Skagit River Bald Eagle Float

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By Samantha Levine
Photography by Dan Wilson

In the past two months, one thing I’ve learned for certain is that The Nature Conservancy has a tremendous breadth of work. As a new team member, I am soaking in as much as I can – from this blog, from reading our materials, and by chatting with our conservationists and other staff. But by far the best way to really get to know the work we do is to get out into the field and experience the natural places that we protect and learn from! To that end, I was thrilled to join a trip of Washington Chapter supporters on a float down the Skagit River last week. 

There was a time not too long ago that bald eagles were an endangered species, but they are out in huge numbers in the Skagit River area now. We saw 50 of them over the course of a couple of hours – and February is considered a time when the numbers are dwindling! Restoring habitat for the bald eagles was one of TNC’s earliest “wins” in Washington state, and it’s a great example of how we bring science, collaboration and hard work on the ground together to solve problems. 

As we floated down the river, we passed several TNC preserves, including some of the land at the mouth of Illabot Creek, where we paused to take in the scenery. It was a serene setting, the water was completely calm and the banks were lined with trees draped in delicate moss. The feelings this serenity evoked are reason enough for this area to be protected, but people aren’t the only ones who appreciate it. The creek is a very important part of the Skagit River salmon run – one of the few to host all five species of salmon. TNC and partners in the area worked hard over the past few years to ensure that this beautiful and important part of the Skagit watershed remain protected, resulting in Illabot Creek earning the designation of a Wild & Scenic River from Congress in December 2014. 

A day on the river – a break from the daily grind, a chance to sip hot chocolate and chat with likeminded TNC members, an opportunity to learn by experiencing nature – was just what this new team member needed. And I can’t wait to get back out into the field!