Bald Eagle Viewing Along Turnagain Arm
Bald eagles can be seen from just about any highway pullout and trailhead along Turnagain Arm, a stunning world-class fiord that stretches southeast from Anchorage for almost 50 miles along the Seward Highway. For the most productive viewing, watch for the birds when low tide exposes the vast mud flats between May and September during periods when fish are running. Eagles will perch along tidal channels and wing back and forth from shore. Listen and you might hear them call.
Where Will You Find The Most Bald Eagles?
The birds tend to concentrate at the head of the Arm, where the Twentymile, Portage and Placer rivers all empty within a few miles of each other. Viewing will be especially potent during the hooligan run of mid-May-early June and the coho salmon run that begins in August and lasts well into September. The very best spots will be south of Girdwood between a Chugach National Forest pullout at Mile 86 and an unimproved boat launching area about Mile 81 on the north side of the bridge across the Twentymile River. To lend an intimate “wilderness feel” to your eagle adventure, park near the bridge (pullouts on both sides of the highway) during falling or low tide and hike across the brushy apron toward the exposed flats. It’s not unusual to see 20 to 40 birds staged along the river channel meandering offshore, all of them stalking a fresh meal.
Tips For Viewing Eagles Along The Arm
- Adult bald eagles all look alike—white head on black body. This unmistakable search image will stand out against the brown background of exposed silt. Scan for this striking sight, and you will almost always find an eagle or two.
- Best results will be during falling or low tide.
- Using binoculars or scopes always improves eagle viewing. For detailed eagle viewing advice, check out our bald eagle advice page.
- Beware of traffic. The Seward Highway is notorious for its impatient summer drivers, many willing to take risky passes to shave a few minutes of travel time. So park well off the driving lane before you exit your vehicle to look for eagles.
- If hiking along the shore, use common sense and keep to vegetated areas. Avoid exposed wet mud and never attempt to cross one of those gooey, drainage guts. There is a real danger of getting stuck. People sometimes must be rescued, and at least one person has drowned in the returning tide.
- Check the Anchorage-area fishing report. The eagles come for the fish!
- Hooligan dipnetters and coho anglers will park along the highway when harvesting prospects peak. If you find dozens of vehicles parked along the highway north of Twentymile (especially in May and June) or near Portage, take the hint! Eagle viewing will likely be excellent.
- To increase safety, a major renovation of the Seward Highway is now underway (2020-22 seasons) that will impact the Twentymile River area. Mainly in response to the popular hooligan fishery for Alaska residents, the project will install passing lanes, additional parking, a multi-use path and off-grade highway crossings. These improvements will also make it easier to view wildlife, including eagles.
For More Information:
Drive south from Anchorage down the Seward Highway past Potter Marsh. Turnagain Arm proper begins where the steep mountain slope and the seashore converge.