Photo courtesy Dave Soderstrom
Christopher Cudworth, in an informative article on the bald eagles of the Fox River for the City of Batavia's "Batavia Plus" blog, writes:
Forty years ago, the sight of a bald eagle in the Fox Valley was quite rare. Birding groups that track the presence of bird species in the winter months might find one eagle across the tri-county area of Kane, Dupage and Cook County. The sight of a bald eagle during Christmas Bird Counts was a cause for celebration indeed.
How things have changed.
In 2018, there are dozens of bald eagles to be found along the Illinois stretch of the Fox River... The species now breeds in multiple locations with massive nests built of large sticks perched in tall trees.
Followers of the #EnjoyAurora blog will know from our interview with local photographer Bill Peterson that eagles are in abundance on and along the Fox River today. You can view bald eagles from any of the communities in our service area, but especially in the towns that straddle the Fox River, including (from north to south) Batavia, North Aurora, Aurora, Montgomery, Plano, and Yorkville. To celebrate the migration of our winged visitors, and to encourage you to get out and do some bald eagle spotting of your own, we're providing this handy itinerary to touring the Fox River in the winter months with suggestions on where to eat, drink, play, and stay while you visit.
The Fox River is the central feature of charming, historic downtown Batavia, Illinois, where you can spot bald eagles as they soar over the tops of limestone buildings and a photogenic railroad truss bridge that's been repurposed to connect pedestrians and cyclists touring the East and West branches of the Fox River Trail. Fermilab's natural areas is another great spot for birdwatching, covering over 6,800 acres of pristine prairie and home to a herd of American bison, quite popular with visitors to the area.
Pair your visit to Batavia with stops at:
- Batavia Farmer's Market, held indoors during the winter months at Gaetano's Batavia
- Water Street Studios, a community arts center with rotating gallery displays
- Batavia Depot Museum, with exhibits showcasing Batavia's proud social, cultural, and economic history
North Aurora, Illinois
Make a visit to Mooseheart, where a long established eagle nesting place has been a favorite sight among locals traveling Route 31 between Batavia and North Aurora. On the east side of the Fox River, Red Oak Nature Center and its adjoining parks have been known to be favored haunts of migrating bald eagles scouting for their daily meals. Scenic views from downtown North Aurora are available at Riverfront Park, where you can spot eagles from the comfort of your car or hike around this beautiful Fox River destination.
Pair your visit to North Aurora with:
- Vintage boutiques Past & Present Shoppes and The Vintage Market
- Fuel up with elevated American cuisine at The Turf Room and Hardware
- Dairy plant tours and delicious fountain treats at Oberweis Dairy, Inc.
The second-biggest city in the state, Aurora, Illinois is home to an award winning Broadway Series at the Paramount Theatre and an extraordinary new outdoor concert venue at RiverEdge Park, as well as Vegas style gaming at the Hollywood Casino Aurora and destination shopping at Chicago Premium Outlets and Fox Valley Mall. The Fox River runs through Downtown Aurora, creating picturesque views in and around historic Stolp Island and along the river's banks north and south of the city center.
Plan your visit to Aurora with:
- Downtown museums that document Aurora's rich history and promote interactive science education, including the Aurora Regional Fire Museum and SciTech Hands-On Museum.
- Endiro Coffee, the only American outpost of this Ugandan roastery and cafe chain.
- Two Brothers Roundhouse, where delicious, sustainably sourced comfort food is paired with the fiercely independent flavors of Midwest craft beer.
Some of the most photogenic spots on and along the Fox River can be found in Montgomery, Illinois. Enjoy wraparound views of the river, Fox River Trails, and a quaint historic district where locals and visitors congregate for food and drink year round.
- Visit Gray's Mill, a repurposed landmark originally constructed as an early turbine station powered by the flow of the Fox River. Today, Gray's Mill is home to three levels of destination dining at the Aurora Area's own barbecue chain, South Moon BBQ.
- Dating back to the 1840's, Settler's Cottage Museum is the oldest structure in the village, originally owned by Montgomery's founder, Daniel Gray.
- Visit the Aurora Area's premier outdoor sports venue, Stuart Sports Complex, the largest of its kind in the Midwest.
The Village of Oswego was founded by its earliest settlers at what is now known as Hudson Crossing Park, where a smooth, shallow limestone shelf allowed safe passage by foot over the Fox River. Oswego is now home to an eclectic mix of breweries and craft beer bars, hip boutiques in its downtown shopping district, and scenic natural areas where eagles can be spotted in abundance.
- Delicious high quality craft beer is served daily at Oswego Brewing Co., a new fixture in vibrant downtown Oswego.
- Visitors and locals alike can connect with the rich history of the Village of Oswego at the Little White School Museum.
- Discover downtown shopping, dining, and events to pair with a day of birding at GoOswego.org.
Follow the bend of the Fox River as it winds south and banks west into Yorkville, where prime eagle spotting can be found at Silver Springs State Park Fish & Wildlife Area. From Silver Springs, you'll also have unfettered views of the Farnsworth House, a mid-century masterpiece and icon of American artchitecture. Return back to the gem of Yorkville's parks, Bicentennial Riverfront Park in downtown Yorkville, and you'll find plenty to see, drink, eat, and do along the way.
- Take your taste buds for a walk on the wild side at Crusade Burger Bar, where gonzo burgers pair well with craft cocktails and beer.
- Shop one of the Aurora Area's most unique collection of vintage boutiques at the rustic-chic Vintage 71 shops.
- Take in a show at The Law Office Pub & Music Hall, a favored touring destination for the rising stars of independent music. For further reading, check out our story about The Law Office and Summer Solstice Music Festival.