A special celebration of Iowa's bald eagle population

Bald eagle photo taken in Keokuk, Iowa on January 18, 2014.

People enjoyed some winter fun Saturday at the 30th annual Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Keokuk.

This two-day event at the River City mall and Keokuk riverfront celebrates the re-populating of bald eagles in the state of Iowa.

Bald eagles are flying high over the Mississippi River in Keokuk, but that wasn't the case 32 years-ago. That's when construction of a new bridge nearly wiped out their population.

"They wanted to build a new bridge, and of course one of the problems that occurred was that it would destroy habitat for Bald Eagles, which at that time as listed as endangered by the federal government and also the two states Iowa and Illinois," retired Illinois Department of Conservation officer Mike Sweet said.

Sweet, with help from the IDC and the DNR, created the Bald Eagle Appreciation days program.

"The community showed a great interest and came and we still had something like eight hundred people show up in that really, very cold weather," Sweet said. "It was a great event and after that Mayor Law, who was the mayor of Keokuk at the time agreed that this program should be continued year after year."The program has expanded to include exhibits at the River City Mall. Celebrating the successful recovery the Bald Eagle population has made.

"They were almost extinct really chemical farm chemicals were working against them, as far as their hatching goes and now there are multiple, hundreds of eagles up and down the Mississippi," Executive Director of Keokuk Tourism Kirk Barandenberger said.

"Respect them more," John Pawling with the Lee County Conservation Department said. "Kind of get a place. A lot of people didn't grew up didn't get to see eagles and now we got enough out you can actually get out and view them and see them up close."

Sweet said growing community interest in Bald Eagle preservation gives him a great feeling of accomplishment.

"It's just great that it's continued, and the community has really supported the Bald Eagles as part of the community," Sweet said.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days continues Sunday from 9 to 4:30 p.m.