Guest Author - Dawn Engler
For those of us in the United States, there is a certain draw to the American Bald Eagle. We are in awe of its size, itsí majesty, and itsí perseverance to survive. It is a visual, real parallel to our countryís existence and in many cases, personal existence. There are thousands of pictures available. Flying majestically over the water, talons extended, ready to swoop in on itsí prey, or perched on a branch, watching out over fields and streams. Nestled on itsí nest, grooming while waiting for the newborn eaglets to grow, the pictures are wonderful. To see them outside of the photo realm is breathtaking. As the heart rate increases, you can imagine how the photographers feel as they take those shots we love to look at.
Alaska is host to over half of the approximately 70,000 American bald eagles that are found only on the North American Continent. The remaining numbers are spread throughout the rest of the states and Canada. So get out there and take your own pictures!
The best opportunity to see them in Alaska is during mid-October through December, along the Chilkat River near Haines. Any number of three to four thousand eagles feed along a four mile stretch of the river. The salmon runs along the 48,000 acre Alaska Chilkat Eagle Preserve are what draw the large numbers of eagles to this area. The preserve was established to protect the area necessary for the eagles in June of 1982. It sits at the intersection of the Chilkat (CHILL-cat), Kleheni, and Tsirku Rivers. The rivers do not freeze at this intersection, so the food source is available at all times. The chum salmon runs late in the season can number in the hundreds of thousands. Imagine your favorite meal ready for the picking at any time of the day!
Now, if Alaska in the winter is not up your alley, you can always book a trip into Haines during any time the rest of the year. There are a few hundred year round resident eagles in the area. Tour companies offer trips through the river valley for eagle and wildlife viewing and some cruise lines offer excursions to the Chilkat Preserve area. A ten minute walk from the cruise ship pier area takes you to the American Bald Eagle Foundation with live raptor demonstrations and a wealth of eagle information at your fingertips.
Alaska holds the best opportunity to see the eagles live. Just one more reason to visit.