|(Photo by Carl Ewald, TerraMar Adventures)|
My first bald eagle sighting came on a birding expedition with my 7th grade science teacher, at which point I'd resolved to become an ornithologist when I grew up. The bird was a significant distance away, but with the help of a serious pair of binoculars, I remember being absolutely floored by how beautiful the eagle was.
Though I've since abandoned plans to become an ornithologist, (you need a surplus of patience, which I don't have), I'm still enamored by birds. When friend Carl, founder of Philadelphia's biggest and best outdoor adventure group, invited me on a scouting trip for what he called a "bald eagle hike," I knew I had to go.
Our crew met at Susquehanna State Park in Maryland, a 90 minute drive from Philadelphia, to start the hike. Our destination was the southern terminus of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail. The trail is an old railway bed used in the 1920's to transport materials to build the Conowingo Dam. If you're looking for a challenging hike, look elsewhere; it's a completely flat, wide path that extends 2.5 miles from the trailhead in Susquehanna State Park north to the Conowingo Dam. If you're a trail runner, however, it's could be a great route to try. Eventually, the trail will extend 50 miles on both sides of the river, but for now, it's a five mile round trip.
|The Stafford flint furnace from across the creek, aka the beehive, the rocket ship, the list goes on...|
|Out on the (extremely flat, but beautiful) trail.|
When we reached the dam, dozens of photographers with long lenses and tripods dotted the shoreline. It's a wildlife photographer's paradise this time of year, and dam operator Exelon Corporation holds an annual eagle photo contest. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the photographers even help with conservation and banding projects. We spent at least half an hour watching the eagles from a distance, and I spent the rest of the hour and a half walk back to the car wishing I had a better camera. Luckily, local photographer David Lychenheim manages a Facebook page dedicated to the Conowingo eagles for folks like me. But the birds were as majestic and stunning as I can remember.
Despite how easy the hike was, it's a beautiful and easily accessible place to see one of America's most incredible birds. If you're in the area, TerraMar Adventures is doing a second bald eagle hike on January 19, 2013. Have you been to the Conowingo Dam? Have you ever seen a bald eagle? What was it like? Leave a comment!