For nature lovers interested in seeing American Bald Eagles in the wild, there is a great opportunity to do so on Eagle Watch Day, held annually at Kinzua Dam in Warren County, Pa. When the cold expanse of Allegheny Reservoir behind the dam freezes over and ice forms downstream in Allegheny River, the open tailwaters below the dam become prime fishing waters for eagles.
On a wintry day during last February, nearly 500 visitors to Big Bend Recreation Area viewed juvenile and adult eagles, just downstream from the dam. Other wintering birds and cold-water creatures were also observed.
This year the event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 2 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sponsors include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development Council, Kinzua Cachers, Allegheny Outdoor Club, and Eagles Club, Warren Aerie #313.
In addition to wildlife observation, activities include an audio-visual program detailing eagle restoration efforts presented by David Donachy, Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer, and a geomeet "Caching with Eagles" - organized by Kinzua Cachers. Several temporary caches will be set up around the recreation area.
Steve Lauser, Park Ranger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remarked on last year's Eagle Watch, "It was an excellent event. Visitors were thrilled to see eagles and walk on the dam. They loved the eagle program (by Officer Donachy) too. We had people sign the visitor log who had travelled from metro areas near Cleveland and Pittsburgh; Erie and nearby Northwestern Pennsylvania towns; Portville, Dunkirk and Mayville, NY."
Three public areas of interest will be open for public viewing and learning about America's national bird: Big Bend Visitor Center, Riverside Watchable Wildlife Trail and Viewing Platform (located along Allegheny River tailwaters), and Kinzua Dam roadway. Observation stations will be manned and spotting scopes will be available to better observe the awesome eagles. Persons 18 years of age and older will be required to show identification to gain access to the roadway at the dam.
Visitors to Warren seeking hotel rooms can obtain a special rate by calling either the Holiday Inn (814-723-3000) or the Hampton Inn (814-723-2722) and mentioning "Eagle Watch." The Hampton Inn offers a further discounted rate online.
This program is recreational, observational, educational and FREE to the public. For additional information contact Steve Lauser, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (814)726-0661, or Bill Massa, Allegheny Outdoor Club at (814)723-2568.