We ventured up the Columbia River Gorge on a January morning after hearing that this is the time of year the salmon are moving upstream and attract hungry bald eagles eager to capitalize on easy prey (as if we needed an excuse to go to The Gorge!). “Go to the Klickitat”, we were told. Specifically, where the Klickitat River (once called the Cataract River by Lewis and Clark) meets the mighty Columbia River just west of Lyle, Washington.
Never needing much of an excuse to go to the Gorge – and with the added probability of seeing eagles hunting for salmon – we headed east out of Portland on a foggy morning that promised to clear up later and turn sunny. As we approached Hood River, the low-lying fog enshrouded the hills surrounding the gorge, letting rock peek through the tops and adding to the beauty of the area. Arriving at the Balfour Klickitat Trail we were greeted by three bald eagles – each of different ages and plumage – flying around the mouth of the Klickitat River as it spilled into the Columbia. A closer look registered a mature eagle perched on a nearby oak tree and a young one perched across Hwy 14 closer to the riverbank. Then looking out on a gravel spit in the middle of the Columbia, we spotted nine eagles sitting on the ground, surrounded by water, looking full and happy. None was actively hunting, but all were beautiful.
After the eagle viewing we moved across the Klickitat River to the Lyle Trailhead of the Klickitat Trail and hiked a ways upriver. Here we saw California quail, Western scrub jays, Stellar’s jays, a number of different sparrows, Common mergansers, either Common or Barrow’s Goldeneye ducks, and what appeared to be Greater White-fronted geese or a hybrid of Greater white-fronted and snow geese.
As we returned to our car, the sun was finally beginning to crack through the fog, reflecting on the water and brightening the day. As we drove into Hood River for lunch at Full Sail, we were grateful for another amazing day in the northwest and thankful to our new friends for suggesting we come here to see the eagles!
(All photos by Deb Hanson)