THE DALLES, Ore. -- Dozens of Bald eagles have gathered at The Dalles Dam in the Columbia River Gorge.
Many roost in trees across the water from the visitor’s center, which is just off Interstate 84.
The sight is attracting people who can’t get enough of the birds.
“When I’m driving and I see one, I get excited. But this is crazy,” said Kim Folts as she stood near the dam’s visitor center.
This is the annual gathering of Bald eagles at The Dalles Dam. They show up in mid-December and leave in mid-February.
They started arriving nine years ago, a few years after the dam closed a park next to the huge cement wall on the south side of the structure.
The massive birds are rarely disturbed as they sit in the park's trees and have perfect hunting grounds, said park ranger Amber Tilton.
“This is a popular spot. It’s their winter vacation home. And they congregate here because they're right next to the grocery store,” she said. “The Columbia River is their grocery store. And they're fishing for shad. Their main diet is fish.”
The first year, about 10 bald eagles hung out at the park. The next year their numbers grew. This year there are as many as 60.
“And they’re just so majestic! We like to see their size and their fishing,” said Henrietta Mattson.
The ranger said the eagles are likely from Canada and Alaska. They do not have nests at the dam, they just roost in the trees and fish until they leave.
“They never fail. I mean they always get one. And when they get one they may get six or seven bald eagles trying to get it away from them,” said Cal Mattson, watching with his wife.
There was a time the bald eagle seemed to teeter on the edge of extinction. Banning the chemical DDT and hunting of the birds helped the population rebound. Now they are not nearly as rare as they used to be.
Still, it feels like a treat to see so many, so close.
“Oh gosh! Do you see it over there? I'm seeing a happy, happy sight here—so many bald eagles and their, their children,” said Kim Folts.
The Army Corps of Engineers is having a special Eagle Watching Party, Saturday, January 20, at The Dalles Dam visitor center. It will run from 9 a.m. until dusk. It’s free and open to the public.