Visit Whatcom and Skagit County for Eagle Watching
Each winter, here in Washington, we have an opportunity to see hundreds of bald eagles perched in the trees above our rivers. They are not here by chance, they are here to hunt the salmon that return to spawn. You see, Pacific salmon are anadromous, which means they are born in freshwater rivers and streams, swim to salt water for most of their lives, and return to those same fresh waters to spawn before they die.
When to Go
January is the best time to see the eagles, after the spawning period and when the salmon are dying in the rivers and streams. The eagles can arrive as early as December, but you may only see a handful. We recommend going in the morning as this is when the eagles are most active, feeding on the salmon along the riverbank. You may also see them soaring over the rivers, bullying each other, or quietly perched in a tree.
Where to Go
Eagles are most prevalent on the Nooksack River down Mosquito Lake Road, or on a viewing pullout after Milepost 20. The wild and scenic Skagit River has a lot more viewing and hiking opportunities. In Rockport you will find Howard Miller Steelhead Park, home of the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center. This center is an excellent resource as it offers guided hikes and guest speakers.
Another great location is the Marblemount Fish Hatchery, which provides a hands-on experience with feeding the salmon, and learning the Pacific Salmon lifecycle. For a truly unique experience, go on an Eagle Float down the Skagit River with a local guide service. There are dozens more places to watch the eagles in Washington State, these just happen to be our favorites.
What to Expect
Washington in January is fairly dark, rainy and cold. In addition, there could easily be wind and even snow. You will want to bring good hiking shoes, a warm, hooded jacket, gloves, a camera, and binoculars. Remember that the eagles are feeding on dead salmon, so be ready for the rotten smell in the air. Once you get past the odor, the experience is truly remarkable, and you will remember it for a lifetime. At some point, don’t forget to put the camera down and soak it all in!
Limited Edition Gear Patches
To celebrate this unique Pacific Northwest wildlife experience, we’ve made special Tenacious Tape Gear Patches in the shape of the majestic salmon and eagle. When you purchase these patches, GEAR AID will donate $1 to the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA).
NSEA is a non-profit organization that works tirelessly to improve salmon habitat in and around Whatcom County. NSEA’s efforts help to create healthy streams, abundant salmon populations, and a well-educated community. To learn more about NSEA visit n-sea.org.