Dazzled by a Bald Eagle at McHenry Dam

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Dazzled by a Bald Eagle at McHenry Dam in McHenry County, Illinois

On The Lookout for Bald Eagles at McHenry Dam

McHenry Dam State Park entices visitors with the promise of seeing a range of birds as well as a spot for fishing, biking and hiking. Sitting immediately adjacent to Moraine Hills State Park, the duo of preserves invites explorers to an incredible plethora of nature experiences. Benefitting from an unseasonably warm day, we headed to McHenry Dam State Park to try our luck at spotting a bald eagle.

Ducks gliding by on the Fox River.
Ducks gliding by on the Fox River.

Immediately upon arriving, we saw a largely frozen Fox River unfold before us on one side. On the other side, the river flowed over the dam. A variety of birds enjoyed the free-flowing water on this side of the dam.

The frozen Fox River at McHenry Dam.
The frozen Fox River.

Mingling with the Birds at McHenry Dam

We wandered along the edge of the river listening to the geese and ducks joyfully enjoy the sunny day. We spotted two trumpeter swans and a mute swan in a pooled area near the dam. They seemed so intent on diving for food!

Trumpeter swans and a mute swan enjoy diving for food.
Trumpeter swans and a mute swan enjoy diving for food.

I really loved watching the geese gathered on little bars and at the river's edge. Some would gently fly from grouping to grouping making a splash as they moved. Others slept contently despite that loud chatting of others. 

Geese gathered on a little bar at McHenry Dam.
Geese gathered on a little bar at McHenry Dam.

.While tracing the edge of the river, we looked back at the dam. Sure enough, a majestic bald eagle started circling the dam. Hungry bird! We watched the eagle circle several times before swooping and catching a fish. After snagging a fish, the eagle flew to a nearby tree and perched while eating the fish.

Bald eagle perched in a tree at McHenry Dam.
Bald eagle perched in a tree at McHenry Dam.

We are now several days later and I am still in awe of this moment. The Fox River is a vital resources for waterfowl and other birds. So, McHenry Dam provides a fantastic point for spotting birds. McHenry Dam represents a local favorite for enjoying nature in all seasons.

Sunshine in winter at McHenry Dam.
Sunshine in winter at McHenry Dam.

Visiting McHenry Dam State Park and Moraine Hills State Park

The original McHenry Dam was constructed in 1907. A concrete block dam was constructed in 1934 and locks were added in 1960. The first 15 acres of what would become McHenry Dam State Park was acquired by the state in 1939. Moraine Hills State Park adjacent would open in 1976 making this area quite an impressive space for nature explorations and wildlife observations.

Visiting both McHenry Dam State Park and Moraine Hills State Park offer fantastic hiking on a rolling moraine, views of a Broadleaf  Bog, Lake Defiance and the Fox River, opportunities to bird and discover other wildlife, fish, picnicking, cross-country skiing and much more. The duo of state parks offers such an outstanding wealth of nature experiences, they rank among our favorites in Illinois! Plus, you just may see a bald eagle!

Birding at McHenry Dam State Park near McHenry, Illinois



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