It's that time of year again-- head to the Conowingo Dam

Bil Bowden

Photographers and nature lovers from all over the world visit Maryland's Conowingo Dam for the crowd of bald eagles there. Some people say they've counted 100 eagles there at once.

And now until mid-December is the time to visit.

Just below the dam, eagles, vultures, cormorants and thousands of gulls fight for the stunned or beaten up fish that have made it through or over the dam. It's quite a sight to see. Take along binoculars or a spotting scope to watch the aerial circus. Or haul your long camera lens to keep the images forever. Even patient, beginner photographers can go home with spectacular photos. Eagles are relatively easy to shoot, being big, fairly slow and easy to see, so chances of getting a 'keeper' photo is good.


If you can't afford the $16,000 800mm lens that you see photographers lugging down to the Susquehanna River, just a 300mm will offer enough possibilities to make it a worthwhile trip. Longer lenses will get the premiere photos, with eagles snagging a fish from the water surface, fighting over a meal or just soaring. But eagles will easily be close enough to get a satisfying picture with shorter lenses. Most of us aren't shooting for National Geographic. Or retired with gold-lined financial plans (yes, I'm jealous). Enjoy the day with whatever tools you have in your bag.

To check on dam releases, and therefore more fish below the dam, check here.


A very good blog post by Emily Carter Mitchell will help answer more questions about the area. Facebook has a nice Conowingo eagle page here. The Harford Bird Club has a terrific page here. Even TripAdvisor has some comments and tips here.

The cheaper high-end point-and-shoot cameras, like Canon's SX 60, boasts a 1365mm equivalent lens. Nikon's P900 with its 2,000mm lens easily out-shoots the DSLRs for pure distance, but they're more difficult to follow focus. If you're looking for pictures of birds on the other side of the Susquehanna River, these point-and-shoots will do fine, pulling in crowds of black vultures that the DSLRs can't match. Of course, with the DSLRs, the image can be cropped tighter to get a similar picture.


If standing behind a tripod with a monster lens isn't for you, check the south end of the parking lot and wander down the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail bike/hike path. Four eagles were seen in one tree about 300 yards down, singles were scattered all 2.5 miles to Deer Creek.

Expect crowds of both photographers and fishermen/women along the western shore, both trying to make the perfect catch. The anglers may be outnumbered by photographers, and on a recent visit there was a bit of friction because the anglers saw their space being encroached upon. It IS called Fisherman's Wharf, after all.