The 7 Best Places and Times to See Bald Eagles in California
Bald eagles in California are a delight to see. There are so many places you can bird-watch and hopefully catch a glimpse of these freedom-symbolizing birds. Listed below are the seven best places and times to see bald eagles.
Are Bald Eagles Common in California?
Although bald eagles aren’t extremely common in California, there are about 400 breeding pairs and 1,000 bald eagles that migrate to the warm state during winter. The state with the most bald eagles is Alaska, with about 30,000. The only U.S. state without a native bald eagle population is Hawaii.
When is the Best Time to See Bald Eagles in California?
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the best time to see bald eagles in California is during winter, between December and March. You can find these majestic and large birds in and around lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and wetlands.
Best Places to See Bald Eagles in California
There are a lot of places in California to see bald eagles, although some are better than others. Technically though, you always have a chance of seeing a migrating bald eagle in the state near lakes. Follow along to discover the seven best places to see bald eagles in California.
1. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The first place on our list is the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the southern part of San Francisco Bay. The surface area of this refuge is 30,000 acres. It was established over fifty years ago in 1974. Although bald eagles are commonly found here, other animals that thrive in the area include white pelicans, white-tailed kites, and salt marsh harvest mice. The refuge is home to over 280 species of birds.
2. Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Another excellent location to bird watch for bald eagles is the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area near the city of Folsom, California. This recreation area is only 25 miles east of Sacramento. It surrounds the massive Folsom Lake, an excellent place to spot birds like bald or golden eagles. Also around this 11,450-acre lake are red-tailed hawks, coyotes, wrens, blackbirds, mountain lions, black-tailed deer, and kingfishers.
3. Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Third on our list is the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northern California near the Oregon border. This popular wildlife refuge is open 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset. The Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge covers 39,116 acres of land and was established in 1928. It’s best to bring binoculars when bird watching. Look closely in the trees to spot nests near the water. The best times of the day to see bald eagles are during early mornings and evenings when they hunt.
4. San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area
Also in California is the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area in the grassy hills of the western San Joaquin Valley. This wonderful recreation area is open daily from 6 am to sunset. While here, guests can quietly hike and look for wildlife, camp, bike, boat, and fish.
The San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area is an important recreational reservoir and area with a long history. Although the first water works in the area were constructed in 1871, the building of the San Luis Reservoir wasn’t started until 1962.
5. Millerton Lake State Recreation Area
One of the most well-known spots to view bald eagles is the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area in Madera County. This excellent recreation area has over 40 miles of shoreline. Visitors can hike nature trails, and swim, fish, or boat in the lake. The lake was first constructed by the Friant Dam across the San Joaquin River in 1944. If you really want to see bald eagles, your best chance is to catch a special winter boat tour in the park.
6. Cachuma Lake Recreation Area
Continuing on our list is the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County, California. This recreation area centers around Cachuma Lake, an important lake for many bird species, including bald and golden eagles. Cachuma Lake has a surface area of 3,100 acres and is found in the Los Padres National Forest. It was built in 1953 on the Santa Ynez River.
7. Shasta Lake
Last but not least is Shasta Lake in Shasta County. It’s sometimes also referred to as Lake Shasta. This lake was created by the impounding of the Sacramento River by Shasta Dam. It’s about 35 miles long with a maximum depth of 517 feet. The shore length of Shasta Lake is 365 miles.
Summary of the 7 Best Places to See Bald Eagles in California
|Places to See Bald Eagles||County/City|
|Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge||Southern part of San Francisco Bay|
|Folsom Lake State Recreation Area||Folsom, California|
|Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge||Tulelake, California|
|San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area||Merced County, California|
|Millerton Lake State Recreation Area||Fresno and Madera Counties|
|Cachuma Lake Recreation Area||Santa Barbara County, California|
|Shasta Lake||Shasta County, California|