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Coeur D’Alene Eagle Paddle Tour

Sun., Dec. 14, 1997

Check it out

Distance: 6-11 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Paddling time: 3 hours

Season: December through January

Maps: USGS Fernan Lake, Mount Coeur d’Alene

Info: U.S. Gureau of Land Management, (208) 765-1511

Paddling trip notes

Access: From Interstate 90 at the east side of Coeur d’Alene, leave the freeway at Exit 15 (Sherman Avenue). Drive southeast on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive 5-1/4 miles to Higgens Point boat launch, which is near end of Idaho Centennial Trail.

Attractions: Each year, bald eagles congregate in Wolf Lodge Bay in December and January to feast on kokanee salmon that spawn in area’s shoreline and inlet streams. Concentration generally peaks with about 30 eagles around Christmas, depending on weather. (Record count was 73 eagles in December 1976.) Flatwater paddlers who can handle cold weather conditions can find good views of eagles and avoid traffic jams of eagle watchers on Highway 97.

Hazards: Wind, cold water, nasty weather.

Comments: Paddlers must be judicious in using this route in winter, for safety and for welfare of bald eagles. Beware of high winds, which can whip lake to froth. By following shoreline, paddlers have many bail-out options, since route follows Interstate 90 or Highway 97 most of way. Don’t attempt optional crossing of Wolf Lodge Bay in windy conditions.

Route ranges from 6-11 miles depending on whether loop can be made or whether paddlers must backtrack and avoid optional crossing. Remember, prevailing wind is from west to east. Restrooms available at boat launches.

Gear trip to calm weather, which allows paddlers to stay farther away from shore. Eagle researchers say boaters can disturb eagles or prevent them from swooping down for meals if boats get too close to shore, where most spawning occurs.

Mature bald eagles have white heads that stand out like beacons as they perch in snags and pines along shoreline. Immature bald eagles have dark heads somewhat similar to golden eagles.

Higgens Point and Blue Creek Bay provide paddlers with first opportunity to see perching eagles. Remember, if you see eagles, keep moving slowly, don’t approach closely and keep quiet.

Mineral Ridge generally holds highest concentration of eagles. Boat ramps along Highway 97 provide alternate access, but can be jammed with cars during Christmas-New Year’s holidays.

Eagles gather in roost trees away from water overnight, then spread out along lake to feed during day, particularly morning and late afternoon. Eagles tend to leave area after spawning subsides and food source disappears. Ice can hasten their departure. However, if fish remain, eagles have been known to peck through ice to get a meal, especially in Blue Creek Bay.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Map of Coeur d’Alene Eagle Paddle Tour

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