Thousands of bald eagles head to the Harrison River every year in search of salmon
Credit: Danny Chan

Thousands of bald eagles head to the Harrison River every year in search of salmon

Thousands of bald eagles head to the Harrison River every year in search of salmon

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival offers million dollar views of BC’s bald eagles, as they make their annual journey to the Fraser River Basin to feast on salmon and nest

If you want to be smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest eagle convocations anywhere, plan to attend the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, with its kickoff weekend November 17-18, 2012, and festivities and viewing opportunities over the following three weekends.

From October to January, the majestic birds return to the Fraser River Basin to look for ideal nesting locations. Once found, they lay their eggs in February. It’s a pattern repeated every year, as the bald eagles follow spawning salmon along the Fraser and Harrison rivers. “They are very lazy birds,” says Jo-Anne Chadwick, president of the festival. “They prefer to scavenge rather than hunt, so they are searching for salmon runs.”

Eagle Eyes on the Prize

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Eagles resting in the trees along the Harrison River, as seen by boat (Image: Fraser River Safari)

Depending on the size of the salmon runs, the number of eagles can be awe-inspiring. In December 2010, some 7,362 eagles were counted on a two-kilometre stretch of Harrison River. Chadwick says the area is a stronghold of salmon, representing the good health of the rivers, which in turn attracts large numbers of bald eagles.

Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Family Activities

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Eagles on the Harrison/Chehalis Flats along the Harrison River (Image: Fraser River Safari)

There are plenty of family activities on offer during the festival. The indoor fair features educational, environmental and nature displays, fun for both kids and adults, and isn’t reliant upon good weather.Untitled-3_2.jpg

Jet boat tours offer prime up-close eagle viewing, or you can view on land, at scope-equipped sites. The viewing is always impressive – Chadwick once counted more than 82 eagles perched in two adjacent trees. There are also interpretive nature walks and a First Nations celebration complete with traditional food, dancing and artwork. Furthermore, the Kilby Historic Site typically hosts the Vancouver Zoo raptors, one of the more popular exhibits.

Hancock Wildlife Foundation’s live eagle cams have brought global attention to the festival, so much so that tourists from California, Ontario, Alberta and even China have already booked a visit this year. Eagle lovers are encouraged to plan their activities in advance by visiting the festival website.

Additional events geared for photographers are held at Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa on the American Thanksgiving long weekend (Nov 23-25), and include boat tours from the hotel’s own marina. Ideal for both amateur and more serious photographers, the weekend also features a photo exhibit, guided tour and workshop led by famed landscape photographer Graham Osborne.