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Destination Vacation: Jordan Lake and its bald eagles

Destination Vacation
destination vacation

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Although it has become a mainstay in the Raleigh-Durham area, Jordan Lake hasn’t always been part of the local landscape.

Construction of Jordan Lake began in the mid-1970s with Jordan Lake reaching full pool in 1982.

The Army Corps of Engineers had been given the task of finding a place to do flood control after a tropical storm came through and flooded out Fayetteville. 

Since it’s completion, Jordan Lake State Recreation Area has hosted a plethora of people and wildlife alike. It’s a popular spot for camping, hiking and all types of water activities. 

They boast over 1,000 campsites, seven swim beaches and nearly 14 miles of hiking trails. 

But outdoor recreation isn’t the only thing you can do at Jordan Lake. If you keep your eye to the sky long enough, you’ll see birds take flight, and you’ll likely see the majestic bald eagle. 

“It’s like a birding hot spot for birds out here. We’ve got over 300 species that have been identified here at Jordan Lake. And part of that is the bald eagle. We have a large concentration of bald eagles here at the lake,” says Steve McMurray, a park ranger at Jordan Lake. 

The first bald eagle was seen at Jordan Lake in the mid-1980s, and ever since there has been an increase in the number of nests and eagles.

This past year, McMurray says they had 21 nests and 16 that were active. 

Bald eagles change in appearance as they mature. Adult bald eagles have the iconic white head and whitetail. 

Young bald eagles look much different. You may have had one fly overhead and not even known it. 

“Now the younger ones, the immature eagles, are going to be a little bit harder to identify. A lot of people mistake them for turkey vultures. They’re going to be completely dark brown, and sometimes splotchy white and brown, and they’re going to be large. So folks just think they’re turkey vultures,” said McMurray. 

So if you’re planning on grabbing the binoculars and heading to Jordan Lake, plan on spending some time searching the skies. 

“With so many permanent bald eagles out here, it’s hard not to see them if you’re out here long enough.”

Jon Bannerman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

“What I like to tell folks is just don’t come to the lake and spend five minutes looking for eagles. You’ve got to have at least an hour or two hours. The more time you can spend here at the lake, the more chances are that you’re going to be able to see them.”

Jon Bannerman, a natural resource specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Jordan Lake, echoes the same sentiment. 

“With so many permanent bald eagles out here, it’s hard not to see them if you’re out here long enough.”

Take your time to look for them, and keep your distance when you do. 

“The general recommendation from the Fish and Wildlife Service is that you stay at least 660 feet away from bald eagles. That includes if you see them on a hike, or on a boat, or any form of recreation that you’re doing out here,” says Bannerman. 

Eagles are skittish when there are a lot of people around. They will fly away and even leave any eggs. So enjoy them, but do so from a safe distance. 

And there are definitely more people out at Jordan Lake this summer. Bannerman has noticed an uptick in visitors since late March/early April. He thinks many of them are coming to Jordan Lake for the first time. 

“I think there’s a lot of people that this is kind of giving them an incentive to see what kind of free recreation that they can do away from other people. And the lake definitely offers that.”

Roberta Engleman is a regular visitor to Jordan Lake. She’s especially enjoyed the views during the pandemic. 

“I just feel that it’s kind of nice to get out of the house. I do try to be very serious about social distancing and this is a nice place to come where there aren’t a lot of people around. I just think that as long as we can manage to keep it open without the virus becoming a danger then it’s a really good place for people to get away and sort of refresh themselves.” 

A tranquil place to refresh yourself and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. So leave the nest and get a bird’s eye view at Jordan Lake. 

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