South Dakota
Eagles along the Missouri, February 6-7, 2008

Eagles at Ft. Randall.
Eagles at Ft. Randall.

I've spent much of my life in South Dakota and never saw any eagles. I heard there were some wintering along the Missouri River so I decided to drive the 130 miles to Ft. Randall dam and see.

I did find eagles, but given that the last dam I had been to (Burlington, Iowa) had about 500 eagles buzzing around it, the 11 or so at Ft. Randall was hardly overwhelming. But I did get a few worthwhile images, especially of a couple of cooperative juveniles who were roosting in trees on the eastern side below the dam off Spillway Drive.

South Dakota Eagle.
South Dakota Eagle.

The best vantage point is on the western side in the Tailrace Recreation Area operated by the Corps of Engineers. A point of land juts out into the river, giving a view of eagles shuttling to the dam from roosting areas to the south. Near the dam there is a tree (above) which provides a temporary roost. I saw as many as five eagles at once in the tree.

The Randall Creek Recreation Area is to the south of Trailrace but I didn't see any eagles while driving through there. The Karl Mundt NWR is further south, but is closed during the winter to allow the eagles to roost in peace.

So it's no L&D 18, but Ft. Randall is a place to see a few eagles in winter if you happen to be in the area.

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