three times a day, seven days a week. There is also a museum with a movie. I doubt they would offer popcorn with the movie, but even so, I am inspired to take a tour of the Alton Lock and Dam. Dan and I have already made plans to do this, and it works quite nicely with some other plans we already have in place. All this will go down in the next month, so stay tuned to the blog for posts about these exciting adventures.

Calumet Creek Natural Area

Sign for Calumet Creek Natural Area with road and evergreen trees in the background.

About a mile and a half away from Lock and Dam 24 is the Calumet Creek Natural Area. The sign at the nature area shows it is part of the Army Corps of Engineers – Rivers Project – Mississippi River. However, the area is also listed on the Missouri Department of Conversation website. In any case, this part of the day was the best part weather-wise, with the temperature reaching 59 degrees. Even so, we were the only ones there.

Picnic area overlook at Calumet Creek Natural Area

We walked a paved asphalt trail to an overlook complete with a concrete patio, two picnic tables and a BBQ grill. There we followed a natural trail which looked to be made with a tractor. There were several branches off the main path. The trail was listed as an out and back trail, so at one point, we just turned around and headed back. In general, I prefer a loop trail. The trail was also pretty muddy.

The signs at Calumet Creek Natural Area include bikes, so it looks to be a great place for off-road biking, if you’re into that type of thing. About a year ago, the Missouri Department of Conservation sanctioned the use of bikes, including ebikes, at many of their natural areas. Dan and I don’t do mountain or off-road biking, but we would enjoy riding on the roads at some of the conservation areas.

After our hike here, we enjoyed some fruit and crackers we had brought along. On to the next place.

Eagle Days

Betty holding a stuffed mink.
My husband gave me a mink! (at the taxidermy booth)

Our next stop, just a couple miles away, was the Apple Shed in Clarksville. The Apple Shed, while normally a rustic wedding venue, was the headquarters for the Eagle Days activities. Here, we perused several nature-related booths and attended a program about eagles put on by the World Bird Sanctuary. The mission of the World Bird Sanctuary is to “Preserve, Protect & Inspire.” I love that.

The raptor presentation included a live Golden Eagle and a Bald Eagle. Of course, these eagles were ones that the sanctuary had nursed back to health, and for one reason or another, could not be released back into the wild.

What was most interesting were the differences between the two types of eagles. The Golden Eagle finds its prey mostly on land. One method the Golden Eagle employs is to dive bomb a mountain lion on the side of a cliff, forcing the mountain lion to fall to the bottom. Then and there, the Golden Eagle enjoys its meal. While the ways of nature to survive sound harsh, the elements of intelligence are impressive.

The legs of a Golden Eagle are covered in feathers, but not so for the Bald Eagle. This is because the Bald Eagle finds its prey in water, often very cold water. Without feathers, the water repels off its legs. The talons of a Bald Eagle can exert up to 1,000 pounds per square inch. For comparison, the grasp of a young man from the audience measured about 300 pounds per square inch.

Golden Eagle and Bald Eagle
Presentation by the World Bird Sanctuary

The presenter also discussed the differences between male and female eagles. Bald eagles are known to mate for life, with the larger bird being the female. A male eagle may weigh about 8 pounds, while the female tops out at about 14 pounds.

The only thing left on the day’s agenda was to actually see an eagle out in the wild. Bald Eagles are known to congregate near the locks and dams as these areas are easy pickin’s to find fish. During the winter months, about 2500 Bald Eagles migrate through this area, along the Mississippi. That’s why, the last full weekend in January is always Eagle Days in Clarksville, Missouri.

We headed to a nearby riverside park, not far from the Lock and Dam we had toured. Here telescopes were set up, and volunteers assisted visitors by finding eagles in the trees across the Mississippi River. Dan and I saw several eagles through these telescopes, and my only regret is I couldn’t capture the view in a photograph for you.

The 5 foot 20 Club

As we headed back to our car, Dan saw a man who like him, is 6’8″ tall. They enjoyed sharing their common experiences – always being told, “You’re tall” and forever being asked, “Did you play basketball?” We all enjoyed a hearty laugh when Dan mentioned he likes to tell people he is “5 foot 20,” and our stranger on the street said he did the same thing!

It turns out Rick, the man we met, grew up in South St. Louis – where I grew up, and he lived right near my Grandparents’ house. In fact, he worked at Hauser Bakery, a small corner brick-oven bakery, catty-corner from my Grandparents’ home. Rick’s wife, Kathy, was also very friendly. There are so many friendly people in the world. All you have to do is reach out a bit. In a world where the nightly news paints a grim picture, it is refreshing to remind oneself the world is much more.

Our day in Clarksville was enjoyable and refreshing. Getting outside, enjoying the sunshine, getting exercise, learning something, admiring nature, chatting with others. Just a little day trip during our season of wintering. This day, like the eagle’s wings, uplifted us to a better place.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31


    • Hi David! It’s nice to be missed. Thanks for telling me. You know, as close as Quincy is to us, I’ve never been there. I know a few years back, I somehow got some tourist information about things to do in Quincy. Hmm. Perhaps that’ll be another little trip sometime. I hope you enjoy your day, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So nice to see you back, Betty. I very much enjoyed your day trip. It’s obvious that you love the Mississippi and that it flows through your veins – how wonderful that you found this interesting spot so close to home. We always marvel that all you have to do is take up conversation with strangers and you’ll most often find some sort of connection. I’m hoping to get back to posting in the next few days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Terry! I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the day trip. On the way to Clarksville, I thought about you. Lots of rusty old farm equipment in the many farms along the way, posing, just waiting for a talented photographer to come by and tell its story. I look forward to seeing your posts when you get back to it. It’ll be fun to catch up! Have a good day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you could get out for some exploring that you guys love to do. I have always lived near the Mississippi river except for 6 years in Wisconsin. I grew up and now live very close to where the river begins and one can walk across it on the rocks without getting wet.

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    • Thanks, Gary. Visiting the headwaters of the Mississippi is definitely on my bucket list. I hope we can get there in the next couple of years. Growing up, I always knew east and west because I knew which direction the river was from where I was Now I use the sunrise. 🙂 I hope you have a good day!

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  3. Other than walking our dog, I tend to cave through the depths of winter. In addition to sharing some fascinating information, you’ve reminded me that perhaps I should drag myself out into the world more. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Angela. Your comment makes my day! Sharing information and encouraging others is why I write this blog. My daily exercise is walking, and it is definitely a challenge getting steps in during the winter. Sometimes it is just too cold, but other times, when there is no wind, I enjoy the invigorating, cold temperatures – especially if the sun is shining. Even so, come on Spring!!! I hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t realize that Quincy was named after John Quincy Adams. I never thought about it. 🙂 When I was young, I had a bad case of tonsillitis, and I remember my doctor saying I had “what used to be called quincy.” However, I learned today from Google it is spelled “quinsy.” The street a block over from where I grew up was also named “Quincy.” As well as the beagle dog next door. It feels good to be back blogging, remembering forgotten trivia in my life and learning all these fascinating facts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Betty — I’ve missed your posts! Your description of the lock is most interesting. In Canada, we have many locks to allow river traffic on the St. Lawrence and also to allow shipping between the Great Lakes. We’ve always loved exploring the locks and watching the operations that allow huge lake freighters to pass through narrow canals. When we took a river cruise in Europe, we were fascinated as our boat was alternately lowered and raised while traversing the Danube. Great engineering! There’s so much to see and learn about our world!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I am glad you are back! As close as I’ve lived to the Mississippi all my life, this was the first time I ever took a tour of a lock on the Mississippi. I Googled “locks on the St. Lawrence River”, and it seems one section of locks was completed in 1932. It was 1936 for the Clarksville lock and dam. What a feat back then! Also, I read there were some locks on the Danube in the mid 1800’s! Those are no longer operating, but isn’t it interesting! You are so right – there is so much to see and learn about our world – both near and far. Someday, I hope to visit some of Canada. I look forward to reading your posts. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Suz. I am glad you thought the post was fun. It was a good day. I am looking forward to the posts coming out of Mississippi – the state, not the river. 🙂 Enjoy your day!

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  5. A wonderful day like that can make a world of difference in making it through the winter! We have at least one bald eagle that hangs around the lakeshore where we live. Sometimes he is resting on a tall dead tree on our shore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right, Meg. This day out really made us feel good. How cool that you can see a bald eagle from your home. There is beauty in winter. We just have to look for it. Hope you have a great week!

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  6. Yippee! You is back and writing. So enjoyed the post. Nice to know you had a wonderful, warm day to get out and back. Thanks for sharing the interesting facts about the Golden and the Bald Eagle. Never knew that about them. And the locks, I’m fascinated with them. Keep the posts coming. It’s great to have you back and writing. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill. You had me smiling at “Yipee!” The locks fascinate me, too. I can’t believe I haven’t toured them before. I am glad to be back and writing, too. It felt great putting the post together. I do have one question for you…. When’s your next post? 🙂 Hope you and Barb have a great day, too!


  7. I have missed you, Betty, and I’m so glad you’re back. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. It would be so amazing to live near where we could see bald eagles. I guess that’s what makes traveling so much fun. I especially love this sentence from your post: “In a world where the nightly news paints a grim picture, it is refreshing to remind oneself the world is much more.” Yes, my friend, I agree. Have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very kind words. I am glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, traveling is so much fun. There are so many great things to see and do. I am glad to be back, and I look forward to reading your posts, too! Hope you have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Betty! Great to have you back! Eagle Days were always too cold for us, but I’m glad you got a 50 degree day and spotted eagles. And, I know what you have been busy with, because I read the RV newsletter as well. What a surprise!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Yes, we got lucky with the weather on Eagle Days. We went on Saturday, but the second day – Sunday – was really, really cold. I don’t mind the cold so much, but Dan does not care for it at all! I’ll be posting about the other thing – in time. Hope you have a great day!


  9. Hi Betty, great to see another post from you. I too have lived most of my life along the Mississippi River but never knew there were locks and dams on it. I have visited ones in other states but never took a tour. I bet that was interesting.

    And our scout troop usually went to Reelfoot Lake to see the eagles in winter but I never did go with them. Thanks for the knowledge you shared as it was new learning for me.

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  10. What a wonderful day you had! I am so glad you got out and enjoyed the winter day. Lock and Dams are so interesting to us. We have been to the one near Seattle, WA several times. We just sit there, for literally hours, watching. I am adding these to my list of places to go. 🙂 I got a good chuckle out of the 5 ft 20 inches. A blessed find you made with that couple. So much in common; I bet you could have spent hours visiting. You are right, there are so many friendly people and I think it is wonderful. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Charla. I have never been to Seattle, and I don’t remember watching ships/boats go through locks. I would like to watch that sometime. I know we saw that when I was little when we went to Saulte St. Marie, but I don’t remember it. We probably could have spent hours with that couple – talking about growing up in South St. Louis. Looking back, it was pretty great. Things are so different now. There is even a Facebook group for us “Southsiders.” In any case, if I am interested in something – like camping! – I can discuss it for a long time. Just a warning, in case we ever meet. 🙂 It is wonderful that there are so many good and nice people in the world. But you have to get out there and meet them. For the most part, they are not the ones on tv. 🙂


      • I am sure we will meet up sometime. 🙂 I am the same way, if I like something, I have a hard time not talking about it. HAHA I think it is really neat how the area you grew up in has a group on Facebook. Kevin grew up in Hamilton, MO and there is a Facebook group for them, as well. Very neat way to keep in touch with the area.

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  11. Oh, I love this post!! This is the very first year we’ve actually seen eagles in our area of Kansas. It’s been such a joy to watch them. Your post makes me want to visit Clarksville and Alton. Although we did visit Alton once, to eat a meal after my husband got off his day of consulting in St Louis. Next time we will look for the locks & dam. We just must camp along the Mississippi somewhere and explore this area. But these words from your writing are the ones I love most: “There are so many friendly people in the world. All you have to do is reach out a bit. In a world where the nightly news paints a grim picture, it is refreshing to remind oneself the world is much more.” That’s so true. One day maybe our paths will cross. I have a feeling you’re always one of those who reach out with friendliness!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Your comment specifying the words you love the most means a great deal to me. Those words just flowed out of me. We had not gone anywhere in quite a while, and every night we watched the local and national news. So, it really was quite refreshing to get out, enjoy nature, and talk with friendly folks. I hope our paths do cross someday. You never know! Now, just so you know, there’s not much to Clarksville except Eagle Days (no offense Clarksville.) Alton is okay. But down the Great River Road from Alton is Grafton, and I love the Grafton area. I’ve posted about that area a couple of times, but there is a post coming tomorrow about that area, too. If you ever have questions about that area, please ask. If I can answer, I am happy to do so. Thank you again for your comment, and I hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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