When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, seeing a bald eagle in the wild was a fantasy as far-fetched as dreaming I’d one day score a Super-Bowl-winning touchdown for the Buffalo Bills. Forty years later, I can make one of those crazy dreams a reality on any given weekend during the spring and summer – and it doesn’t involve my beloved Bills.
For my wife and me, a favorite nice-weather activity is kayaking on Jordan Lake, a 46,000-acre reservoir west of Raleigh and south of Durham in Chatham County that serves as a major source of drinking water in the Triangle – and as an ideal habitat for bald eagles.
We usually put-in our kayak at Farrington Point Boat Ramp off of Farrington Point Road. For the best wildlife viewing, we like to be in the water by 9am, before the jet skis and power boats start arriving.
On most summer days, the water on the lake is perfect for kayaking. In the coves that ring the edges of the lake, the water is particularly glassy and serene.
Great Blue Herons are common on Jordan Lake, patrolling the shoreline in search of a meal or resting on the limbs of the pine trees that surround the lake. Keep your eyes open for green herons, egrets, kingfishers, ospreys, hawks, deer, turtles and a host of other wildlife.
Passing under a bridge on Farrington Point Road, boaters are reminded they’re in eagle territory. In 1983, there were no nesting bald eagles in North Carolina, but in a comeback befitting our national symbol, Jordan Lake now boasts the highest concentration of bald eagles on the East Coast.
Jordan Lake was formed when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Haw and New Hope Rivers between 1973-1983. On the shores of the lake, you can still see remnants of the rivers’ old piers.
If you’re quiet and respectful of their space, eagles don’t seem to mind your presence very much. Sometimes, they’re even curious. Right after my wife snapped this photo, the eagle left its perch to take a low pass over our kayak, then returned to the same branch.
It’s hard to mistake an adult bald eagle for any other bird – the white head and tail really stand out in the sunlight. But younger eagles can be harder to identify, appearing brown or a mix of brown-and-white before they get their adult plumage.
Jordan Lake is popular among water skiers and tubers, but I think paddling is more my speed.
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is one of North Carolina’s outdoor gems. Enjoy it responsibly, and make sure to bring a camera!