Sunday, February 19, 2017

Millerton Lake Bald Eagle Tours

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

Note: These trips will only be available until March 12th. They are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday mornings at 8am by reservation. (559) 822-2332 Ext. #104 It is $20.00 per person and about 4 hours.
Sharon and I had the privilege and pleasure to take the Bald Eagle boat tour yesterday morning. I have taken several eagle photographs from places along the shore but this is the first opportunity to see them near their nests. My GPS watch had the total out and back distance at about 20 miles. Because it was a small group yesterday, we took the smaller boat.
We met at 8am in the historic Millerton Courthouse and viewed a one-hour video on the history of the restoration of the bald eagle population and the migratory flight path that takes them from Millerton Lake to as far away as Great Slave Lake in the Canadian Northwest Territories for the summer. Most of Millerton Lake eagles are migratory and have established “Housekeeping Nests”. There are two pair of bald eagles that are year round residents and breed their young at Millerton Lake. We were able to see two breeding nests. There is also a pair of resident Golden Eagles.
It was not just the opportunity to see eagles, ospreys, hawks and other water birds; we were able to see locations far ‘upstream’ past Finegold Creek, Big Bend nearly to the Temperance Flat area. This is the proposed spot for a new larger reservoir upstream from Millerton Lake. We had close up views of the ancient McKenzie Table Mountain and Big Table Mountain. The tabletop area high above us is the original level of San Joaquin River bed.
We could also see some of the route of the San Joaquin River Trail along the shore. When this trail is completed, it will be almost 100 miles long terminating in the High Sierra, which is the source of the San Joaquin River’s three branches. I have mountain biked the 15 mile section from the Finegold Day Use Area at the end of Sky Harbor Road to the San Joaquin River Gorge recreation area.
We were forced to turn back as the increasing amount of floating debris from the shore became too hazardous. The debris was a result of record rainfall and the lake rising.
Mike Smith our knowledgeable and experienced tour guide and our helmsman Sgt. Steve both did wonderful jobs navigating through the debris and the history of the eagles and of the area. Steve even brought us hot chocolate at one of the Millerton Lake floating ‘pit stops’. Although we were close enough to see the birds with unaided eyes, my photographs with a 400mm lens were a bit small. I recommend at least 8 power binoculars to enhance the view.

 Hawk Courtship


 Eagle Nest
 Trail Along Lake

 Finegold Creek Junction

 2nd Eagle Nest
 Eagle To Right Of Nest
 Runoff Debris
 San Joaquin River Trail
 Table Top Mountain

 Pincushion Mountain With A Hiker On Top

 Sgt. Steve At The Helm
 Mike Smith 
 Courthouse And Dam At Return


  1. This looks like a first rate trip on all accounts: leaders, wildlife, and relatively undisturbed natural areas. If Temperance Flat is built, this trip could change dramatically. Note to self: SIGN UP!

  2. Hi Carol.
    The perspective changes from the water looking up versus, from limited access, the top of the canyon looking down. Right now the water looks pretty murky with all the silt etc. in the water from all the rain and runoff.