Suppose you’re looking for the ultimate eagle adventure. In that case, Haines should be your first choice, especially during winter when the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve boasts the biggest natural eagles feasting meeting on late runs of salmon. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve was created in 1982 to protect one of the most significant concentrations of bald eagles in the world; It is also meant to protect the bald eagle’s critical habitat by sustaining the salmon runs in the Chilkat River.
Haines City’s Chilkat Valley is well-known for the incredible gathering of eagles around the 49,000+ acres of rich forests, rivers, and marshlands attracting wildlife. Their river channels have an alluvial fan reservoir that protects some water areas from freezing by keeping them warm. This Eagle Preserve is also known as the “council grounds,” also used to gather eagles.
If you drive north up Haines Highway, you’ll enter the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve from mile 8 to mile 31. The state of Alaska recognized the Haines Highway as a state scenic byway in 1998 and later became a national scenic byway in 2009. Anglers gather in the fall at the Chilkat River in hopes of filling their coolers with the subsistence fall catch of salmon.
Haines is also known as “The Valley of the Eagles.” Year-round local eagles total approximately 400, but the total population rises to +3,500 in October through December when the late run of salmon in the Chilkat River produces a feast for these magnificent creatures. This natural occurrence is celebrated each November with the Alaska Bland Eagle Festival, put by the Eagle Foundation, and it features educational tours, eagle viewing, programs, and workshops for all ages.
Photographers travel worldwide to capture images of the iconic eagles jousting over chum and coho spawners. They land on gravel bars, perch in trees, and wing across the stunning picturesque Southeast Alaska vista. Even without the eagles, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve anchors a pristine wilderness traversed by paved road minutes away from a small town with complete services. The Chilkat River Valley forms a natural corridor between the interior and the coast, attracting beavers, wolves, moose, coyotes, bears, mountain goats on the ridges, birds, plus distant migrants like arctic terns and trumpeter swans.