The American bald eagle is just one of those majestic creatures that everyone needs to see in person one day. Beyond simply being an amazing animal, it is a symbol of everything that our country strives to be. Kids especially are in awe when they see the animals that they know as a symbol of their country.
Plenty of zoos and aviaries have eagles for visitors to see, but that kind of defeats the purpose of seeing the animal: A bird that symbolizes freedom should never be viewed within a cage, or behind a glass panel. You need to see them wild, in their natural habitat to truly understand why our Founding Fathers decided they would symbolize America.
That can be a tricky thing if you don’t know where to look. The skies and forests of Connecticut are a vast space, after all. That’s why the Shepaug Dam Bald Eagle Observation Area should be on your list of must-dos this winter.
Shepaug Dam Eagles
The Shepaug Dam is the perfect place to see bald eagles in Connecticut because, as a hydroelectric dam, the waters don’t freeze during the winter, which allows the eagles to fish and raise their young in relative peace. The dam is manned by volunteers who have a passion for eagles and teaching the public about them. (If you’d like more information about volunteering, you can find that here.)
The numbers of eagles vary from year to year and day to day as the population changes, but the observation center does a good job of cataloging how many eagles are spotted each day during the season. Last year, the daily average of eagles spotted was 5, with a high of 24 in early march (that’s when the numbers start to peak, as that is when the immature eagles begin to leave the nest). The “Total” number of eagles estimated to be at the dam last year was 146.
You can see daily totals dating back to 2005 to see how the population has changed over the years (just click on the “counts” tab at the top of the page.
Trips to the Dam
The observation area is a popular trip for school classes, Boy Scout troops, and everyday outdoor enthusiasts. I took a trip in high school to the dam, and it was one thing that I’ll never forget, so I recommend it to everyone.
Here are a few tips for you if you’re planning a trip to the dam:
- You’ll be outside, so dress warm: Gloves, scarf, a winter coat, etc.
- Bring a pair of binoculars if you have them, since that’ll make spotting the eagles and their nests a little easier.
- Plan to go early and stay until the end to up your chances of seeing more eagles and more variety.
Where: Shepaug Dam Bald Eagle Observation Area, 2225 River Road, Southbury
When: From the third week of December through mid-March, on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9am to 1pm.
Cost: I believe that access to the observation area is free, but you must make a reservation online prior to going.