Picture this, a giant bald eagle swooshes down from a large tree overlooking the river, then continues to glide 6ft over the river. Then, finally, it slowly turns and flies down the river.
I can see the majestic bird, the layers of feathers, and the dark yellow/brown talons. But, to my amazement, the eagle is holding a large fish firmly in his claws. Pure awesomeness right there, and I’m witnessing this wonder.
If this is not the most American patriotic image you can see when you start your river rafting adventure, I don’t know what can beat it.
All the rafters, predominantly scouts, burst into a loud cheer as they realized this vast and proud bird greeted us. The American symbol of freedom and a US trademark.
I swear it looked back over its shoulders to take in the full roar from a bunch of humans. It winked and smirked. The eagle was not intimidated.
Had you thrown Willie Nelson on a raft made by Huckleberry Finn, standing next to Jimmy Hendrix playing star-spangled banner, while an F22 raptor roared over the river, it might have trumped the eagle spreading its wings and moving with grace. Merica!!
Holy shit giggle, that was such an incredible start to our rafting trip. The moment will last a lifetime and make this journey even more impressive.
I was frantically trying to find my iPhone 13 Max, but any picture would not capture the true feeling and awe of this experience. Honestly, I couldn’t find the waterproof phone case hanging awkwardly between my life jacket and wetsuit. Or was it because the 53F cold water had numbed my Viking fingers.
Also, it would almost be sacrilegious to capture this eagle with a phone camera. This bird deserves a bubble telescope-quality camera. Awesomeness requires respect!
We spent the next 4 hours fighting through the rapids for 9.5 miles while frantically looking for another bald eagle. The creature had blessed us, and nothing could go wrong.
I was glad we opted for the whole body condom wetsuits and that we brought our diving boots. While it didn’t protect us from the elements, the water didn’t feel as cold.
Except a few kids decided to disregard safety instructions. Their raft went sideways over a large rock formation and magically filled their raft with too much water. As a result, these boys got an early cold shower in the mighty river.
Some other unlucky rafters got bumped by other reckless rafters, knocking them overboard, under the raft, and back on the other side—scary stuff, but highlights that we need to listen to the instructors.
The river journey, while excellent, was overshadowed by the bald eagle. We had loads of fun with plenty of screams, frantic paddling, and water fights. But, when we finally disembarked, everyone looked over their shoulders, hoping to see the bald eagle return.
I wonder if the bald eagle felt the Viking presence and remembered the stories of the red-bearded Berserkers roaming the shores of Europe, the Middle East, Mediterranian, and North America?
The Eagle Hatches
The bald eagle was officially assigned the glorious status of the American seal back in 1782, a few years after we bravely fought against the British and claimed our independence in 1776.
According to the history books, it was not a shoo-in, and several committees debated how the official seal should look. So, not only did our founding fathers create the declaration of independence, but they also had to design our seal. Talk about creating a nation from the ground up!
The bald eagle had fierce competition from the white eagle and the turkey. I’m not sure the turkey would’ve had much ‘power’ around the globe, signaling the rise of a superpower.
Back from the brink
The bald eagle has faced significant challenges since the late 1800s, which resulted in the bird being placed on the endangered species list in 1978. That is not a fancy list of celebrity animals, and many species never get back from almost extinction.
For more than 100 years, the eagle had been pushed out from its habitat due to the Westward expansion and, unfortunately, hunted. However, we could not allow the bird to go extinct. After all, it is our national symbol.
After a successful program, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list in 2007 and has continued to grow in numbers. To the point where it perhaps isn’t so uncommon to spot the majestic bird.