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American bald eagle spotting on Lake Buchanan

Watch for American bald eagles on a Lake Buchanan cruise or from a dry perch.

By land or by water, spotting an American bald eagle around Lake Buchanan in the winter takes little effort. Land is easier but requires patience and good binoculars. Cruising by boat up the Colorado River where it flows into the lake promises closer proximity and better opportunities.

The most famous Winter Texans in the Highland Lakes, American bald eagles show up around mid-September and fly back north in the spring. They are usually gone by April or May, said Tim Mohan, a longtime lakes area resident and tour guide for Vanishing Texas River Cruises.

“The most sightings we’ve ever had were fourteen in December,” Mohan said. “We saw three mature eagles and eleven juveniles that day.”

Vanishing Texas River Cruises offers one of the best ways to spot eagles by water. The Eagle Cruise runs from mid-November through mid-February.

Every cruise "is a quest to find these birds in their natural habitat,” the VTRC website pledges.

The company has been taking passengers around the lake for about 35 years. Visitors can book an Eagle Cruise for two hours (18-mile round trip), three hours (27-mile round trip), or four hours (36-mile round trip with lunch included).

Where the cruise goes depends on the level of Lake Buchanan, a reservoir that fluctuates with weather conditions. (For lake levels, check here.) Ticket prices depend on the length of the cruise and whether lunch is included but are usually about $30-$50 a person.

“The eagles like it here because it’s quiet and there’s plenty of food,” Mohan said about Lake Buchanan. “The water right by the dam is usually pretty clear, and they have a huge flyway where they can take off and just soar over five miles of lake.”

Bald eagles are partial to fish and water fowl, which is why they are drawn to Lake Buchanan.

For those wanting to stay on dry land, an observation deck at the Lake Buchanan/Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce is the perfect perch for spying two of the four nesting eagles that call the Highland Lakes home each winter. When not in the nest feeding their young, the pair can be seen foraging for food along the dam and across the expanse of land behind the chamber. Bring your binoculars!

At one time, the most accessible — thus popular — nesting eagles raised their brood in a tree next to Texas 29 between Burnet and Buchanan Dam. A storm blew down the nest in 2014, and the eagles built a new one off the road a bit. They have since moved farther inland onto private land but reportedly still arrive each fall.

The Texas status for bald eagles remains at "threatened," up from "endangered" in 1967. According to the U.S. status, they have been ranked as "recovered" since 2007.

The Lake Buchanan/Inks Lake Chamber of Commerce is located at 19611 Texas 29 East in Buchanan Dam. Call 512-793-2803 or visit the website for more information.

Vanishing Texas River Cruises is located at 443 Waterway Lane in Burnet. Call 512-756-6986 or visit the website for more information and to purchase tickets.

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