Anacortes is gifted with a myriad of attributes – not the least of which is our breathtaking island environment and the wildlife it supports. Amenities include seven freshwater lakes, and many beaches and parks. We are a popular “jump point” for whale and bird watchers. Nearby Deception Pass State Park is a good place to see black-tailed deer, bald eagles and a variety of marine birds and waterfowl. An observation deck overlooks Cranberry Lake wetlands on the West Beach sand dunes interpretive trail.
Are you ready to experience the Orca whales like you never have before? It is absolutely amazing to witness these creatures in their natural habitat, swimming freely and cavorting about in their family groups. Even veteran whale watchers find themselves coming back again and again to learn more about them. Whether you’re coming to visit the Northwest or you’re lucky enough to live here, don’t let the opportunity to see these magnificent marine mammals pass you by!
Fidalgo Island, surrounding islands and the Skagit Valley boast an impressive population of birds ranging from bald eagles and osprey to herons and snow geese. Up to 27,000 snow geese arrive on the Skagit River Delta in late fall and usually stay through April. As many as 300 tundra swans winter in this area. The Cascade Loop route of the Great Washington Birding Trail, which includes Anacortes, features 225 of Washington’s 365 bird species.
Every year thousands of people visit the nearby Upper Skagit River Valley to watch one of the largest wintering bald eagle populations in the continental U.S. Up to 400 bald eagles are counted annually. While eagles can be seen as early as November, or as late as March, the best viewing is from mid-December to mid-February with eagle numbers peaking around Christmas, about three weeks after the large Skagit River salmon runs begin. The Skagit Eagle Festival takes place in January, with events happening every weekend, out in Concrete, Rockport, and Marblemount (and beyond!). There are many opportunities to view and/or photograph bald eagles as they congregate in the bare limbs of cottonwood trees, or feed on spawned-out chum salmon in the river. Typically, the best chance to see eagles feeding down on the gravel bars is in the morning between dawn and 11 a.m. Your best chance to see eagles perched in the trees by the river is on cloudy overcast days when they perch for hours digesting their morning meal and conserving energy. On sunny afternoons, the eagles are more active and may be seen catching updrafts and soaring overhead. Eagles leave the river in late afternoon to congregate in night roosts in sheltered old-growth timber including areas around Rockport State Park and Milepost 100.
Fish and Sea Life
Fidalgo Island is home to sea life ranging from sea stars and octopus to otters and seals. Our public beaches and tide pools represent an exciting opportunity for curious children. We are also home to one of the only underwater state parks at Rosario Beach.
Anacortes Community Forest Lands (2,800 acres!) present an exciting opportunity for wildlife watchers, from squirrels to deer, otters to raccoon, beaver to coyote. Stop by the Visitor Information Center at 819 Commercial Avenue to purchase a detailed, waterproof map of the community’s extensive trail system.
- Be sensitive to the needs of animals. Stop and go around them or wait for them to move. Avoid close contact with wildlife. Minimize noise. Do not chase an animal.
- Help animals conserve their food supply. Avoid damaging brush, trees and grass. Do not pick wildflowers or dig up wild plants. Many are endangered species.
- Respect wildlife’s privacy. Stay on established public routes or trails. View birds and animals from a distance with binoculars, spotting scopes or telephoto camera lenses.
- Do not disrupt life on beaches and tidepools. Do not collect sea creatures, and if you lift a rock, return it to position before moving on.
- Do not feed animals. This interferes with their natural ability to forage for food and can lead to human dependency. They can also become confused and swallow improperly discarded food wrappers.