The 5 Best Places and Times to See Bald Eagles in Oregon
By Katie Melynn Wood,
When visiting the Beaver State, getting spectacular shots of wildlife is almost a given. With plenty of unspoiled forests and natural areas, this state is a haven for animals. Bald eagles are some of the biggest and most majestic birds that live in Oregon. While not all bald eagles spend time in Oregon year-round, there are still populations that call the state their permanent home. Other migratory populations come to Oregon in large waves. There are certain times of year when you’re more likely to spot a bald eagle, as well as certain locations within Oregon where they are known to congregate. If seeing a bald eagle in the wild is on your to-do list, these top spots are sure to amaze.
When to See Bald Eagles in Oregon
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife , you can spot bald eagles in the state during any season. It breeds in 32 of Oregon’s 36 counties and lives in all areas of the state when it is not breeding. Many of the known habitats of bald eagles in Oregon are protected areas. It is a bit easier to spot bald eagles during the winter between December and February. The birds tend to be a bit more active and decreased foliage means that it is easier to see them perched high in the trees. If you want to spot a bald eagle, these are the months to really keep your eyes peeled.
The bald eagle is a conservation success story. Even though it was the symbol of America, it was on the verge of extinction in the country up until the 1970s. DDT, an insecticide, wreaked havoc on its native environment and food sources. But when DDT was banned in 1972 and the species was included in 1978’s Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle population recovered. As of 2012, it is no longer listed on the threatened species list in Oregon.
The Best Places to See Bald Eagles in Oregon
These are some of the best places to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle in the wild. While some of the top spots are near bodies of water, you can also see eagles perched high in the trees where they make their nests. Some areas in Oregon have groups of bald eagles that stay all year long. Others welcome migratory eagles each year.
#1 Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls is one of the best bald eagle sites in Oregon thanks to its landscape and location. The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge is a famous home to many bald eagles. This city hosts the Winter Wings festival each year, bringing in hundreds of bird enthusiasts to view and celebrate local birds. The festival typically takes place in the winter months to allow for the best chances of seeing these impressive animals in their natural environment.
The area has the highest concentration of bald eagles in the entire Pacific Northwest region. In addition to bird-watching, you can enjoy other outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and spending time on the Link River and near the falls. Crater Lake National Park is a must-see destination and home to many animals, including bald eagles. In a state that gets a lot of cloud cover and gloom, Klamath Falls has an unusual amount of sunshine as well.
#2 Alsea Bay
This coastal destination is a top spot to view bald eagles in the wild. It is located between Newport, Oregon and Florence, Oregon in the middle of the Siuslaw National Forest. Alsea Bay itself is a small area at the mouth of the Alsea River but the entire coastal region is great for bird-watching. Bald eagles are plentiful along the Oregon coast thanks to the many fish species that live in the waters just offshore. In the Alsea River, there are multiple species of salmon as well as trout. Where there are fish, a primary food source for bald eagles, you’re sure to see eagles as well.
Astoria, Oregon is home to the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary wildlife refuge. This area includes 76 acres of bald eagle-friendly landscape. It focuses on tidal wetlands and forests, both environments that bald eagles love. Additional protected land adjoins the sanctuary. This area is home to salmon and waterfowl, two potential food sources for bald eagles. So it’s not surprising that these birds return or even stay in this area. The protected areas in the region are managed by wildlife conservation groups, such as the Columbia Land Trust, which takes care of the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary.
If you want to visit, make sure to stick to designated areas. Because they are protected for use by wildlife, including eagles, some areas are restricted. Others are private property. There is a viewing platform where visitors can look out over the marsh. Make sure to bring binoculars to get the best views. You can also access the area via boat, although you’ll need to travel more than 2 miles from the public boat launch in John Day County Park to get there.
#4 Sauvie Island
Just north of Portland in the Columbia River is Sauvie Island. It is an impressive 26,000 acres and is comprised mostly of agricultural land and wildlife habitats. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty of Oregon and the Columbia River area (and get a tasty farmer’s market haul at the same time), this is the place to go. In addition to bald eagles, you’ll spot ducks, geese, cranes, and even the Great Blue Heron around Sauvie Island. Some of the most plentiful species are migratory, so you’ll have to pay attention to when you visit if you want to see particular birds. Bald eagles live on the island year-round. Raccoon Point and Rentenaar Road are great spots to look for eagles according to the community association.
#5 Oxbow Regional Park
Another spot within driving distance of Portland is Oxbow Regional Park. Located in Gresham, Oregon, this area is known for its heavily forested terrain. It is part of the Sandy River Gorge, which has plenty of fish for the bald eagles to feast on as resident birds. Sandy River itself is also worth checking out for its beautiful natural terrain and pristine waters. It was designated as a Wild and Scenic river. The forest in the park has some of the oldest trees in the area. They tower over hiking trails and viewing spots. Make sure to bring your binoculars to look up into the branches for eagles and their nests.
You do need to pay for parking, which is a bit cheaper if you opt for the annual parking pass and visit often. There are available restrooms and picnic shelters as well as beaches, an outdoor classroom, and 12 miles of designated hiking trails. The park is not pet-friendly, however, so plan to leave your dog at home. This helps protect the environment for the vulnerable wildlife populations.