Find the Best Places to See Bald Eagles

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival takes place on Saturday, November 25 and Sunday, November 26 from 9am to 4pm
November 11, 2023 at 1:59 p.m.
Photo by Andy Morffew, courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Andy Morffew, courtesy Wikimedia Commons Michelle Roedell, Editor, Northwest Prime Time

I enjoyed reading the latest AAA Washington newsletter, especially the article about places in the Pacific Northwest to see bald and golden eagles. After reading the article, I thought to myself that an eagle-viewing road trip might just be in order!

Bald Eagles

Bald eagles have long inspired awe and appreciation for their size, power, and majesty. Bald eagle markings are unmistakable (white head and tail contrasting with a dark brown body), although juveniles do not attain their adult plumage for more than five years. Sometimes the giant birds engage in aerial acrobatics; with wingspans that can reach six feet, a cartwheeling eagle is quite a site to behold.

This symbol of the United States became an endangered species, but federal protections and the banning of DDT has allowed the population to rebound.

The Pacific Northwest offers outstanding opportunities to view bald eagles, especially during the winter months when they congregate to feast on spawning salmon.

Upper Skagit River

Before reading the article, I knew that the upper Skagit River attracted bald eagles each year, because I’ve visited the area several times to view the spectacle of hundreds of the massive birds clustered amongst the treetops overlooking the Skagit, or along the banks clutching a salmon in their talons. The best time for eagle-viewing at the upper Skagit River is mid-December through the first part of February. Highway 20 follows the river and offers several places to pull over between Sedro Woolley and Marblemount to view eagle activity. The Skagit River Interpretive Center in Rockport ( is a great place to check in (it is open weekends this year mid-December through early February 2024, with some additional mid-week events). Winter eagle watching activities take place in Concrete, Rockport, and Marblemount throughout the viewing season, including speakers, guided nature walks, and boat tours.

Harrison River Delta

What I didn’t know before reading the article was that the Harrison River Delta (the confluence of the Fraser and Harrison rivers near Abbotsford, British Columbia) is an even more impressive place to view bald eagles. While the Skagit offers views of hundreds of congregating eagles, visitors to the Harrison River Delta may be rewarded with the sight of thousands of the raptors. According to the AAA article, the gathering is considered the largest overwintering population of bald eagles. The reason is that the waters in the delta support North America’s largest populations of several salmon species. If you are considering a visit to the area, here are some resources to check into first: Hancock Wildlife Foundation (NOTE: the organization is hosting the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival on Saturday, November 25 and Sunday, November 26 from 9am to 4pm).  The website states that by the time of the festival, thousands of eagles will have arrived. The site asks the question: “Will we get over 7000 eagles each day as we did with the last big Pink Salmon Run?” Events center around the Kilby Museum and the Sandpiper Resort. The resort offers an eagle-viewing website: Worlds Largest Winter Bald Eagle Gathering. 

Columbia River Gorge

The article also listed the Columbia River Gorge as a great place to see bald eagles congregating during the winter, noting the Dalles Dam as an especially reliable viewing site. A few weekends every winter, park rangers with the U.S. Forest Service and raptor handlers from the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum host an annual "Eagle Watch," where they answer questions and host activities. The Eagle Watch event is a partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers at the Dalles Lock and Dam and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.

Other locations:

The AAA eagle watching article provides other bald eagle viewing locations, including the Klamath Basin in southern Oregon and Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. The piece also outlines your best bets for golden eagle viewing sites, including the following areas in Washington state: Glacier Peak, Yakima Canyon, Entiat River Valley, and the Blue Mountain region.

The AAA article offers these tips for eagle viewing: 
  • Bring your binoculars
  • When you spot an eagle, remain stationary and don’t approach the bird.
  • Eagles are tolerant of humans as long as you don’t approach them or harass them in anyway. Anytime eagles are disturbed, it reduces their feeding opportunity.
  • Your car is your best “blind” – a place to view the eagles without disturbing them.

To view the full AAA article, written by Emily Gillespie, visit this link: Where To See Eagles In The Pacific Northwest (
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