A mature American bald eagle in the Trough

Since 1991, Potomac Eagle has operated scenic rail excursions through the South Branch Valley of West Virginia. In addition to the beautiful scenery and rich history, passengers enjoy the ride along the South Branch of the Potomac River primarily for the opportunity to see American bald eagles.

A pair of bald eagles at one of the nests in the Trough – Photo: Chip Gross 2016

Bald eagles need clean water and tall, mature trees for suitable habitat. The South Branch provides the perfect home. Plus, the Trough, the six-mile-long, steep, narrow gorge that the South Branch flows through, limits access to this area. This isolation is the most important need for bald eagles to thrive.

Mature bald eagles are easy to spot with their distinctive white head and tail feathers and yellow beak and feet. Juveniles have mottled-brown tail, head, and body feathers with some white in the wing linings while their talons and bill are yellow.

Juvenile bald eagle

Bald Eagle Trivia

  • Adopted as America’s National Symbol in 1782
  • Protected by state and federal laws
  • They mate for life.
  • Eaglets weighing 9-12 lbs. leave the nest at about 10-13 weeks of age.
  • An adult bald eagle is 2½ ft. in length & has a wingspan of 6½ -7 ft.
  • Recorded in 1981, the first bald eagle nest in West Virginia was discovered along the South Branch of the Potomac River.
  • As of early 2017, WV Division of Natural Resources says there are 8 documented nests in the Trough.
  • Eagles tend to be more active in overcast and/or rainy weather.
  Learn more: WV DNR – Eagles of West Virginia and WV Wildlife Magazine – American bald eagle