News Stories

From Villain to Victor: History of the Bald Eagle Watch

Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Jan. 4, 2024
Three park rangers stand under a US Army Corps of Engineers tent, stand in front of the Dalles Lock & Dam with snow all around.

From left to right: Park Ranger Sara Emrick, Natural Resources Manager David LaDouceur, and Park Ranger Amber Tilton (now public affairs spokesperson for the Corps) pose for a group photo at a past eagle watch event. Since 2010 park rangers at The Dalles Lock & Dam have hosted an annual Eagle Watch from The Dalles Dam Visitor Center.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Bald eagle watches are a popular winter event in many states with wintering eagle populations. Watches began after eagle populations crashed in the 1960s to share information about challenges threatening the birds’ survival.

The main challenges at the time were pesticide DDT use and habitat loss. But a lesser talked about cause of death was eagle unpopularity.

It’s hard to imagine, I know. However, the saying “gossip kills” holds truth as tall tales of bald eagles carrying away children and killing livestock contributed heavily to the senseless shootings and poisonings of eagles.

Add to that the myth that they would outcompete fishermen for salmon and well, they basically suffered from a bad image in the extreme shoot-to-kill on a wanted poster, kind of way.

Now, eagle watch events across the U.S. celebrate this powerful bird. What a 180 for their image! It seems like we went from throwing darts at their pictures, to framing them!

The introduction of the ‘Bald Eagle Watch’ has helped create that change by providing outdoor eagle viewing and educational opportunities focused on recovery efforts.

As many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects around the country have concentrations of wintering eagles congregating near dams, powerhouses and along the shorelines of our lakes and rivers, so too shall you find a dam ranger pointing at them. All over the country, USACE park rangers host annual eagle watch events.

Today, eagle watches are more of a celebratory event than an alarm bell as the bald eagle has made a full recovery! Once on the brink of extinction, they are now one of the greatest success stories of the Environmental Protection Act.

When people gaze at the bald eagle today, they no longer see villain, they see victory. We get to reflect on the success of the changes we have made as a society that prevented this species from disappearing completely.

There is hope, because if we can save the bald eagle, what else can we save?


Join Corps park rangers at the 14th annual Bald Eagle Watch at The Dalles Dam Visitor Center on Jan. 20th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for live raptor demonstrations, eagle watching, and educational activities! Additionally, the visitor center will be open on Tuesday through Friday in the month of January from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours are subject to change.


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