Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
For the ultimate eagle adventure, Haines should be visitor’s first choice especially during the winter where the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve boasts the largest natural gathering of eagles feasting on late runs of salmon. Haines’ Chilkat Valley is distinguished for this incredible gathering of eagles around the 49,000 acres of rich forests, marshlands and rivers attracting wildlife. These river channels consist of an alluvial fan reservoir keeps the water warmer and that protects some water areas from completely freezing over. The Chilkat Eagle Preserve is also known as the “council grounds”, which is also a name used for a gathering of eagles.
Driving north on the Haines Highway you will be entering the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve starting at 8 mile and continuing to 31 mile. Pull-outs and a 2-mile riverside trail are established for optimum viewing of wildlife and our winged friends. Created in 1982 to protect one of the world’s largest concentrations of bald eagles and their critical habitat along with sustaining and protecting the salmon runs in the Chilkat River. To further highlight the Haines Highway the state of Alaska recognized that portion as a state scenic byway in 1998 then it became a national scenic byway in 2009. Fishermen will gather at the Chilkat River in the fall hoping to fill their coolers with their subsistence fall catch of salmon.
Haines is known as “The Valley of the Eagles.” Year-round resident eagles total approximately 400 but the population rises to over 3,500 in the months of October through December when a late run of chum salmon in the Chilkat River produces a feast for these magnificent raptors. This natural occurrence is highlighted each November with the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival, which is put on by the Eagle Foundation, featuring guided eagle viewing, educational tours, programs, and photo workshops for all ages.