|13 GREAT PLACES TO SEE BALD EAGLES ON NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES|
|1 - The Klamath Basin Refuges (Tulelake, California 530/667-2231) hosts the largest wintering concentration of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states, often up to 1000 birds. Each year during the month of November, bald eagles begin to appear en masse on their Klamath Basin wintering grounds. These birds come from as far away as the Northwest Territories in Canada and Glacier National Park, and quickly settle into a daily routine of waterfowl scavenging throughout the Basin's marshes by day and seek shelter in large trees at night. Visitor's should be able to easily spot dozens of these majestic raptors along the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath auto tours. It is not uncommon to see over 50 eagles from one spot. In February, the refuge plays host to the nation's oldest birding festival: the Bald Eagle Conference in Klamath Falls.
2 - Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (Basom, New York 585/948-5445) Named for the Iroquois Indians, eagle watching is among the refuge's most popular activities. In a cooperative project with the state, the sounds and motions of eagles are transmitted by mircrowave to the refuge office from either one of the two nests the birds use.
3 - Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge (Woodbridge, Virginia 703/490-4979) Eighteen miles south of Washington, DC. On the banks of the Potomac River, lies an 8000 acre peninsula, and the home of the first refuge established specifically for the protection of bald eagles. The Great Marsh Trail provides the best overlook on the refuge to see bald eagles. November through March eagles are courting, rebuilding their nests and laying eggs. By June, eaglets are fledging the nests.
4 - Patuxent Research Refuge (Laurel, Maryland, 301/497-5761) is the nation's only refuge established to support wildlife research. The 12,750-acre refuge, which supports a wide diversity of wildlife, is managed to protect native and migratory bird species. A nesting pair of bald eagles has used the North Tract Refuge since 1989. Visitors will find 20 miles of roads and trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding on the North Tract, where there are also wildlife viewing areas.
5 - Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (Cambridge, Maryland 410/228-2692) Eagles are here in droves from the fall through the summer, taking advantage of the mix of marsh, forested uplands and some farm fields. The refuge annually winters over 200 bald eagles, and supports the largest nesting population of bald eagles north of Florida on the Atlantic Coast. The Nanticoke River, in the heart of the refuge's Nanticoke Division, has been designated a Maryland Wild and Scenic River.
6 - Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (Crystal River, Florida 352-563-2088) From October through April, many bald eagles winter and nest on the banks of the Chassahowitzka River. In fact, frequently, visitors will be greeted by a pair of bald eagles in a tree at the refuge entrance. Visitors can take pontoon boat tours, rent canoes or bring their own boats and take to the river to get great views of adult and juvenile birds flying over the river hunting for fish.
7 - DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge (Missouri Valley, Iowa 712/642-4121) This refuge has become an important wintering area for up to 120 bald eagles. Visitors can see numerous bald eagles in the trees or once DeSoto Lake is frozen, sitting on the ice, taking advantage of a plethora of fish and snow geese. In addition, thousands of artifacts can be viewed at the visitors center from the1968 excavation of the steamboat Bertrand, which sank in 1865. The 200,000 artifacts provide one of the most significant assemblages of Civil War era artifacts in the Missouri River region. The DeSoto Visitor Center exhibits much of the collection and contains interpretive displays on the historical development of the Missouri River Basin, the ecological impacts of that development, and the natural history of the area and its wildlife.
8 - Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (Mound City, Missouri 660/442-3187) Visitors can attend Bald Eagle days at the refuge this year on December 1 and 2 featuring live eagle shows and guided tours of the refuge's 2-300 bald eagles. There are two hiking trails - Eagle Overlook, a one and one half mile round trip walk that takes the visitor into the wetlands; and the Loess Bluff Trail, a one half mile round trip walk that climbs 200 feet to the top of the bluffs for a panoramic view of the Refuge. Squaw Creek contains approximately thousands of acres of wetlands, grasslands, and forests. It is a major stop-over for more than 300,000 snow geese, 100,000 ducks, and 250 bald eagles.
9 - Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (Zimmerman, Minnesota 612/389-3323) is a particularly good spot for eagle viewing; an extensive network of shallow lakes that freeze and grow short of oxygen in the winter mean a seasonal fish kill that provides easy feeding in the spring, when groups of eagles descend to eat their fill. Hundreds of eagles are drawn to the refuge and while their numbers are especially strong in the spring, some eagles are there almost 11 months of the year.
10 - Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Ridgefield, Washington 360/887-4106) Ridgefield is home to four nesting pair of bald eagles, but dozens more drop by in the winter, feeding on waterfowl and fish from the nearby Columbia River. The big birds are usually easily visible from December through March and sometimes beyond, depending on the Columbia salmon runs. Among the contiguous United States, Washington is one of the largest eagle nesting sites in the country.
11 - Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge (Union City, Tennessee 901/538-2481) hosts between 150 and 200 bald eagles from December through mid-January and sometimes, through February, as the birds take advantage of the thousands of ducks and geese wintering on the 15,000-acre Reelfoot Lake. While the refuge itself is closed in the winter to give waterfowl a chance to rest, two refuge observation decks remain open throughout the year and accommodate a high rate of visitors who are attracted by the yearly eagle influx.
12 - North Platte National Wildlife Refuge (Scottsbluff, Nebraska 308/635-7851) Bald eagles have successfully nested on the refuge each year since 1992. The 1992 nest was the 2nd successful "Nebraska" nest in over 100 years. This refuge was created as a sanctuary for migrating birds. In December the refuge is open to the public for Bald Eagle Viewing Days. Spotting scopes are set up along the lake for visitors to view the dozen or so bald eagles that are taking advantage of the masses of migrating birds.
13 - Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (Soldotna, AK 907/262-7021) With a statewide population of between 50,000 and 70,000 bald eagles, much of Alaska is eagle country. In fact, you're likely to see these majestic birds anywhere in the coastal southcentral or southeastern portions of the state, including downtown Anchorage! For a special eagle-viewing experience, however, try floating through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in June or early July when the mighty king salmon return to their birth waters to spawn. You'll see hunting birds hovering high overhead, and both mature and immature eagles perched in trees lining the banks above this world class fishery. The waters of the Kenai river are beautiful, turned emerald green by their cargo of glacial silt, and while you enjoy your eagle-watching adventure you'll also have a good chance of hooking into one of the river's legendary kings, the largest of which approach 100 pounds.