Ski Northern BC this Winter
For a dusting of powder and charm.
Where is the best place to view eagles in Squamish? Would you believe me if I told you I know a place where you can view hundreds of eagles by the hour? It’s a little known secret that we feel everyone should know about.
Located a few minutes down the Squamish Valley Road right on the banks of the Cheakamus River, the sight of an annual salmon run which bring teams of wildlife to the area, including the beautiful bald eagle, is where you will find Sunwolf. Beautifully situated along the river with views over to Mount Alpha in the Tantalus Range are their delightfully quaint guest cabins, Fergie’s cafe (the source of the best eggs Benny you will ever try), and the cozy guest lodge which is where you begin the Eagle Float Tour.
Entering the Sunwolf guest lodge at this time of year, you will find an inviting wood burning stove crackling in the corner. The welcoming smiles of Jake, the owner and raft guide, along with fellow river guide Jill-Marie makes you feel at home. A fresh brewed pot of coffee and tea with freshly baked muffins is a welcome accompaniment as you sign the waiver forms and they busily begin to organize gear.
You are asked to dress warm, but they do provide all of the waterproof gear that you may need: rubber boots, waterproof pants and jackets if necessary.
The big, yellow Sunwolf bus picks you up and within a short five minute drive you are walking to the banks of the river where Jake begins his safety overview. Everyone is smiling, laughing and engaging with his excellent safety presentation; we all feel prepared and ready to float. Already you can see eagles resting in groups on the bare branches of the now leafless trees.
Donning our life jackets, snug as a “wintry hug”, we get into the rafts and set off. Drifting our way down the river Jake is sure to tell us some history of the river, the importance of the salmon run and why we can see so many eagles gathered together calmly along the river. Here on the Cheakamus, the source of so much salmon, the eagles do not need to fight over food or nesting habitat, so you can literally see trees full of 20 or more eagles, from full grown white headed ones to young brown eagles covered in downy fluff which often floats past you as you float along the river.
We pull into an eddy where Jake shows us a chum lying in the rocks. He describes how seagulls and other birds are reliant on the eagles as they are the only ones equipped with talons to break into the fish. Being so close and able to observe the cycle of life along this river is so rewarding.
Two rafts filled with people ranging in age from 6 to 60, this is a tour for all ages and one that everyone will enjoy. There is always new sights, new smells and and new and engaging information being shared. Every which way you turn your head you are spotting eagles; in trees, on the shore or flying close to the banks of the river. Our final count for the hour was over 230 eagles spotted and this did not include the other 13 species of birds that another guest on the tour, who happened to be a birder, was able to spot. Not to mention the salmon that you can see swimming and jumping in and out of the water.
Just to make the tour even more enjoyable, they schedule in a hot chocolate break. Jake and Jill-Marie pulled the rafts into a calm spot on the river and poured everyone a hot sweet mug of delicious hot chocolate. You couldn’t ask for a better moment than that.
Picture a calm wintry day. Clouds are hanging low and clinging to the needles of the conifer trees. You float along the river to the sound of the water splashing against the raft, the oars directing you forward and the call of the many birds along the shore. The fog rolls along the banks of the river. Trees bare from the loss of their summer leaves now allow the opportunity to see the eagles which might otherwise be hidden from view. The air is cool all around you, but wafts of the scent of cedar wood often fills the air mingled with the smell of salmon as you pass by eagle feeding sites. For an hour you are able to view another world very set apart from your own, but one that is vital to the health of the place we call home.
The tour finishes up a short five minute walk from the guest lodge. Jake and Jill-Marie dropped us off and Mary led the group back to the lodge, where “the best chili I’ve ever tasted” awaited us. A family style lunch was the best way to end the trip; a large pot of pulled pork chili (made at Fergie’s), plenty of french bread and butter, and fresh coffee. Sitting around the large table we spoke of our trip on the river, how many birds were counted, and how if we all licked our chili bowls clean at once no one could judge us (yes the chili is that good!). The comfortable and welcoming atmosphere made everyone feel like instant friends. It felt as homey as heading to a family cabin on the lake. Delicious food, warm smiles and a cozy atmosphere. To be honest none of us wanted to leave.
We highly recommend taking the opportunity to go on a Winter Eagle Float Tour with Sunwolf. It’s an experience you won’t forget and if you want to see eagles then this is the tour to do, as there is no shortage of them to be seen!
It is also highly recommended to not go home after your Eagle Float Tour. There is the option to stay the night in one of their cozy self-catering cabins. You can sleep in a cabin metres away from the Cheakamus River and continue to spot eagles on your own as you ramble through the forest and along the banks of the river. Don’t forget to stop in at Fergie’s, as it’s only a minute walk from any cabin, and try their eggs Benny.
We know you will enjoy it as much as we did!
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