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Out With Kids: See salmon and eagles along Highway 20

Two attractions are open extended hours and with guided tours in December and January along the North Cascades Highway in Skagit County.

The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in December and January — and daily from Dec. 29 through Jan. 2. Most every weekend will feature free 11a.m. guided hikes along the Skagit River, and natural history presentations at 1 p.m.

At 1 p.m. Saturday Dec. 20, Whatcom County photographer John Scurlock, known for his stunning aerial images of the North Cascades, discusses “ North Cascades: A Birdseye View.”

Staff members will be available with maps and directions so visitors can find the best places to watch eagles, which are plentiful in the Skagit River Valley after the fall salmon runs, when they feed on dying fish. It’s among the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the Lower 48 states.

The Interpretive Center is in Howard Miller steelhead Park, 52809 Rockport Park Road, Rockport. Turn right (south) on Alfred Street from northbound Highway 20 in the Skagit County town of Rockport. Its displays include a taxidermied adult bald eagle that fascinates visitors, said Judy Hemenway, center coordinator.

“You’ll never get that close to one, so you can see how truly big they are,” she said.

Find the full schedule of presentations and guided hikes at skagiteagle.org/wordpress or call 360-853-7626.

About 8 miles north on Highway 20, just outside the town of Marblemount, is the Marblemount Fish Hatchery, which features free guided tours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Feb 1. The nonprofit Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group has trained volunteer guides to provide tours of the facility, offering information about salmon and their life cycle, the habitat needs of salmon, and other local wildlife, including the bald eagle.

Chances are good that visitors will see part, if not all, of the salmon life cycle at the hatchery — from eggs in the incubation room to spawning adults in nearby creeks.

Built in 1945, the hatchery raises and releases hundreds of thousands of various coho and chinook salmon, rainbow trout and steelhead annually.

Brochures for self-guided tours are available weekdays at the hatchery (except Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day).

The hatchery is at 8319 Fish Hatchery Road, in Marblemount, with plenty of parking is available. Tours of about one hour start inside the visitor center and finish outdoors. Dress for the weather , including sturdy footwear . Visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars, because eagles are plentiful in the area, as well as kingfishers and American dippers — an aquatic songbird.

To reach the hatchery, follow Highway 20 east to a sharp left at Marblemount. Continue straight on Cascade River Road and cross the Skagit River. Take the first right, onto Rockport Cascade Road, and the next right, onto Fish Hatchery Road to the hatchery.

Details: Katie Bunge, 360-336-0172, ext. 304, or education@skagitfisheries.org.

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