Eagle Viewing in Whistler

By: Wolfgang Jaegel

Whistler is an incomparable four-season tourist destination, nestled between the majestic mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb, about 120 km north of Vancouver in British Columbia.

Rated as number one ski resort in North America and number one golf resort in Canada - Whistler is a year-round playground, providing opportunities to enjoy an incredible variety of both winter and summer activities such as cross country and downhill skiing, skating, snowshoeing, heli skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, zipline eco-tours, bungee jumping, sleigh rides, fishing, rafting, canoeing, and much more. Along with these activities, Whistler is also a much favored destination for bald eagle viewing.

Located about 45 minutes south of Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway is Brackendale, which is truly a natural haven for some rare bird species from across the world. The focal point of Brackendale is the Squamish River Valley, which is credited to have the densest concentration of bald eagles in the world. It is estimated that Squamish Estuary draws more than 3500 eagles from the Pacific Northwest during winter, which is about 4% of world's bald eagles.

Such rivers in the area as the Cheakamus and the Mamquam also serve as a nurturing ground for a substantial number of bald eagles. However, Brackendale and its river areas are home to not only bald eagles but also for a great variety of other bird species numbering more than 200. No matter you are a bird lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or a professional photographer, a tour to the Squamish River Valley would provide a great feast to your eye, and undoubtedly render you a memorable experience.

Feasting on thousands of spawning salmon found in the Squamish and Cheakamus Rivers, bald eagles usually gather in the branches of black cottonwood trees, towering around the Squamish River. Many of the trees here can be found graced with a dozen or even more bald eagles. Majority of these eagles fly to the north during summer, while some have its nest here throughout the year.

Bald eagle viewing is at its peak during mid December to mid January when eagle and bird watchers from across the globe gather here to witness the Brackendale Eagle Festival, sponsored by the Brackendale Art Gallery. The festival lasts for almost a month, and is mostly focused on providing interesting information on bald eagles.

Further, on weekends from mid December to February, an eagle biologist or a bird expert from Squamish's Eagle Watch Program speak on the life and nature of bald eagles. There are also trained volunteers to clear your doubts regarding bald eagles as well as to ensure responsible bald eagle viewing. During this period, you can even have a peep via highly sophisticated telescopes.

One of the best ways to view the bald eagles is through the 'Eagle Run' facility located on the municipal Dyke, along the Easter Seal Camp on the Government Road in Brackendale. Another popular spot for bald eagle viewing is the Tenderfoot Creek Fish hatchery in the Cheakamus Valley, which is close to the Squamish Estuary.

The Spawning Channels located between the Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club and the Mamquam River is also a great spot to spectacle unique bald eagles. Since disturbance caused by humans may lead to have an unfavorable effect on the eagles and hinder their feeding, the viewers are recommended not to go near sandbanks or not to try to get too close to these birds.

With excellent rock climbing routes, thousands of miles of mountain bike trails, and dozens of hiking paths, Squamish's as well as other Brackendale areas' activities are not just confined to viewing bald eagles. Bald eagle viewing would be more thrilling when combined with an exciting river rafting tour. Rafting through the Squamish River allows you to have a great experience while enjoying the breathtaking views of amazing bald eagles. For fishing enthusiasts, the Squamish River provides excellent options. If you are a golf freak, then there are three world class golf courses to cater to your golf requirements. Above all, an adventure center functions here.

Nowadays, many hotels and resorts in Whistler arrange exciting tours for an enjoyable bald eagle viewing. Mostly, they are in the form of Eagle Safari tours or Wildlife eco adventure tours. Sometimes, it may also be in the form of packages inclusive of accommodation in any of the superb hotels in Brackendale area, dining facilities, and narrated walking tours.

In short, bald eagle viewing in Whistler is truly a splendid spectacle for people of all ages!

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