By Ian Ferguson
Photos by David Riffle
In winter, the riparian areas around northwest rivers provide prime habitat for nesting eagles. Three rivers – the Squamish, Nooksack and Skagit – offer great opportunities for the public to view and photograph throngs of these majestic raptors without disturbing their habitat.
Eagle viewing is a great family activity, and it’s at its peak on local rivers from mid-December to mid-January, when runs of spawning chum salmon ramp up. Early mornings are the best time to see the eagles hanging out in the trees. Around 11 a.m. is when they are most active for feeding. Try to go on a cloudy day; when the sun is shining, eagles tend to soar on thermals high in the sky. Bring your binoculars, and bundle up!
Located just north of Squamish and 70km north of Vancouver, Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is located along the Squamish River. It is closed to recreation during the winter months to protect the unique and delicate ecosystem. Viewing facilities are provided just outside the park boundary on the municipality dyke, across from the Easter Seal Camp on Government Road in Brackendale.
More info: env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/brackendale_eagles/
There are several good viewing spots along the Nooksack River in Deming. Take a right onto Mosquito Lake Road off the Mt. Baker Highway, and you’ll soon cross a bridge over the river in an area where eagles are known to nest.
Deming Homestead Eagle Park, a Whatcom County park with a path and interpretive signs along the floodplain, is another good site that offers easy access. Turn right onto Truck Road near milepost 15 on the Mt. Baker Highway, and go another half mile. The park is on the right.
More info: whatcomcounty.us/2065/Deming-Homestead-Eagle-Park
Follow Highway 20 to Rockport, and check out several great eagle viewing sites along the way. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport offers guided walks in Howard Miller Steelhead Park. Howard Miller Steelhead Park is located in Rockport, and is accessible from Alfred Street or from SR530 near the bridge over the Skagit River. Marblemount Fish Hatchery and the milepost 100 rest area along Highway 20 are two other options, and all three have trained eagle watcher volunteers from North Cascades Institute and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on site to answer questions.
More info: skagiteagle.org/wordpress x