The Eagles Have Landed: Winter eagle watching on local rivers

The Eagles Have Landed: Winter eagle watching on local rivers

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By Oliver Lazenby

Dozens of eagles perched above the Nooksack River Valley. Audra Lee Mercille photo.

From late November to late January, thousands of bald eagles descend on local rivers and streams in search of chum salmon. Eagles arrive from as far as Montana, northern California and Alaska, just as salmon from the Salish Sea and beyond swim upstream to spawn and die. This dance makes for some spectacular eagle viewing right under our noses.

During the annual chum feast, these majestic gobblers of salmon carcass can be spotted all day long. If they’re not near the river, they’re likely perched in trees nearby. Cloudy days can be ideal for spectators, as eagles tend to stay closer to the river when it’s overcast. For best results, bring binoculars. Don’t disturb eagles by approaching and leave pets at home or keep them on a leash.

Squamish River

Located just north of Squamish and 43 miles north of Vancouver, Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is right on the Squamish River, which boasts big salmon runs and an impressive wintering bald eagle population. To get a better look, visitors can head to the Eagle Run viewing shelter, just outside the park boundary on the municipal dike, across from the Easter Seal Camp on Government Road in Brackendale.

More info: bit.ly/2zolO1E.

Nooksack River

There are several good viewing spots along the Nooksack River near Deming. Take a right onto Mosquito Lake Road off 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 offers easy access and a path with signs along the floodplain. 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.

Skagit River

Follow Highway 20 to Rockport to check out some of the best eagle viewing sites in the state. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center at Howard Miller Steelhead Park offers guided walks. The park is accessible from Alfred Street or from State Route 530 near the bridge over the Skagit River. Marblemount Fish Hatchery and the milepost 100 rest area along Highway 20 are two other options, and there are plenty more if you do some exploring.

More info: skagiteagle.org.