This is the time of year when the bald eagles return to northwestern Missouri, particularly to the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City.
Until recently it was called the Squaw Creek refuge, and for 38 years the Missouri Department of Conservation has used the occasion to help people appreciate the majesty of the nation’s symbolic bird.
The 39th Loess Bluffs Eagle Days are on the weekend of Dec. 2-3 at the refuge, and the event is free.
Staff from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield will give indoor presentations on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“The zoo staff displays eagles that have been rehabilitated from injuries but cannot be released back into the wild,” the Conservation Department said. “Visitors get a close view of eagles and interesting tips about their abilities in the wild.”
The refuge, created in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt, also offers a driving tour through the marshes to see waterfowl such as ducks, trumpeter swans and snow geese, as well as eagles.
There are also hiking trails through forest and up to bluffs with fine loess soil that accumulated after the glaciers retreated.
The driving course with interpretive nature stops will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Guided bus tours also are available.
The refuge is north of St. Joseph. Take Interstate 29 to U.S. 159 west.