The Chilkat Valley sees an influx of bald eagles that come to feed on a late run of chum and Coho salmon. Historically, by mid-November the majority of the rivers in Southeast Alaska have frozen by this time. Thousands of years ago when glaciers were receding from the valley, they left behind porous bed of gravel where the Chilkat River now sits. The gravel acts as an aquifer; each summer the water gets heated by the sun and sinks into the bed of gravel. In the winter the warmed water slowly percolates back up, keeping about four square miles of the river from freezing. This unique hydrogeologic effect allows for a late run of chum and Coho salmon. This salmon run attracts thousands of bald eagles at this time.

In 1982, approximately 48,000 acres of land were designated by the state of Alaska to protect both the salmon runs and the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles. This area known as the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, sees anywhere between 1,000-3,000 bald eagles in mid-November. The Haines Chamber of Commerce began the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in 1994 as a way to bring people from across the globe together to welcome the salmon and the bald eagles into the valley.

Today, the American Bald Eagle Foundation runs the festival. The ABEF is proud to organize this unique and exciting event and we try to offer programs that cover the spectrum of eagle enthusiasts’ interests. From the sciences to the arts, we gather the regions’ most knowledgeable scientists, educators, and artists to share their passions and talents with festival attendees.


Photographers who choose to spend their day on the preserve find the stark contrast of eagles’ dark bodies against a snowy white background to be a striking portrait. Eagle enthusiasts can enjoy walking the multiple preserve paths and watching hundreds of eagles feasting, flying, and fighting over salmon. After a chilly day on the preserve, we encourage attendees to return back to the American Bald Eagle Foundation for presentations, classes, cocktails, dancing and hors d’oeuvres. Evening activities depend on the day, so please check the schedule for more exact information.

For those interested, Join us for a Photography workshop

ABEF Photography Workshops:                        Click here for Registration

The American Bald Eagle Photographers Workshop with Bill  McRoberts, our Photographer on staff, will be held November 6th- 10th, 2017. In the field hands on, photography sessions will be held during daylight hours at the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Evening sessions will include photography techniques and strategies on capturing different Bald Eagle images and post-processing techniques in the Photoshop digital darkroom to process your images to your liking. You will leave with a completed image, printed and ready to frame. The workshop will last 5 days, Mon-Fri. Seats are limited to 12 people to allow for better instructor time. Workshops include lunch in the field and transportation from the ABEF to the field. All-inclusive pass includes your workshop, transportation to the preserve, dinner at our banquet on Sat. Nov. 11th and your 6 day Festival pass.  Cost: $1,000.00 per person for your all inclusive 6-day pass

Additionally, for those coming to Haines without a vehicle, we offer a  shuttle to and from the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve twice a day. The preserve is about 18 miles out of town, making transportation mandatory for good eagle viewing.