The Skagit River is renown for the migration of Bald Eagles who flock to the shores waiting to feast on the spawning salmon. On Thursday my uncle and I floated down the river with Blue Sky Outfitters to view and photograph the eagles.
We were getting a rather late start on the season. We learned from our guide prime viewing for the 13 mile float is late December through mid-January where river runners see upwards to 300 birds with as many as 80 perched on a well-located tree — it's also nasty cold and grey.
The rafting itself is trivial, hook your foot into the toe strap and prepare to twist and turn for three hours. We saw fewer than 25 birds, significantly less than peak season, but the blue skies and comfortable temperatures made up for lack of quantity — fewer birds increased the demand on spotting, fortunately I brought my eagle eyes.
About halfway through the float we decided to pull over to a small beach, enjoy some hot cocoa and stretch our legs. As I jumped out of the boat I saw perched almost directly above us an eagle staring off to the river.
"Um, what are you doing here?"
"I'm outta here!"
Along the float when we weren't seeing eagles, rural Washington treated us to some stunning visuals, including this abandoned mink farm — I love barns.
The tiny house tucked away in the woods belonged to a now deceased monk. We didn't see much development along the river and further building is now forbidden in the protected Skagit Wild and Scenic River System, including one woman who cannot rebuild her waterfront house after she lost it last year to fire. The limited human population, of course, leaves the river extremely healthy which brings back the fish and birds every winter.
There are three hydroelectric dams on the river providing power for Seattle and other points on the grid. The power lines in the fore-ground were recently moved further from the water as the river is eroding away the shoreline and at a pretty impressive clip in some areas.
The eagles were the highlight and I'm looking forward to a return trip to see them in quantity but this mid-week float with perfect weather was definitely memorable. If you want to see some more photos, feel free to visit.
Along the way, both from first person account and just driving through the towns, it's clear the local economies are really suffering. It might be some time before these swings launch a local child into the water.