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Winter in the Heartland

Courtesy Door Co. CVB

As a child, didn’t you love bundling up in your heaviest coat, piling on the layers and playing in the snow?

Chances are you’ve lost some of that exuberance for a beautiful snowfall, as it means you’ll be bringing out a shovel or a broom to clean up. However, it might be a little more enticing to brave the cold if it were to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like bald-eagle watching, dog sledding or ice fishing. The Midwest is filled with exciting winter activities and attractions, even if braving the cold isn’t your speed.

Eagle Watching
Quad Cities, Iowa
Each year from mid-December through February, the Quad Cities area becomes a stop for about 2,500 bald eagles making their annual southern migration from Canada to the unfrozen waters of the Mississippi River. The old-growth trees and bluffs along the river make perfect winter perching and roosting sites for the eagles, and the unfrozen Mississippi has plentiful fish for eagles to eat.

That also makes it a great place to view the majestic birds.

“A good place for groups to visit for free to easily see bald eagles is the Mississippi River Visitor Center on Arsenal Island, between Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois. The rangers are knowledgeable and have eagle cams focused on other locations where eagles like to roost,” said Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “For a personal touch, Quad Cities’ naturalist Bob Motz offers professional two- to three-hour bald-eagle-watching tours. He guarantees eagle sightings to tour groups and offers a refund should his tour fail to produce any sightings. He has yet to refund money to his clients.”

The annual Bald Eagle Days, January 4-6, 2013, is the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to the United States’ national symbol of freedom. It includes special events such as a live bird-of-prey demonstration with hawks and eagles swooping over the audience.

Ice Fishing
Door County, Wisconsin
For avid fishermen who have braved creeks, lakes and the open seas for the perfect catch, ice may be the final frontier. Door County is one of the best places in the lower 48 states to ice fish, and anglers can take advantage of the frozen Green and Sturgeon bays to catch walleye, trout, whitefish, northern pike and perch.

“People are always surprised at how much ice forms in this region. Three-fourths of Green Bay freezes over, almost all the way up to the tip of Door County,” said JJ Malvitz, owner of JJs Guide Service. “When we go out, I set up big ice houses with floors and heaters in them, so there is no getting cold with me. Most people fish in a light T-shirt and jeans.”

As you can imagine, having an experienced guide is important for first-time ice fishers because that can provide the knowledge necessary to find safe spots in the ice, cut holes and instruct groups on ice fishing technique. They provide safety, and they know where the fishing is best.

“The fishing for whitefish up here is really good,” said Malvitz. “It is almost nonstop action.”