The eagle has always been viewed as a majestic, impressive bird. This is in part due to their sheer size and wingspan (an average of 5-7 feet) but also due to their hunting efficiency, strength, fierce look, and their amazing ability to spot prey in waters below (which also inspired the phrase “eagle eye”).
The ability to get right up close, and shoot photos of these magnificent birds in their natural habitat, draws throngs of visitors to Squamish each year. The best place in all of Canada for people to witness a large gathering of these magnificent birds is the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park.
The Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is situated in the Squamish River watershed, surrounded by the gorgeous Coast Mountains. As of 1994, the eagle count in Squamish was 3,769; the world record count. The area is a perfect habitat, providing all these beautiful birds need for roosting, perching and feeding. The Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam Rivers boast prolific salmon runs, which attract eagles from the Pacific Northwest during the winter months.
We’ve compiled the following 8 essential tips, for those who plan on visiting the park for a day of eagle watching :
1. Scheduling Around Peak Viewing Times
Although the eagles are typically present between mid-November and mid-February of each year, the “peak” viewing time is between mid-December and mid-February. This is when significant numbers of eagles are present, and watchers are much more likely to view large concentrations of birds.
2. Checking the Weather Can Ensure a Good Trip
While it’s important to check the weather to ensure that eagle-viewing doesn’t get interrupted by rain, it’s also important to determine whether any storms have occurred within the past week or two. This is because rain and storms often wash salmon out of the main viewing area, resulting in fewer eagles being present there. When this happens, viewers may be able to spot a few birds but will be unable to see the majestic sight of large clusters of birds gathered together.
3. Visit the Viewing Areas in the Morning
Another great way to ensure that plenty of eagles are out and about during a viewing trip is to visit in the morning. Although eagles can be present at all times of the day, as it gets closer to sunset, the eagles will head toward their nests. While sunset can be a magical time to see these beautiful birds, it’s not a time of day that is conducive to large gatherings.
4. Locating the Main Viewing Area
While it is possible to see eagles throughout the Brackendale Park area, the main viewing area has telescopes, benches, an interpretive display with the eagles and their life cycles, and during certain times, volunteers that will assist visitors in spotting eagles. This main viewing area is located on the municipal dyke, which is across from the Easter Seal Camp on Government Road. To get there, visitors take Mamquam Road from Highway 99 and drive north on Government Road.
5. Take a High-Quality Camera
Those who visit and get a chance to see gatherings of eagles understand why it’s such a breathtaking sight. It’s not a memory they’re going to want to forget. A high-quality camera with a good zoom lens will allow visitors to capture the birds so they can enjoy them over and over again, and share the sights with friends and family.
6. Keeping Energy Up with Food and Drink
Visitors shouldn’t bring food or drink into the viewing area, but for a day of eagle viewing, it’s important to keep energy up. Water bottles can be kept in vehicles and accessed easily as needed. Non-perishable foods are essential for quick snacks during breaks between viewing. Things like protein bars, crackers, and fruits are great ways to keep energy at a high. Those who crave a full meal can find one at the Watershed Grille, located right next to the eagle viewing area. The menu features items like the local fish and chips, the Blue Lips Steamed Mussels served in a white wine and garlic sauce, the Wild Sockeye Salmon Burger with wasabi mayonnaise and the Salmon and Prawn Pasta in tomato sauce. It’s also a great way to thaw out a bit and warm up after watching eagles for a while.
7. Show Up Early for Great Parking
Those who show up earlier are much more likely to find great parking in designated areas. As the day goes on (and especially between 11am and 4pm), the parking areas tend to fill up quickly. Parking on the shoulder is prohibited, and only customers may park in the lots of nearby businesses.
8. Stay Warm
While most people will think to bring a coat, hat and the other basic essentials, there are a few things that can help visitors to the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park stay warm. Gloves are a must, especially for those who will be trying to get pictures of the eagles. Hand warmers are a great accessory and can be placed in pockets for a quick warm-up between photo sessions. Boots are also an essential, but traipsing around the park (which can often be muddy and wet) can still lead to cold feet. Visitors can wear an extra pair of socks to keep their feet warm, or bring an extra pair to change after viewing the eagles for a significant amount of time.
Being able to witness the beauty of gatherings of gold eagles and bald eagles is such a treat, and it’s even better to be able to capture a few magnificent pictures. Those who plan to visit the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park soon can ensure a fantastic day and an enjoyable experience by visiting at the right times and bringing along all the essentials to maintain comfort and happiness.
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