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Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The Perfect Storm for Bald Eagle Photographers.

The Best Place to Photograph Bald Eagles in the Wild

For bald eagle enthusiasts, there is a place along the Chilkat River near Haines, Alaska that is a mecca of sorts.  During the months of November and December, three elements combine within the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to create the largest gathering of bald eagles anywhere in the world.  Winter causes most of the water in Alaska to freeze, making it challenging for eagles to find a food source.  Thanks to a geological phenomenon called an alluvial fan, warm water is pushed into a five mile stretch of the Chilkat, forming the perfect open water feeding ground for the species and the perfect storm for bald eagle photography.

Haines, Alaska.  One of the best places to see bald eagles.
Juvenile bald eagles fight for dominance
Chilkat Bald Eagle - Haines Alaska

But that’s not the entire story.  During the fall, salmon make their way up the Chilkat to spawn.  As they begin to die, the current takes them down the river to the shallow, five mile stretch of the Chilkat, providing a plentiful food source for wildlife.  This 48,000 acre area is called the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and is home to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 bald eagles each year making it, by far, the best place in the world to photograph bald eagles.

Photography is also a unique experience in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.  In the lower 48, eagles generally gather fish by swooping down and scooping an unsuspecting fish from the water.  But due to their inability to lift more than four pounds while in flight, the 10 pound salmon found in the preserve are simply too much for eagles to handle.  Instead, they wait by the shore for a salmon to get caught in a shallow area, slowly lumber out and grasp the fish in their talons, and return to the shore with their prize.  Usually within five minutes or so, the eagle will be attacked by another in an attempt to steal their meal.  It’s not uncommon for a salmon to change hands four or five times before being completely devoured. 

Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, Haines Alaska
Bald Eagle Photography Workshop, Haines Alaska.

Combining all of these factors makes Haines the best location in the world for the American Bald Eagle Foundation.  Sitting just 20 miles down the road, the foundation provides vast educational opportunities to anyone that wants to learn more about our nations symbol, as well as hosting the annual bald eagle festival each November.

Want to learn more about bald eagle photography? Join us for a workshop. We offer group as well as private tours in some of the best locations to photograph bald eagles in the United States. Use the links below to review.

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