You’ll want to take binoculars, camera and a thermos of hot coffee when you join my thrilling getaway this week. It’s the ‘early birder who catches the most spectacular wildlife show’ on a dawn patrol to see the largest gathering of bald eagles in the country at the Klamath Wildlife Refuge in Southern Oregon.

Stillness at daybreak accompanies the arctic air that plummets the early-morning to sub-freezing. It’s a lonely time as the only headlamps for miles–ours–pierce the darkness on a back road in Oregon’s Klamath Basin.

We have come to Bear Valley Wildlife Refuge (part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges Complex), a large forest of old-growth timber that provides the eagles with protection from the wind and cold. It is the staging area for the eagles’ daily fly-out as the birds take wing and search for food.

Over a thousand eagles arrive at Klamath Basin each winter from Canada and Alaska, following their food supply of ducks, geese, and other birds. Despite the frigid conditions during much of the winter, large bodies of water such as Upper Klamath Lake often remain unfrozen, and large flocks of ducks help prevent some of the smaller ponds from freezing over as they paddle about.

Multiple auto tour routes make the travel easy, so be sure to stop in at the Klamath Refuge Headquarters where free maps and brochures will set you on the right trail to enjoy the show.

Visitors to Klamath Wildlife Refuge or those who wish to explore the Klamath Birding Trail have a wonderful educational opportunity just around the corner at the annual “Winter Wings Festival” on February 12, 13, 14.

The Klamath Basin Audubon Society produces the three-day event with more than 100 volunteers from the local community who give thousands of hours to help people learn and understand more about Oregon’s wildlife heritage.

Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Fridays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.


In this Grant’s Getaway

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Phyllis Helzer says…

    Hi Grant,
    My husband & I like to watch your shows but we have a question about the Eagle one, about the last picture that you showed there was a bald Eagle flying with a bigger looking one behind it what is the bird in the back? Thanks Phyllis

    Written on January 25th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
  2. Grant says…

    Hi Phyllis –

    The bird appears to be either an immature bald eagle or a golden eagle. We saw many immature bald eagles during our visit to Klamath and a small number of goldens. Given the size of the bird relative to the eagle, I’d say it’s a golden. I recall Dave Menke commenting about it too. Pretty neat.


    Btw – Thanks for watching “Grant’s Getaways.” Thanks to our partners, we
    produce exclusively Oregon travels and adventures each Saturday night @7:30pm on KGW.

    Written on January 25th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
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