The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival is a free event in November where people can see hundreds of eagles along the Harrison River not far from Vancouver.
STATUS OF THE FESTIVAL
In 2020, the organizers of the Bald Eagle Festival cancelled the event. This was not just due to COVID-19, but also because of the potential negative environmental impact of the crowds.
The festival’s popularity in recent years has meant crowds of people went to enjoy the eagles each November. Because of the numbers, this has caused a strain to the area that the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society has worked to preserve.
In light of this, the festival is cancelled indefinitely and likely will not return in the future. However, you can still go visit the eagles at the time of the year that the festival used to take place. It’s just a self-guided experience now.
Bald Eagle Festival
Taking place at various venues along the Harrison River and other waterways between Harrison Hot Springs and Mission, in years when it does take place, the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival features various family-friendly activities.
Things to do at the festival most years include nature walks, boat tours, educational talks, wildlife and green business displays, plus hundreds of bald eagles to view from a distance.
The weekend event is a two-day celebration of one of the largest migratory gatherings of bald eagles anywhere in the world.
Eagle Festival Location
The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival takes place along the Harrison River and Fraser River in and around the small town of Harrison Mills which is just a 20-minute drive southwest of Harrison Hot Springs.
To get to the festival head east from the town of Mission along Highway #7 for about half an hour until you reach Harrison Mills. From time to time you’ll see people along the way beside the river with their cameras, going for walks and looking out for the eagles.
About the Festival
The festival is put on by the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society whose mission is to “celebrate the beauty and biodiversity of the Fraser River Valley by honouring the majestic bald eagle and the cycle of the salmon”. Had it not been cancelled, 2020 would have been its 25th year.
In years when it doesn’t get cancelled, during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival people view eagles at various points along the rivers, but especially at the official viewing areas listed below.
There is also an Exhibitors Fair at Harrison Mills Hall, special activities at the Kilby Historic Site, free admission to the Inch Creek Hatchery and boat tours with Fraser River Safari.
Exhibitors Fair at Harrison Mills Hall
An Exhibitors Fair takes place at Harrison Mills Community Hall at 1995 School Road in Harrison Mills.
In 2019 the festival’s Exhibitors Fair was open from 9 am to 4 pm on the Saturday and from 10 am until 3 pm on the Sunday.
At the Exhibitors Fair are usually live raptors, nature displays, videos about the environment and conservation, and kids’ craft activities. Exhibitors typically include groups like WildSafeBC, Raptor Ranch Inc., Chilliwack Field Naturalists and the Wildlife Rescue Association, as well as a small number of artists, artisans and other product vendors. We expect 2021 to be similar.
Kilby Historic Site
Kilby Historic Site is a historic farm and museum located at 215 Kilby Road in Harrison Mills. During the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival admission to the attraction is usually. At other times of the year the facility is open seasonally and costs about $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for students and children over 6 years of age. 2021 details may be similar.
The Kilby Historic Site itself is usually open from 9 am to 4 pm on both days of the festival and features the museum and historical buildings to see.
Walking tours in 2019 ran at 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm where festival-goers were met by a costumed interpreter who talked about the relationships between the salmon and the eagles and provided a brief history of the region.
Inch Creek Hatchery
The Inch Creek Hatchery is located at 38620 Bell Road in the tiny community of Dewdney. It’s a large hatchery operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada that raises Chum, Coho, Chinook, Sockeye and Steelhead Salmon. The hatchery is also home to two giant sturgeons each over 6 feet long.
In 2019 the hatchery was open during the festival both days from 9 to 3. At other times of the year the hatchery offers group tours by appointment only.
TIP: If you like salmon and hatcheries, another good one to visit this time of year is the Capilano River Hatchery in North Vancouver.
Fraser River Safari Boat Tours
For folks wanting to get out on the water to see the eagles, Fraser River Safari offers 60 to 75-minute boat tours during the festival for between around $65 and $90. The tours fill up fast though, at least in years when there isn’t COVID-19.
Click Fraser River Safari for more details.
Other boat companies offering eagle viewing tours include Shoreline Cruises and Harrison Eco Tours (both of which are great and operate out of Harrison Hot Springs).
Eagle Viewing Areas
There are a number of official festival eagle viewing spots in the area including at Tapadera Estates, Eagle Point Community Park and Sandpiper Golf Resort.
Tapadera Estates is located at 14600 Morris Valley Road in Harrison Mills and eagle-viewing times for the public there in 2019 were from 9 am to 3 pm on both the Saturday and Sunday. In years when the festival doesn’t get cancelled, free public educational talks usually occur at the Tapadera Estates venue both days.
Eagle Point Community Park
Eagle Point Community Park is located in the 14500 block of Morris Valley Road, so between the Tapadera Estates and Sandpiper Golf Course. At this venue between 9 am and 3 pm each day in 2019 there was a park ranger, local volunteers and an expert from Wild Birds Unlimited to answer questions.
There are also usually spotting scopes available to help folk see the eagles, as well as a tent and patio heater to help keep participants warm. Note: There is parking at this venue, but it’s limited.
Sandpiper Golf Resort
Eagle viewing took place both days in Harrison Mills in 2019 from 9 am to 8 pm at the Sandpiper Golf Resort just down the road at 14282 Morris Valley Road. You won’t see many eagles after dark, but this is the one official venue where people can comfortably hang out together until well after dusk.
There is free parking for over 100 cars at this venue, plus a heated barn and food and beverage services. The Sandpiper Resort is also an exceptional place to stay overnight.
For more information about the festival check out the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society website.
For a list of other events this month see Vancouver’s November Calendar or click Festivals & Events.
PHOTO TIP #1: At the Sandpiper Golf Resort, in the past, there has been a free Nikon Led Photo Walk on both days starting at noon. If it is happening again this year, meet at the Clubhouse and perhaps you can walk and talk with a photography expert who’ll offer advice on taking photos of both eagles and landscapes.
PHOTO TIP #2: If you like photography, it’s not too cloudy and you find you’re still out in the evening (especially a bit further west and around Nicomen Slough), don’t forget to take your tripod. Sunsets on the water can be stunning.