Eagle Watch- Prime Time Raptor Season at Verde Canyon Railroad December thru March
Soaring over their winter habitat along the Verde River, bald eagles inspire all with their majestic appearance and graceful acrobatics. Nesting season along the Verde Canyon Railroad begins in November with the return of migratory raptors expanding the resident population during the winter months. This prime-time eagle watch season features an abundance of high-flying activity as the birds jockey for position, mates and nesting locations. Most of the access points to the Canyon are closed to the public during the breeding season, the exception being Verde Canyon Railroad. The train has rumbled through this chasm for over 100 years and poses no distraction to these avian inhabitants; each new generation accustomed to the iron horse’s daily four-hour trek along the river. Emblem of the United States, this impressive raptor also is a mascot of the Railroad, as evidenced by its noble visage decorating the train’s twin FP7 locomotives.
The Verde Canyon’s rich riparian habitat and wealth of ideal nesting locations makes it a perfect environment for an eagle nursery. A typical eagle nest is located high in an ancient tree, on a remote cliff face or atop a stony pinnacle within sight of water. Built of twigs and branches, the large nests can grow as wide as 10 feet in diameter as the eagles return and add to it year after year. Often times a pair of eggs is hatched to insure at least one survivor. Both parents take turns sitting on the nest and remain with a close eye on the nestlings until they learn to fly in late spring, fledging to journey off on their own. Along with eagles, many other birds of prey raise their young in the Verde Canyon, including a variety of hawks and owls. Since the early 1990s, Verde Canyon Railroad has been a key sponsor for the Arizona Game & Fish’s Eagle Watch Program, providing funds and transportation for nest-watching volunteers and banding teams into the remote wilderness. Arizona Game & Fish shares its nest news and eagle watch data with passengers via well-versed train attendants.
Catch a glimpse of our nation’s symbol in its natural landscape, flying free along red sandstone cliffs and diving into cool green waters to snatch a fat fish to feed its young. Eagle watch enthusiasts can snag some treats of their own during the trip, including freshly-made deli delights, brownie bites, Champagne toasts and classic prickly pear margaritas.
First-class accommodations lavish passengers with luxurious living-room style, including an abundant selection of appetizers and attentive beverage service right to one’s seat. Coach class is redolent of vintage-style passenger car charm with a well-stocked snack bar. Both classes have access to open-air viewing cars, a favorite aspect to this rail journey, immersing passengers into the sights, sounds and scents of this Wild West’s canyon panorama. Train passengers have very special photo opportunities during the winter months when the lack of deciduous foliage brings Verde Canyon’s magnificent bone structure to center stage, and the gentler seasonal sunlight adds a pastel glow to the ravine’s red rock grandeur.