If spotting a bald eagle in the wild is on your bucket list, then pack up your binoculars and head over to Carson Valley (visitcarsonvalley.org) this winter. Located about an hour south of Reno, this Western Nevada area sees a huge influx of the raptors from December to February – and it’s all because of the cattle. More specifically, it’s all because it’s calf birthing season, as the cow placentas provide a tasty high-protein treat for the massive birds.
And although some folks hike backcountry trails to see the visiting raptors, the birds can be found anywhere there are cattle during this time of year – and that includes right along the roads where you can get some eye-popping windshield views. That’s good news for wheelchair-users and slow walkers, as that’s just one of several accessible ways to catch a glimpse of these Carson Valley seasonal visitors.
Explore on Your Own
A good place for wheelchair-users and slow walkers to spot bald eagles is at River Fork Ranch (www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/river-fork-ranch). Managed by the Nature Conservancy, this diverse nature preserve consists of a patchwork of pastures, meadows and wetlands, located at the convergence of the east and west forks of the Carson River, near Genoa. Even better, this 800-acre parcel is both a nature preserve and a working cattle ranch — and where there are cattle, there are eagles.
Accessible parking is located near the Whit Hill Interpretive Center, which is open for scheduled events. There’s ramp access up to the deck and barrier-free access to the building, which has accessible restrooms inside. Even if the interpretive center is closed, the large wrap-around deck is still open for eagle viewing.
A short .75-mile nature trail may also be doable for some wheelers and slow walkers. This hard-packed dirt trail begins near the back deck and winds through the grasslands and along the river. The trail is level, but there are a few bumps along the way, and at times it’s only about two-feet wide. There are also a few benches near the river to sit back, enjoy the view, and take a break. Although not technically accessible, this trail will work for many folks, so give it a try, as you can always turn back if you encounter impassable obstacles.
Another good place to spot the bald eagles is right along State Route 88, near the Dangberg Home Ranch in Minden. Cattle pastures line both sides of the road, and it’s not unusual to see the eagles sitting on fence posts or chowing down in the pastures. And the great part about this site is that you can just pull over and enjoy it all from the comfort of your own car.
Take a Private Tour
Another option for eagle viewing for some wheelchair-users and slow walkers is to take a private tour. One of the advantages of this choice is that the guides are knowledgeable about eagle behavior, which allows participants to get up-close-and-personal with the magnificent birds. A little wildlife education also adds to the whole experience, as you’ll begin to understand the behaviors you witness.
Dwayne Hicks, owner of Carson Valley Tours (dwaynesworld.com), is not only one of these knowledgeable local guides, but he can also accommodate some wheelchair-users and slow walkers on his full- or half-day tours. Raised in the area, Dwayne is also an accomplished wildlife photographer who can help visitors get that memorable eagle shot. Additionally he has a personal understanding of access issues, as he used a cane while recovering from a stroke several years ago.
Says Dwayne, “I can carry a wheelchair in the back of my jeep, but people need to transfer to the front seat, and stay there for the duration of the tour.” Dwayne has taken wheelchair-users and slow walkers on his tours, which he can customize based on individual needs and abilities. Dwayne is also a no-nonsense guy, and he’ll tell you up front if his tour won’t work for you. Additionally he’s good at finding spots that slow walkers can get out and walk around, due to his personal experience with that issue.
Enjoy These Eagles and Ag Events
Wheelchair-users and slow walkers can also get a look at some local raptors at one of the Eagles and Agriculture (www.carsonvalleynv.org/eagles-ag) accessible events. Hosted by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, this yearly festival is held every January to celebrate the annual return of the bald eagles.
The four-day festival kicks off with the Opening Reception on Thursday evening. Held in the Douglas County Senior Center, this event features barrier-free access throughout the venue. The reception includes a display of images shot by local wildlife photographers, and also features a number of falconers with their birds. It’s a good opportunity to get a close look at these elusive raptors. Light Hors d’oeuvres are served during the reception, and a cash bar is also available.
The Friday evening Falconers Dinner is also a popular event. Held at the Carson Valley Inn, the venue has plenty of accessible parking in front, with ramp access to the building, and barrier-free access inside. This fun event features a sit-down dinner and a keynote agriculture-related speaker. And the falconers also make a return appearance with their birds, only this time they’ll be on stage. A variety of conservation exhibits are also featured at this educational and enjoyable event.
So come on over and check out the raptors in Carson Valley this winter. And stay a few nights at one of these accessible properties. And be sure and ask for their special Eagles & Ag rate when you make your reservation. emerginghorizons.com/wheelchair-accessible-lodging-choices-in-carson-valley