Ever since 1782, the bald eagle has been the recognizable national symbol of the United States. The National Parks Conservation Association notes there are currently between 80,000 and 110,000 bald eagles living in the wild. Travel to three particular national parks makes it possible to observe the majestic birds in flight.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: For Four-Wheel Drive Enthusiasts307-739-3300
$25 entry fee per car
Bald eagles have been spotted fishing in the rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks of Grand Teton National Park. A hot bird-watching spot is Menor's Ferry (near the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center) at the Snake River's Moose Junction. Another place to set up the camera is Oxbow Bend -- near the Moran entrance -- which is actually a slow-moving arm of the Snake River. The Blacktail Ponds Overlook is to the north of Moose and offers a good view of the cottonwood stands where bald eagles have been observed. Do not climb too high; if you go above 10,000 feet, you will see golden eagles but not bald eagles. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, consider heading up the River Road, which gives you plenty of good vistas of the Snake River.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska: For Kayaking Fans907-422-0500
No entrance fees
Consider visiting this park in spring and summer, when bald eagle nests have been seen in Kenai Fjords National Park. Bring the kayak to the park's Resurrection Bay and make your way through the waters that the eagles like to fish in. Set up your camp in one of the two public-use cabins in the national park -- be sure to reserve them well in advance of your trip -- near Coleman Bay. It offers you a great base camp opportunity for exploring the national park's streams by kayak.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota: For Families With Young Children218-283-6600No entrance fees
Kabetogama Lake, Rainy Lake, and Namakan Lake are known bald eagle fishing hot spots. Please note that Voyageurs National Park management frequently closes off campsites near these lakes when eagles nest nearby. Usually these closures last from May to July. Sign up for a docent-led boat tour, which allows you to ask questions about eagle sightings and note the best possible vantage points for observing the birds later on. Once you have staked out the best bird-watching locales, sign up for the boat rental program that gives you and the kids access to the interior lakes. This is an exciting outing for families with young children, especially since the kids enjoy the multi-faceted activities related to boating, camping, nature watching, and water play. Remember: Even if your child is an expert swimmer, always insist that s/he wears a fitted lifejacket.