Bird watching holiday - Bald Eagles

The Bald Eagles of Brackendale, bird watching holidays in British Columbia, Canada

Text by Fiona Dyer - Photos by Rolf Hicker

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There is an unquestionable awe in witnessing the natural phenomenon that occurs in Brackendale every winter as 1000s of Bald Eagles congregate but there is no mystery to it. What these birds have found here, on the shores of the Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers, is an inviting environment complete with all that is necessary to survive winter's harsh realities.

Bald eagles throughout the northwest of North America come to British Columbia's Pacific coast primarily to feast on spawned-out salmon. The fatty and plentiful chum salmon is their food of choice in Brackendale, but it is not their only reason for coming here. Giant cottonwood trees, sweeping boughs ideal for roosting, resting and purveying their food source along riparian gravel bars, continue to thrive along our rivers; dense forests provide protected sanctuary for eagles to congregate overnight. And as with all of nature's success stories, it is the combination of habitat protection as well as an increasing respect and mankind's growing awareness for species their than themselves that is allowing these bird raptors to thrive in Brackendale.

bald eagle bird watching
Photographed on the bird watching tour - Bald Eagle

Eagles have wintered in the Squamish Valley for perhaps millennia but it wasn't until about 25 years ago, when habitat along the Pacific Coast was increasingly lost to misguided logging practices and dwindling salmon stocks often due to the damming of rivers, that bald eagles discovered Brackendale en mass.

bald eagle bird watching Eagles came to the fore front of modern day lore about 17 years ago with the first Brackendale Eagle Festival & Count. Awareness of the amazing gathering of bald eagles gained global attention when an astounding 3769 eagles were counted during the festival on a crisp January morning in 1994.

Two years later, due in large part to the persistence of local conservationists Len Goldsmith and Thor Froslev (of the Brackendale Art Gallery), and bolstered by the Nature Conservancy of Canada's generous support, the Brackendale Eagle Reserve was formed. In 1998, permanent protected bald eagle bird habitat was established with the formation of Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park (class A) which secured a 1500 acre parcel along the Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers.

bald eagle bird watchingA truly unique way for up close and personal encounters with the wintering eagles is a gentle float trip through the heart of where the eagles and other birds gather. Eagles are relatively unperturbed by the rafts as they float gently down the river sometimes only a few metres away from these magnificent raptors. Sunwolf Outdoor Centre, located on the banks of the Cheakamus River, offers daily Float Tours where guests see up to a thousand eagles (often in groups of twenty in one tree) during a two hour tour. On your return from the river the Sunwolf Lodge awaits with a hot and hearty fireside lunch. An invigorating soak in the hot tub while taking in the magnificent views of the Tantalus Mountain Range is an ideal way to complete the day's adventure. Better yet, combine your winter eagle rafting experience with a night's stay in one of their cozy riverside cabins and continue to view roosting eagles from your doorstep.

Contact Sunwolf toll free at 1-877-806-8046 or visit
Sunwolf Outdoor Centre -

Make sure to see all our Bald Eagle Pictures and our category Eagle Pictures