Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Alaska
Photo Credit: mscornelius,

Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Observe the impressive gathering of hundreds of bald eagles just outside of Haines in the Inside Passage.

It's a remarkable sight - hundreds of birds sitting in the bare trees lining the river, often six or more birds to a branch. Every portion of this preserve is used by eagles at some time during the year, and from October to February, more than 3,000 eagles congregate here to feed on spawning chum salmon.


As the name suggests, viewing bald eagles is the top thing to do at the preserve. The best time to view the eagles is late fall and early winter, though they can be seen in the area year-round. The preserve has several pullouts along the highway with spotting scopes that offer the great vantage points. Visitors can also take in the sights from a boardwalk viewing platform and the 2-mile-long Riverside Trail.

During the summer, a number of outfitters in Haines offer tours in vans or in rafts and jet boats on the Chilkat River to view eagles and other wildlife in the preserve.

The town of Haines celebrates the gathering of bald eagles in November at the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival. The event attracts hundreds of visitors from around the country for five days of speakers, presentations, and special exhibits at the Sheldon Museum and the American Bald Eagle Foundation Center. The most popular activity at the festival is venturing out to the Chilkat River on 'expedition buses' with noted naturalists onboard to view one of the largest concentrations of eagles in the world.


Even during the summer, the preserve is one of the best places to see eagles in the Inside Passage. The Chilkat Valley is the year-round home for between 200 and 400 eagles, and more than 80 nests have been observed in the preserve itself. By the time the fall migration begins in October, the resident eagles are done raising their young, but immature eagles will often stay nearby for a year or more.

Five species of salmon spawn in these and other nearby streams and tributaries. The salmon runs begin in the summer and continue on through late fall or early winter. The salmon die shortly after spawning and their carcasses provide large quantities of food for the eagles. This combination of open water and plentiful food brings large concentrations of eagles into the Chilkat Valley from October through February.


The river "flats" of the Chilkat River, located between miles 18 and 24 of the Haines Highway, are the main viewing areas for eagle watchers and are considered critical habitat in the preserve.


Haines Highway, which extends 146 miles north to the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction, skirts the preserve and provides visitors a paved route to the eagles. The best views of the birds are from posted turnoffs between Mile 18 and Mile 22, where spotting scopes, interpretive displays, and viewing platforms have been set up along the river.

There is no camping in the preserve, but lodging, campgrounds, and RV parks can be found in Haines.


The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is easily accessed by the Haines Highway from Haines. The community is on the road system, connecting to the Alaska Highway, and is also accessible on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system and scheduled flights from Juneau and Skagway.  

Fore more information, visit the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve website.

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