Photo: Bald Eagle – The Audubon Center at Riverlands (Alton, MO)

Birding on the Great River Road

Hundreds of thousands of birds use the Mississippi Flyway as their migratory path each year.  From songbirds to swans, here are Great River Road birding locations for casual and avid bird watchers.


Itasca State Park (Park Rapids, MN)

The park hosts over 20 species of warblers and hundreds of miles of trails on which to view them.   The park also has bragging rights for some rare sightings including, the magnificent hummingbird and magnificent frigatebird, as well the Williamson’s sapsucker.

Frontenac State Park (Frontenac, MN)

The park holds Minnesota’s highest species count of 273! Hike the trails to witness different kinds of sparrows, or visit Sand Point for shorebirds. 


Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge (Trempealeau, WI)

Observe birds in over 6,226 acres of prairie, wetlands, and forest. In the fall, the refuge becomes a home for tundra swans and pelicans.  

Freedom Park (Prescott, WI)

The park is named after the release of a rehabilitated bald eagle in 1982. On top of a bluff looking over the Mississippi and St.Croix confluence, the park is a popular destination to view eagles, raptors and more!


Nahant Marsh Education Center (Davenport, IA)

The Nahant Marsh is one of the largest urban wetlands in the Upper Mississippi region. Over 150 species of birds call the marsh home!

 Great River Birding Trail (Lansing, IA)

Visit the Driftless Area! This region was untouched by glaciers and is surrounded by great bird habitats.  Large numbers of eagles are seen migrating each year.


Pere Marquette State Park (Grafton, IL)

The state park is known for its winter eagle watching! The state park also hosts an annual hummingbird festival.

Mississippi Palisades State Park (Savanna, IL)

Contrary to the rest of Illinois, the far northwest region is a Driftless Area. Ravines in this region harbor 180 to 190 different bird species.  Including song birds, like the cerulean warbler that breed there.


Audubon Center at Riverlands (West Alton, MO)

Enjoy the Center’s exhibits on birds of the Mississippi Flyway, then use their premium spotting scopes to get close up views! There are 300 species of birds that mark the center as their seasonal homes and breeding grounds.

Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge (Annada, MO)

Waterfowl are the birds to see at this refuge.  Hundreds of thousands of ducks and tens of thousands of geese may be seen.  The refuge has installed exhibits that showcase the various habitats.


Ballard Wildlife Management Area (La Center, KY)

The bottomland hardwood forests harbour a diverse set of species in the area. Some of these species include, but are not limited to, Acadian flycatchers, great crested flycatchers, northern parula, and American redstarts. Barred owls are also common and can be heard day and night.

Columbus-Belmont State Park (Columbus, KY)

Birds like warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, and orioles commonly visit the grounds. The best viewing spots are the edges of the woodlands or overlooks of the Mississippi River.


Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge (Union City, TN)

The Reelfoot Lake region has been named “one of the 500 globally most significant Important Bird Areas in the United States by the American Bird Conservancy.” The Red-headed Woodpecker is a common resident in the refuge.

Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park (Millington, TN)

The park offers 20 miles of trails that make great grounds for birding. Over 240 bird species have been reported at the park.


Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge (Turrell, AR)

The refuge is a “ wildlife oasis in an agricultural desert.” Miles of nature drives, hiking trails and paddle trails gives you access to the 1000 shorebirds or 100,000 waterfowl that migrate to the region.

St. Francis National Forest (Marianna, AR)

The region is one of the country’s smallest and diverse national forests. A number of lakes can also be discovered in the region.  Hiking trails near the campground offer ample opportunities for birdwatchers.


Vicksburg National Military Park (Vicksburg, MS)

Visitors should keep an eye on lawns, large-shaded trees, and roadside planting to view birds.  The park is the only place in Mississippi where migrating raptors can be found in concentration.

Clark Creek Natural Area (Woodville, MS)

The area has 50 waterfalls, ranging from 10 ft to 30 ft in height! The region is also home to black bears.  Part of the Natchez Trace Corridor Birding Trail.


Blackwater Conservation Area (Baker, LA)

The area offers trails around the lakes and through the woods. During winter, birds like White-throated Sparrow, Gray Catbird, and Orange-crowned Warbler settle in the region. Red-shouldered Hawk, Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbills, and Wood Stork settle in the summer. 

Tunica Hills WMA (St Francisville, LA)

The region is comprised of rigged hills, bluffs, and ravines. The forest is classified as an upland hardwood and is home to many bird species including the Cooper Hawk.