Skagit WSR - Abundant Wildlife

A dramatic event unfolds each year as spawning salmon return to the rivers followed by hundreds of hungry bald eagles. As salmon reach the end of their life cycle, their rotting carcasses are left behind as food for the eagles and as rich nutrients benefiting many inhabitants of the river and riparian forest lining the banks.

It’s common to see forest-dwelling black-tailed deer browse for nettles, huckleberries and other plants and shrubs. While visiting the upper reaches of the river system you may see black bear feeding on salmon along the sand bars or a beaver gathering sticks and mud for his home. Great blue herons live alongside ravens, crows, owls and osprey. Freshwater marshes are a haven for whistling and trumpeter swans.


Did You Know?

  • Bald eagles measure 31-37 inches in height with a wingspan of 6 feet or more.
  • Eagles weigh between 9 and 14 pounds. Females are one-third larger than males.
  • Eagles can see six to eight times better than humans.
  • Adults have dark brown bodies and a white head and tail, with bright yellow beaks and feet. Juveniles are brown or blotchy brown all over.
  • Bald eagles may live up to 30 years in the wild. They mate for life and they may use the same nest for several years, raising one or more chicks.
  • An eagle's diet consists mainly of meat. They hunt, steal and scavenge for their food, conserving energy while dining on whatever food is available.


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The 8,000-acre Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area is dedicated to habitat protection, conservation and educational efforts. This special area is an example of the Forest Service working with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and other partners to conserve natural resources along the river.

Bald eagles are seen from late December through early February. During this period the Eagle Watchers Program, sponsored by the Forest Service and North Cascades Institute, provides hosts at designated sites along the river who assist with viewing these magnificent birds. You can also learn more at the annual  Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival or at the Skagit River Interpretive Center.

Taking a Look Around

You can usually see eagles feeding on the river gravel bars during the morning hours, usually between 5 and 11 a.m. Launching is recommended after 11 a.m. from Dec. 26-Feb. 26.  It is recommended that visitors use designated Eagle Watching sites.

  • Most of the river frontage is privately owned. Use public areas along the river and do not beach on the shore or walk across private property.
  • Use a spotting scope, binoculars or telephoto lens to see the eagles up close. You are more likely to see wildlife if you have time to wait. Eagles tend to spook where there is too much activity, so try to keep noise low and movements slow. Your car can be a great viewing blind!
  • For your safety, park your car in pullouts well off the highway, and please use caution when crossing roadways.
  • Never walk in the river or stream or do anything that could disturb spawning salmon or their redds. Please do not litter.