Hells Canyon’s the place for eagle watching


I’ll never forget the January I was camped down at Idaho Power’s Woodhead Park on Brownlee Reservoir and spotted more than a dozen bald eagles in one tree. It was incredible.

That part of Hells Canyon attracts eagles in winter because of the open water on part of the three reservoirs in the area along the Snake River on the Idaho-Oregon border.

Idaho Power biologists recently completed their annual count of bald eagles near the company’s facilities in Hells Canyon.  They spotted 86 eagles and dozens of roosting sites.

The survey began in 1988 as part of a nationwide effort to gather data on bald eagle distribution and winter habitat. Over the years the survey has been conducted, eagle numbers have varied widely from year to year.

On average, biologists count between 60 and 70 bald eagles on their survey route in the canyon. They usually see a few golden eagles.

The biggest year in the past decade was 2011. They counted 205 bald eagles and about 20 golden eagles. It was a hard winter with lots of ice on Brownlee Reservoir. There were lots of deer kills out on the ice that provided food for the eagles.

I lucked out. That was the year I was camped in the canyon in January.The scenic drive along Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon reservoirs in winter is definitely a good bet for eagle watching.

Photo: Biologist Sandra Vistine-Amdor took this photo of a bald eagle in a ponderosa pine along the road between Brownlee and Oxbow dams.


Posted in Into the Outdoors