Living in Florida we sometimes take our resident Bald Eagles and winter visitors for granted. Florida has approximately 1,100 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles. Alaska has about 35,000 Bald Eagles, or half the total world population and another 20,000 make their home in British Columbia.
We get excited to see a Bald Eagle fly over our favorite park or our house. It's great fun to see an eagle build a nest and raise young year after year. Can you imagine the thrill of seeing thousands of Bald Eagles (literally 3,000 to 5,000 eagles) along just a 4 to 5 mile stretch of the Chilkat River? This is the largest concentration of Bald Eagles in the world and it takes place every year between late October and late December.
Why do they congregate along such a small area on the Chilkat? They come for the open water and spawning salmon. The natural phenomena responsible for five miles of open water on the Chilkat River during freezing months is called an "alluvial fan reservoir". The Tsirku fan, which is a fan-shaped accumulation of gravel, rock, sand, and glacial debris, at the confluence of the Tsirku, Kleheni, and Chilkat Rivers acts as a large water reservoir. The friction of the water through the fan raises the water temperature 10 to 20 degrees F. The warmer water prevents the river from freezing over and allows for a late spawning of several species of salmon (approximately 300,000 to 500,000 individuals).
We will also have a small chance of seeing bear and a very good chance of seeing moose. Landscape opportunities will be pursued as well, but the main focus of the tour is the Bald Eagles. This is a very easy PhotoTour. The vast majority of the shots are right along the road, between mile markers 18 and 24. We are limited by the preserve regulations to shooting between the road and the river. You'll never be more than a few hundred yards from the vehicle.
Haines weather in November is different from Tampa. The average daytime high is in the mid 30's and the average overnight low is in the mid 20's. November is the 5th wettest month averaging about 5 1/2 inches of precipitation. This is mostly in the form of snow.
Snow will reduce our chances of seeing and photographing Bald Eagles. If a day's shooting is cancelled due to weather, alternate activities are planned, including a visit to the American Bald Eagle Foundation and the Hammer Museum. Native American art and craft is also a feature of Haines.
Our PhotoTour will depart Tampa Saturday, November 24, 2012 and return to Tampa Friday, November 30, 2012. The tour will spend Saturday night in Juneau, the state Capitol. Sunday morning we catch an early flight from Juneau to Haines, the home of the 48,000 acre Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. If the flight is cancelled due to weather we'll travel to Juneau via the Alaska State Ferry.
Once in Haines we'll check into our hotel and have a short orientation meeting to prepare for our next few days of shooting. The sun will set around 3:15 PM each day so we'll maximize our shooting each day. Expect around 7 hours of daylight each day. The evenings will feature opportunities to learn more about Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and review some of our days photos. Each night we'll turn in so that we'll be ready to shoot at 8:15.
Travel to and from the Bald Eagle Preserve is via 4 wheel drive SUV. It seats 9 with room for gear. However, to make things more comfortable the trip is limited to just 6 (plus Jeff and Theresa).
The total cost is $3,600 and includes airfare to and from Tampa, all transportation in Alaska, including air, ferry and ground transportation. Also included is 2 nights lodging in Juneau and 5 nights in Haines, and 7 breakfasts. Snacks and water are provided during the ground portion in Alaska.
Not included are lunches, dinners, alcoholic beverages and any personal incidentals and hotel expenses. The airline is providing snacks on the flights, so be prepared to purchase meals during the layovers.
A pre-tour orientation meeting will be held approximately 45 days before departure. Equipment, travel and other important information will be discussed.
If you want to book you're own airfare from Tampa to Juneau, you may deduct $800 from the total price. If you are willing to share a room, you may deduct $200 each ($400 total per room) from the cost. If you have traveled on a prior FCCP PhotoTour you may deduct an additional $100 from the fees.
A minimum of 4 participants are required or the trip will be cancelled. A $1000 deposit is required to secure your place. Final payment is due 100 days before departure (August 15, 2012). A partial refund of 70% will be granted until October 1, 2012. After October 1, 2012 a refund will only be granted if a replacement is found for your spot.