Klamath Basin Bald Eagles - Explore! Klamath Basin Bald Eagles - Explore!

Klamath Basin Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles in a Tree

Birding is a great reason to get out and explore our world, but even if you aren’t really into the wide variety of birds to be seen, checking out bald eagles can still be a wonderful adventure for you and your family.  If you want to see lots of bald eagles, the Upper Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border is the place to be in January and February.  Colder weather brings flocks of waterfowl through the area and many stay for the winter.  In addition,  water is flooded onto fields driving out rodents.  As a result the smorgasbord is open for bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks and raptors of all kinds.  This area attracts the largest collection of wintering bald eagles in the lower 48 states – numbering into the hundreds.  If you don’t know where to look, you’ll probably still see an eagle or two.  This article will help you find lots of bald eagles when you come to visit.  Expect to take a full day exploring.

Bear Valley Fly Out

Bald Eagle - Close-up

A popular attraction is the “Bear Valley Fly Out.”   The 4,200-acre Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge is really a mountain, covered with old growth pine and fir forests.  Several pairs of bald eagles nest there and as many as 300 have been counted roosting there in one night.  The refuge itself is closed to public access except for a short deer hunting season.  The eagles, however, are seen every morning from December to March as they fly out of the refuge to the other refuges and surrounding areas where they dine on waterfowl and rodents.  They tend to fly in various directions, but to see the most eagles we recommend a dawn stop on the southeast side of the refuge.  To get there,  travel south on Highway 97 from Klamath Falls, past Midland and Worden to the Keno-Worden Road.  You’ll find the road heading east from a point just south of the big grain elevators (N 42˚2.232′ W 121˚ 52.415′).  After you turn west onto the Keno-Worden Road,  cross the railroad tracks and find a safe spot to park.  Uphill you’ll be looking into the Bear Valley Refuge from which the eagles come.  Downhill, you’ll be looking toward the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge where they like to go.  About 30 minutes before the sun rises,  the eagles will start to fly out singly or in small groups.  You’ll be able to follow them with your binoculars as they spread out down the hill.  From this point you may be able to count more than 100 bald eagles!  That’s 100 eagles over the course of an hour – don’t expect to see more than a few at one time. They will be flying fairly high above your head.  Use your binoculars for the best view.

The Refuges and Beyond

Bald Eagles Fighting

As the eagles fly from their roost trees, they disperse across the wildlife refuges and fields of the area.  Where they go varies from day to day.  After a cold spell they may congregate with the waterfowl at the few areas of open water.  On another day a field may be flooded, chasing rodents into the open for an eagle meal.  On other days they may move north toward Klamath Falls and Klamath Lake, South toward Butte Valley or east to the Langell Valley.  If it has been particularly cold, look for open water.  Sometimes the eagles put on a show attacking ducks at the upper end of the Link River in Klamath Falls.  You may also see them searching for prey from the “eagle perch” between Highway 97 and the Lake Ewauna, near downtown Klamath Falls.  On more typical winter days, they will disperse around the refuges.

Bald eagle on a power pole.

After watching the Bear Valley Fly Out, I recommend Township Road.  Township Road extends about 7.5 miles from Highway 97 to Lower Klamath Lake Road.  To get there from the flyout, return to Highway 97, turn left, travel north about 1/10 mile and turn right (east) onto Township Road.  You’ll see power poles along the road where eagles often rest.  You may also see groups of eagles in the fields on either side of the road.  As you continue east you will probably come upon some flooded fields occupied by waterfowl.  The day I was exploring, there were a lot of tundra swans in the area.  Keep a close watch as you may see an eagle attack a dead or injured duck, swan or goose.  Use your binoculars to scan the fields on either side of the road.  It’s quite possible to see 50 or 100 bald eagles all together in one of these fields.  Continue east on Township Road, turn right (southeast) on Lower Lake Road, travel about 3.3 miles to Fugate Road, turn right on Fugate Road and travel about 0.6 miles to Stateline Road (Highway 161).

Bald eagle on a sign post.

Turn right (west) on Highway 161 and go to the entrance of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.  Look for eagles along the way and take the auto tour route through the refuge.  Read more about the tour in our article on the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. You are likely to see eagles in the trees on the west side of the refuge and in the wetlands anywhere along the route.

When you finish the tour route, return to Highway 161 and turn right (east).  Travel to Hill Road (where the store is located) and turn right (south).  If you haven’t seen an eagle yet, stop at the Refuge Visitor Center (4 miles south on Hill Road).   They have a nice mounted eagle there as well as lot of additional information including maps of the tour routes.  Take the Tule Lake auto tour route for a great chance to see more eagles.  For more on the route, see our article on the   Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Laird’s Landing Fly In

At the end of each day,  the eagles return to their roosts.  Besides the Bear Valley Refuge, some bald eagles roost in a group of cottonwood trees near Laird’s Landing on the south side of the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.  For detailed instructions on how to get there, and for a  photo of an eagle on a roost tree, see “The Road Less Traveled” section of our Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge article. The eagles will be returning to their roost in the late afternoon.  You’ll be able to see them flying in to the Laird’s Landing roost, but stay far away to avoid disturbing them.

Caution

In January and February, the best times to see lots of eagles, the roads in this area are often snow covered and slippery.  Be very cautious as you drive around.  If there are drifts, don’t try to plow through them.  It’s very easy to get stranded and some of these locations, particularly Laird’s Landing, are a long way from help.

Rating

We have rated both the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges, so check out those stories for more details and our ratings.  Enjoy your adventure!

Credits

All photos are by Anders Tomlinson and are used here with permission.  The text and video  are by Jerry Haugen, Pathfinder.   ©2011 Global Creations LLC, all rights reserved.

Two Bald Eagles

Eagles and Swans

4 Responses to “Klamath Basin Bald Eagles”

  1. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Chris,

    There are some bald eagles around the Klamath Basin all the time, but they can be pretty scattered outside of January and February. Sign up with Klamath Basin Bird News to get updates on where they are:
    sites.google.com/site/klamathbasinbirdnews

    Best wishes,
    -Jerry-

  2. Chris Jarrell says:

    I recently a big zoom lens for my camera and want to find eagles to take photos of. I have a week vacation the 3rd week of September and was wondering if there will be lots of eagles here at the Klamath Refuge at that time? Great website!
    Chris

  3. Hi Ginger,

    Glad you enjoyed the article. Your new website at http://www.backyardbirdsanctuary.com/ looks like it is developing into a great resource for people that want to draw birds, other than eagles, into their yards.

    Best wishes,

    -Jerry-

  4. Ginger says:

    Bald Eagles are among my favorite “non backyard” birds for me to see. These majestic birds are inspiring! I really enjoyed your website… Thank you for sharing!
    Warmly,
    GinLab

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest