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Bald Eagle Capture a Captive Ecotourism Audience in the Quad City

Aug 25, 2008
Since the 1970s, the government has worked hard to save the bald eagle, which was dying off due to habitat destruction, illegal shooting, and contamination of its food source. Now, in 2007 the bald eagle, America's national symbol, has flown off the Endangered Species Act's "threatened" list and into the hearts of many tourists looking for an ecotourism experience.

The International Ecotourism Society's Ecotourism Fact Sheet shows that in 2004, ecotourism/nature tourism was growing globally 3 times faster than the tourism industry as a whole. It also stated that "experiential" tourism - which encompasses ecotourism, nature, heritage, cultural, and soft adventure tourism, as well as sub sectors such as rural and community tourism - is expected to grow most quickly over the next two decades. The Quad Cities, located on the Mississippi River, just 2 1/2 hours from Chicago, is home to the cities of Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. This region of the Midwest has celebrated the bald eagle for 40 years through education, preservation, an annual festival, eco-tours, bird watching experiences, and by teaching respect for the eagle and its habitat. Now, with the growth in numbers, the opportunities to view the bald eagle along the mighty river have exploded, and with it have come thousands of visitors looking to the sky and trees for America's national symbol.

According to Charlotte Doehler-Morrison, VP Marketing & Communications for the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, it is common to find as many as twelve eagles in one tree. "It's amazing to see these magnificent birds of prey soaring through the sky, catching fish from the river, and resting in trees along the riverfront. I sometimes catch myself looking out my office window and grabbing a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. As a child, I never knew they were here. Now they can be seen everywhere. In fact, Bob Motz, our local Bald Eagle Safari guide, guarantees sightings or he will refund your money."

Bob Motz, a retired schoolteacher, has been hosting bald eagle safaris for more than twenty years, and has welcomed people from across the globe, including travel writers and journalists. "I have regulars that schedule a standing visit each year because they enjoy the experience so much," said Motz. "People are giving an eagle safari as a gift to friends and family members who don't need things. Occasions have included anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays."

The tours are 2 to 3 hours in length and run a flat rate of $ 20.00 per hour whether one, two, three, or four people are on the safari. You can reserve the tour for family, friends with a maximum group of four people in Bob's four-door Chevy Malibu. Larger groups come each winter in buses, for which the charge is $40.00 per hour. Oh, yes, he does guarantee eagle sightings or your money back. During the Eagle Safaris, high-powered spotting scopes, connected to the car window, provide excellent viewing. The spotting scopes are powerful enough to see the gold of the eagle's eye, the nostrils in its beak, and the black talons extending from its toes. "Many of my tour guests say it's just like you are sitting right next to the eagle!" said Motz.

The spotting scopes are also good for the person and for the eagle - the viewer can stay in the warmth of the car, and the eagle will not be disturbed. According to Motz, the eagle uses up huge amounts of energy to fly and must conserve this energy in order to find food. "That is why it is so important not to disturb the eagles when they are resting. I emphasize this in all my tours, and tell people that they should never approach or disturb the eagles in any way." To make a reservation for an Eagle Safari, contact Bob Motz at (309) 788-8389 or e-mail him at eaglemotz@aol.com.

Guided tours are not the only way to see the bald eagles. You can go it alone with a pair of binoculars. The Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau provides a flyer on bald eagle etiquette and viewing locations at its visitor centers and online at www.visitquadcities.com beginning in November. Prime viewing areas in the Quad Cities are located at Lock & Dam 14 and 15 along both the Iowa and Illinois sides of the Mississippi riverfront. In addition, Sunset Park in Rock Island, Illinois and Credit Island in Davenport, Iowa serve as prime viewing areas.

For those looking for a festival atmosphere to enjoy their bald eagle experience, the Bald Eagle Days Environmental Fair and Wildlife Art Show is January 12 and 13, 2008. This is the 21st year for this annual event held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island, Illinois. The show is heralded as the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to the United States' national symbol of freedom. Last year, 30,000 people turned out for the event that includes live eagle, hawk, owl and vulture flying demonstrations along with educational programs by the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis, Missouri; Arctic Wolves programs; and renewable fuels exhibit. In addition, attendees will experience robot technology displays, electric cars, Native American dancing, wildlife art on display and for sale, a 20-foot Climbing Tower, and over 200 booths.

Admission is $4 for adults, $1 for children 6-15, and free for children 5 and under. Free parking is available at the show. Hours are Saturday, January 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information go to www.qccaexpocenter.com or call 309-788-5912. The QCCA Expo Center is located at 2621 4th Avenue in Rock Island, Illinois.

For a more low-key eagle watching experiences, visitors should try the Mississippi River Visitors Center on Arsenal Island in Rock Island, and the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire, Iowa - just 15-minutes from the Quad Cities. The Mississippi River Visitors Center offers eagle watches, educational sessions, and a historic Clock Tower tour every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from January 12 through February 17 at 9:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. To register for a tour make reservations ahead by calling 309-794-5338. Admission is free.

The Mississippi Valley Welcome Center Eagle Watch will also offer eagle watching opportunities on January 26 and 27, 2008. The watch features a 45-minute presentation by the Corp. of Engineers and Wapsi Environmental Center. Presentations are in a slide/narrative format followed by a Q&A session. Each presentation is followed by a trip to Lock & Dam 14 where spotting scopes are set up for the participants. The presentations will be held at 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00 on Saturday and 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 on Sunday. Organizers encourage participants to dress warmly. The Mississippi Valley Welcome Center is located at 900 Eagle Ridge Road, LeClaire, Iowa. Call 563-322-3911 for more information. Admission is free.

According to Wikipedia, ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is a form of tourism which appeals to the ecologically and socially conscious. Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet; typically involving travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Sustainable development needs to have social, economic and environmental needs all together to occur. Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is in the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for the local communities. Many global environmental organizations and aid agencies believe that ecotourism has great potential for sustainable development.

For more travel-related information on the Quad Cities visit the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau website at www.visitquadcities.com or call 800-747-7800. Free visitor guides are available via the website or phone requests.

Contact: Charlotte Morrison 800-747-7800 Ext. 105 or 563-322-3911 Ext. 105 cdoehler@visitquadcities.com (Photos Available upon Request)
About the Author
The Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau serves the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. Find more information at www.visitquadcities.com
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