The "Bald Eagles" aren't exactly "off the beaten path", but neather are they a "thing to do".
However, they do frequently escape observation by visitors to the park, and so "Off the Beaten Path" is about as close as we can get.
Bald Eagles prefer to eat fish, and so you will probably find them reasonably close to the river or one of the small lakes or ponds in the park. However, they have also been known to travel considerable distances, and therefore it would not be unusual to see them away from the water - but just anywhere in the park isn't the most likely spot. The most likely spot to see the bald eagles is in the tree canopy at the far west end of the outermost paved bike trail. This is where the new channel and old channel of the Willamette River diverge. The old river channel is sometimes a pond, or sometimes dry, depending on the time of year.
The eagles will also sometimes land in the trees on the opposite side of the river from the park. You can see these trees from various points from branch trails that go to the edge of the river from the bike path that runs along the river.
In many cases they will perch in the trees that have a view of a body of water. In some cases they will be quite visible, such as in this tree. In other cases, they will be hidden by leaves, but they will be able to see the fish or you just fine!
If you are trying to take a photo of them, try not to let anyone point at them. The birds seem to know when they are being pointed at, and will usually fly away if that happens.
You may just be able to hear the bald eagles rather than see them. Or, the sound may lead you to be able to see them. They make various high pitches whistles and screams.
Below is a link to a web site with a little bit of a description of the eagles, plus a sound of one of the several calls they make.
Note the first photo is zoomed in with a telephoto lens. The second image shows the same eagles, as they would appear without the aid of a telephoto lens. You will have to look very carefully in order to spot the eagles!
Osprey and other Nests
Keep your eyes out for various nests in the park. There are osprey, turkey vultures, and possibly bald eagle around, and I have seen one kestrel.
For the best view of these nests, you really need to come in spring (when there may be young in them) and bring some binoculars or other good telephoto equipment. For looking long distance at these, a scope and tripod would be a good idea as well. Some of these are quite far from the camera! Just try to have sharp eyes and notice what is around you.
Osprey use nesting platforms on top of utility poles or other poles. The very top of dead trees are also popular locations.
You will definitely want to bring telephoto equipment (binoculars and photography lenses) if you want to see into these nests.
While there will be no birds using these nests in the winter, visiting and looking for them in winter will at least give you some idea of where the nests are, so they are easier to find when the leaves are on the trees.
The first photo was taken from the Willamette Vision Educational Trail, reasonably close to the Big Cottonwood Tree. The second photo was taken from the southern bike path loop on the west side, about halfway through the southern end of the loop.
Photo 4 shows a nest on top of a pole near the Wheatland Ferry. I'm not sure what made it, but based on its resemblance to the Bald Eagle's Nest at Jackson Bottoms, I'm guessing it is a bald eagle's nest.
Photo 5 is a bit hard to see the nest, but that is also why I included it in the photos: sometimes these nests are a bit hard to see. Near the top of the tallest tree visible, there is a nest. It is about 3 feet down from the top of the tree. If you are interested in bird watching, you will want to be very careful not to miss these nests, particularly during the nesting and fledgling season.
For the web site for the state park, please see my Willamette Mission State Park Introduction Page
- Hiking and Walking