Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Ferry Bluff Eagle Council
South Central Wisconsin, ferrybluffeaglecouncil.org
From mid-December through March of every year, hundreds of bald eagles take up residence on a 20-mile stretch near the 104-year-old Prairie du Sac Hydroelectric Dam on the Wisconsin River. The constantly moving water here doesn’t freeze, which provides eagles with fishing opportunities. The undeveloped shoreline, large trees for perching and sheltered nighttime roosting places eagles need are also found here.
Ferry Bluff Eagle Council has been tracking these eagles for three decades. It maintains public viewing overlooks for watching our national birds without disturbing them.
The Council’s 31st Annual Bald Eagle Watching Days event is Jan. 12 & 13, 2019. Also, Saturday morning bus tours depart from Sauk Prairie on Jan. 6, 10 and 17.
The Council cautions people not to eagle-watch by foot along the shoreline. This scares the birds and threatens their survival during cold Wisconsin winters. The group helps to strike a balance between the needs of birds to survive and peoples’ desire to see them in a natural setting.
The bald eagle has been our nation’s symbol since 1782, but teetered on the brink of extinction until 1972, when the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency banned the pesticide DDT. The Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act marked a crucial turning point for the comeback of many wildlife species.
Paradise Cove Park
Our region is blessed with abundant fresh-water aquifers from which many of our communities draw drinking water.
Occasionally, when underground water is trapped between layers of impermeable rock near the earth’s surface, natural pressure pushes it above ground. This is known as an Artesian spring, or, if the surface hole was drilled, an Artesian well. The word “Artesian” hearkens back to the Roman-occupied city of Artois, France, where monks successfully drilled wells during the Middle Ages.
Artesian springs and wells dot both Illinois and Wisconsin. Several can be located through the website findaspring.com.
One especially scenic Artesian spring is located at Paradise Cove Park in the heart of Winslow. Along with the spring, there’s a waterfall, waterwheel, gazebo and covered bridge, all of which make shutterbugs happy every season of the year.
The spring produces more than 26,600 gallons of water per minute and visitors are welcome to bring clean jugs to capture some. The spring water temperature stays constant at 54 degrees and therefore doesn’t freeze; however, when air temperatures drop to minus-10 degrees or colder, a lovely ice chute forms around the waterfall.
This community park, built with mostly donated materials and with volunteer labor, earned Winslow the Governor’s Hometown Award in 2001.
Go Sleigh – Countryside Sleigh Ride Adventures
10009 Lilja Road, Harvard, Ill., GoSleigh.com, (815) 321-4300
“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening…” and “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh…”
Most of us have listened to or sung those Christmas carol words all of our lives, without giving them much thought. There was a time, however, when horse-drawn sleighs commonly cut through the snowy fields and trails of the Old Northwest Territory as a practical means of winter transportation.
Because sleighs (and carriages) can’t slow down quickly, the bells, or “jingles,” were needed to warn pedestrians and animals of a sleigh’s approach.
Today there are a few places in our region where you can still experience an old-fashioned sleigh ride.
One of them is Go Sleigh – Countryside Sleigh Ride Adventures located near Harvard, Ill., about 45 minutes northeast of Rockford.
The hand-crafted sleighs are pulled by Belgian draft horses through picturesque trails, gentle hills, fields, forest and along a trout stream. When fresh, glistening snow blankets the landscape and the two-acre lake sparkles in sunlight, it’s not difficult to imagine what life was like for settlers of our beautiful region.
The sleighs can operate with 1 to 10 inches of snow on the ground. Rides start at $18 per adult for a half-hour ride. All rides are by appointment only.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.