by Heidi Ng
November 10, 2013
November 10, 2013
Deep in the heart of ‘Sasquatch Country’, and due to recent global shifts beginning in 2010, visitors will witness the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles. The raptors are drawn to the region by the millions of spawning salmon that travel up the Fraser River to tributaries, such as the Harrison River. The Chehalis Flats and Harrison River estuary are also home to diverse wildlife including trumpeter swans, ducks, seals, bears, coyotes, deer and the great white sturgeon.
“The Harrison region is part of the winter homeland for over 10,000 bald eagles—the world’s largest concentration of eagles ever witnessed as they forage, fight and feast on record salmon runs in the Harrison River,” says David Hancock, Bald Eagle Biologist of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation.
For thousands of years, the First Nation Peoples have lived harmoniously with the land and water. However, in present time, the Sts’ailes work in collaboration with the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, the District of Mission, the Salmon Stronghold, and the Hancock Wildlife Foundation where they welcome visitors and share the knowledge they have gained over the generations. The Sts’ailes People have their ancestral home just upstream, another mile north along Morris Valley Road from the Harrison Mills’ eagle viewing areas. This area has been their continuous home for thousands of years and they have supported not just the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, the formation of the new Chehalis Flats Bald Eagle and Salmon Preserve, but are the key initiators of the Harrison River Salmon Stronghold. The Sts’ailes are “The Salmon People”. The Harrison River Salmon Stronghold, Canada’s first Salmon Stronghold, is a new designation by international conservation organizations to acknowledge that this river system is one of Canada’s most important salmon rivers — and ecologically the foundation for supporting the world’s largest gathering of eagles and a major host to waterfowl and sturgeon.
The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival will feature all of the designated eagle viewing sites in addition to exhibitors, displays, activities and boat tours of the Fraser River Safari. The second weekend, Saturday November 23, hosts the Sts’ailes Salmon Celebration at Pretty Estates Resort. The third weekend features a photo workshop at Harrison Hot Springs and, during the entire season, visitors can see the eagles at the beautiful private property of the Pretty family. Yes, Pretty is actually a family name of Betty, the owner of the luxurious estate with grand cottages with heated flooring, restaurants, huge mansion that has been converted to a hotel and its own Sandpiper golf course. Pretty Estates, my home during the Fraser Valley Eagle Festival, is proud to be a viewing site for the 2013 Festival. Nestled in a centuries-old forest of Douglas firs and surrounded by the West’s most idyllic golf course, Pretty Estates Resort is the perfect escape. The cottages are not your run of the mill cottages-these are luxurious cottages with heated floors, bathtub, a generously sized bathroom with all the organic amenities such as soap, shampoo and conditioner, the works! The bed is one of the most comfortable ones I have ever slept on, and I have checked into a number of the best brand hotels in the world. The attentive service, with even the owner talking to you during dinner at the River’s Edge restaurant, while I have a fill of my escargot, just shows the remarkable service one will receive from the estate.
Apart from the hotel amenities, one of the reasons to go is because thousands of Bald Eagles return every year with increasing numbers and winter on the property overlooking the Harrison River – a popular eagle feeding area. I enjoyed a trail walk through the resort’s tranquil forest and this year, I will experience the newly built bald eagle observation deck.
I cannot wait for my return to Harrison Mills this year!
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Pretty Estates 14282 Morris Valley Rd, Harrison Mills, BC
N 49 15.382 W 121 56.965
Please check prettyestateresort.com for directions on how to get to the property and for reservation inquiries.