Bald eagles find a home at Northwest Trek
August 14, 2019
A message from Park Board Commissioner Andrea Smith
Wild inspiration: Bald eagles find a home at Northwest Trek’s new Eagle Passage exhibit
I don’t remember the very first time I saw a bald eagle – growing up in Tacoma, I was lucky enough to see them around, although not frequently. But I will always remember a moment, just a few years ago on the Olympic Peninsula, when I saw three in a row, just sitting there on a tree branch. It was awe-inspiring. These majestic birds are symbolic not only of our nation, but of our care and concern to protect wildlife. Brought back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s, they’re now thriving in our land.
They’re also now thriving at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eagle Passage, a brand-new habitat that recreates their natural Northwest forest in a breathtaking way. As you walk through the wide, timber-framed tunnel and look around, you can see eagles left, right, overhead – wherever they want to be. The near-invisible mesh, suspended from towering, living Douglas firs, lets you peek right into their world.
And it’s a world that’s built just for them. Rescued from the wild with wing and shoulder injuries that prevent them from fully flying, these eagles have found a home at Northwest Trek that supports their special needs with a completely accessible habitat. Century-old logs, reclaimed from the wildlife park’s Free-Roaming Area, lean up like ramps over the tunnel, allowing the birds to stair-step up and over to the other side. Real tree snags sport custom-made perch branches at various intervals, kind of like a spiral staircase, to give birds access to the very top, where they love to be.
Keepers give them the best of care. The horticulturalist has filled their space with vine maple, salmonberry and ferns to give them the screening they need. Supported entirely by $500,000 in donations raised by the Northwest Trek Foundation, it’s a state-of-the-art rescued-eagle home.
They even have curious wild bald eagles fly down and visit from time to time!
But while the best part of Eagle Passage is the eagles themselves, so close you can count their feathers, the next-best part is how it pulls us into their amazing conservation story. You can learn how eagles, once so plentiful and so important to Native American culture, dwindled from hunting and the poisonous effects of DDT pesticide to just 400 pairs in the 1960s – and were then saved by the efforts of concerned people.
More interactive signage help us relate to these astonishing birds, like spreading our arms against their wingspan. You can even climb into a life-size “nest” to see what being an eagle might feel like – a favorite with my two grandkids on opening day! And at a digital kiosk you can make your own pledge to speak up and help save wildlife.
I love that, thanks to dedicated Americans, I can be awed by many more bald eagles in the wild than I ever could as a kid. But I also love that now I can bring my own kids and grandkids to Northwest Trek and see these iconic birds close-up, in a unique, forested habitat.
Eagle Passage is more than just a home for eagles. It’s a wild inspiration for humans, too.
Andrea Smith was first elected to the five-member Metro Parks Board of Park Commissioners in 2011, and in November 2017 was re-elected to a second six-year term. She served as Board President in 2017 and 2018.