Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

For 39 years, January at DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Bismarck has been the scene of a special weekend dedicated to special bird: the American bald eagle.

Scene from 2016 Eagles Et Cetera event. Photo by Z. Clift.

Scene from Rusty Scarborough’s 2016 Live Falconry Hunt.  Photo by Z. Clift.

“Eagles Et Cetera is one of, if not the, longest running eagle conservation event in the state,” said David Armstrong, Park Interpreter at DeGray Lake Resort State Park. “Perhaps one of the most fascinating attributes of the event is how it has changed over the years, while essentially remaining the same at its core. When Eagles Et Cetera made its debut in 1979, the American bald eagle was a critically endangered species and this event was purposefully planned and organized by state park staff to draw attention to this conservation crisis. Fast forward 28 years, and the bald eagle is officially removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007 and declared a fully recovered species. So what began and continued for nearly three decades as a campaign for survival, eventually morphed into a festival of celebrating a recovered species and broadening our gaze to consider other species on the brink of survival.”

Armstrong said the festival is a true success story in that people took notice of the message of conservation and the mission to save the nation’s symbol.

As for the event, which is scheduled for January 26-28 this year, “if you’ve never seen a bald eagle, or a great horned owl, or a red-tailed hawk up close and personal…well, you are missing out,” said Armstrong. “Standing in front of an eagle and seeing it spread out its 7-foot wingspan is a powerful experience. Eagles Et Cetera provides guests opportunities like this where you will learn about birds of prey while getting to see a number of them from just a few feet away.”

Owl at Eagles Et Cetera. Photo by Z. Clift.

Owl at Eagles Et Cetera. Photo by Z. Clift.

On the agenda for the event include some of the state’s premier animal caretakers and educators who will educate participants on the world of raptors through presentations and demonstrations. Armstrong said a few examples include the Little Rock Zoo’s Predators of the Night owl presentation as well as their complete Birds of Prey presentation, Rodney Paul’s Raptor Rehab presentation, and the chance to participate in Rusty Scarborough’s Live Falconry Hunt on one DeGray Lake’s islands. In addition to this there are numerous opportunities for embarking on a guided Eagle Watch Tour, or evening Owl Prowl Adventure Tour or Golf Course Safari. Many events are free to attend unless otherwise noted such as the guided Eagle Watch Tours, which take place on a barge venture of DeGray Lake.

“The experiences offered and insights gained through this once-a-year event are unlike any others to be found anywhere else in the state,” Armstrong said. The park, which is Arkansas’s only resort state park, is located at 2027 State Park Entrance Road in Bismarck. For more details visit degray.com or call 501-865-5810.