A Visitor’s Guide to the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

Birds, Foot Prints, Nature, travel

Conowingo Dam

The Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam are world famous. When the days get cooler and shorter, the population begins to rapidly grow and one can frequently see up to 100 eagles in a day. 


  • Beginning at the end of October through the beginning of January, Bald Eagles are the most plentiful.
  • Anytime during the day is great as the action is unpredictable. The lighting quickly fades in the afternoon, quickly turning dark after 4:00 pm, EST.
  • Plan on spending many hours standing and waiting for the action of fishing and fighting.
  • Check on the Conowingo Dam Release Schedule daily by calling 1-888-457-4076.
  • TIP: Get there around 8:00 a.m. The lighting improves and it’s still fairly quiet.


Address is:  2569 Shures Landing Road, Darlington, Maryland 21034

From I-95 North/South, Take Exit #89 for Havre de Grace. Head north on Route 155 / Level Road. Turn right on Route 161 / Darlington Road go 4.4 miles. Turn right onto Old Quaker Road, go .4 miles. Turn right on Shuresville Road, go 433 feet and veer left to stay on Shuresville Road. After a mile, turn right onto Shuresville Landing Road. Road will lead you into the parking area along the dam.

TIP: Park as close to the port-a-potties as possible for easy car access.

Dawn at the Dam

Dawn at the Dam


  • It will be cold ! Dress warmly in layers to add/remove as needed. Wear winter boots if you have them. There will be a lot of standing/sitting involved.
  • Bring lunch and something warm to drink.
  • Make sure you have plenty of memory cards and charged batteries.
  • TIP: Bring a small chair to sit while waiting for the action to happen.
Bald Eagle Paparrazzi

Bald Eagle Paparrazzi


There are two primary locations photographers set up for shooting. Both locations have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Along the fence line across from the twin power towers near the port-a-potties.
    • Advantages
      • The eagles frequently fish between the island and the rip rap.
      • They then fly overhead into the trees to enjoy their fish. One can quickly move along the tree line to get a shot.
      • Have an overview perspective of fishing eagles.
    • Disadvantages – The action in front of the dam is further away.
  • Down on the fishing pier.
    • Advantages
      • Closer to the water and action in front of the pier.
      • Provides water level perspective.
    • Disadvantages
      • Shooting into the morning sun in the early hours of the day 7:00am – 10:00am.
      • A bit of a walk to get to the tree line for the eating shots.
Fishing at the Dam

Fishing at the Dam


  • Get the longest zoom lens you can get your hands on. Anything 400mm and longer will help you reach the bird.
  • If you can’t afford to buy a mega lens, RENT !

lens rental

  • If you have access to two camera bodies, bring them along. One with the mega zoom, the other with a smaller zoom to capture the eagles in the trees.
  • Tripod with a Wimberly type Gimbal head is a must. Unless you have super steady hands and have no issue hand holding up to ten pounds while panning.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice before you get here. Practice sighting, scanning and panning a bird in flight.
  • Know your camera well so that you can quickly change settings if need be. The light changes quickly in the morning and adjustments are continual.
    • The Lazy Man settings:
      • Aperture Priority
      • Auto ISO
      • Auto White Balance
      • AI Servo focus mode
      • Continual shoot mode
      • Center weighted focus points
      • Spot metering
    • In bright light watch out for blowing out the white highlights of the head and tail of the eagles. Use negative Exposure Compensation to offset.
  • TIP: With good light, my settings were: 1/1500 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400, AWB, AI Servo, Center weight focus points, spot metering. I had rented a 500mm and wish that I had also rented the 1.4x II extender to go along with it.

If you’re able to visit Conowingo Dam and visit this incredible sight of these majestic birds, have a wonderful time and happy shooting !

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Posted by

Emily Mitchell is a freelance photojournalist specializing in travel and outdoor adventure. Author and producer of the blog Hoof Beats & Foot Prints, she shares her travel and adventure experiences on foot and by horseback. Every part of the world mixes the past with the present. Appreciating the local culture with its historical roots, but yet with a fresh eye for adventure, the best of each destination is showcased. Emily is well-seasoned traveler, with visits to over 20 countries, and career experience in the travel and hospitality industry.

78 thoughts on “A Visitor’s Guide to the Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Useful tip for me regarding the negative exposure compensation, Emily! I need to get my little instruction booklet out and figure out how to do that. Could have used that for yesterday’s Tundra Swans.

  2. This would be an EXPERIENCE! I remember going to Red Wing, MN to look at the eagles. Majestic creatures that are a true symbol of freedom. I have actually rescued a bald eagle – amazing experience to save a one. Thanks for sharing!

      • Joanne says:

        But you don’t ALWAYS need the best of the best to get a great shot. Just because you have the dough to put out for a $40k lens and $9k camera body does not make a photographer. Know plenty of people who wasted $40k a year to get a degree in photography who are absolutely horrible, no gift, no eye, nothing. Add the ones who get a decent camera and automatically think they’re the best photographer in the world and open a biz because all their friends tell them they’re the best thing since sliced bread and they are horrible. Just my two cents……….

        • Rich B says:

          I agree with you 100%. It’s how you use the camera and equipment that you have that makes you a great photographer, not how much you spend gear..
          There are people who take awesome photos with nothing more then an entry level DSLR and a kit lens

      • Joanne says:

        Love your pix and am grateful for your tips/thoughts as fairly new to the hobby!

  3. petit4chocolatier says:

    Great information and stunning photos! The last shot of the bald eagle is amazing :)

  4. Do you have the text portions of this page available for printing? I tried to printout the page and just got page after page of blank paper.

  5. Pingback: Spectacular views of bald eagles over the Susquehanna River | Healthy Waters for EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region

  6. Thanks for the tips, I’m an Aussie based in the UK, but I need to get away for a week and I love Bald Eagles so I’m thinking about a trip to the US and the dam looks like the place to go! I shoot Sony, so I will see if I can persuade a friend of mine ot lend me his Minolta 600mm. Hey I can ask! :)

    • Oh that would be wonderful if you could make it Mark. This area is wonderful as Conowingo is 1 hour from Philadelphia, 1 1/2 hours to Washington DC and 1 hour to Baltimore/Annapolis. The other option is to head to Alaska, but talk about cold !!! Don’t know when you’re thinking of traveling, but there are eagles there year round. Just the population numbers drop to about 20 or so eagles. Thanks for the comment and good luck!

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  8. Michael Gelbke says:

    Thank you very much for the Info. on the dam. Know if somebody would give some info on the surrounding area, Motels, Camping Areas and Restaurant that would be great.


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  10. Reblogged this on theinbetweendream and commented:
    I will be attended this event next week. For all of your photographers who are interested and in the area, this is an excellent post on how to photograph the bald eagles. Stay tuned for a post with the images I capture!

  11. Pingback: Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam | Birding Pictures

  12. Anonymous says:

    wow finally i found somewhere that tells me where to go – been wanting to go see eagles since i moved here 3 years ago! thank you!

    • Absolutely thrilled that you found this post and it’s helpful in finding the eagles. It’s always exciting to be around them and am happy to share the information. Best of luck to you.

  13. LZ says:

    Will I get any eagle photos if I go to the dam in the middle of September? Thank you!

  14. Barry R. says:

    We stopped by for the 1st time yesterday. (we plan to return). Someone mentioned another entrance where there is nesting activity. Any info? Thanks

    • The only thing I could think would be on the north side of Route 1 at the dam there is a visitors center. Don’t know how there could be more than one entrance to the fishing platform as it’s a dead end road. Good luck!

      • Barry R. says:

        A person at the pier mentioned exiting, making a left and then another left on ?Stafford street. I couldn’t find. Thanks for info as well as for the site and your beautiful pictures.

        • I actually do know of one that is down that way. It’s further than what they make it sound. If you google Conowingo Dam and follow the river down a bit you’ll find Stafford Road. The one I remember was up on the power lines, so not too accessible. There is a trail but you have to hike up it with equipment.

          I remember some mentioning an accessible nest earlier this year but no current reports. I believe the family has fledged a while ago. Good luck!

  15. Sherman Wright says:

    Can I spot eagles throughout the year? I have time, patience, two fairly good Canons,(70D), a 400 f4.5-5.6 prime and a Tamron 150-600 f4.5. A third body (7D) houses a Canon 70-300mm L IS USM with a 1.4 tele.

    • Hi Sherman, While there are some eagles throughout the year, the highest numbers are in November – January. Indeed plenty of patience will help, you certainly have the equipment to help you get there.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you Bella for the invaluable info, I’ll wait till later in the upcoming winter months. Great photos!
        Bella notte, (beautiful evening).

        • Thank you so much Sherman. Perhaps our paths will cross at the dam. I’ll be there Nov 21st and 22nd. and perhaps the first weekend of December.

        • Sherman Wright says:

          Thanks again Bella, I’ll dog ear my calendar for the November dates. Looking forward towards meeting you. I’ll be dressed like a military Eskimo; and comfortably warm.

          Music is prayer!


    • Sherman Wright says:

      Hi Bella,

      I will not be able to meet you at Conowingo in November as I will be in Montana, hopefully getting some great shots there. I’ll get to the eagle siting in early December. Are you planning to meet a group then?

      Sherman On Jul 17, 2015 2:04 PM, “Hoof Beats and Foot Prints” wrote:

      > Sherman Wright commented: “Can I spot eagles throughout the year? I have > time, patience, two fairly good Canons,(70D), a 400 f4.5-5.6 prime and a > Tamron 150-600 f4.5. A third body (7D) houses a Canon 70-300mm L IS USM > with a 1.4 tele.”

  16. Makes me want to go all the way up to Maryland: thanks for sharing.
    Have a great Sunday,

  17. I am definitely thinking of making the 3+ hr drive from VA to photograph these guys! I am just hesitant because I will get there and they won’t be there. I am thinking of going on Eagle Day in November.

    • Hi Kim, there are eagles year-round at Conowingo Dam, so you’re guaranteed a sighting regardless of when you visit.

      Their numbers peak in November/December and January, thus the excitement during that time of year. Are you going to visit or to visit and photograph?

      I have a couple of photography workshops scheduled this fall if you’re interested. You can get more information on the Workshops tab above.

  18. Jessi says:

    Where do you rent lenses? I would love to get some great pictures, but I only have the 18-55mm lens tha came with my camera.

  19. Awesome write-up Emily and I love your tips! Although I am not that fond of spot-metering , especially if you are not an experienced BIF photographer simply because if you get a bit off of the bird in following it, the exposure can really vary. One of the safest ways for those interested is having a hand-held meter, (which I feel every serious photographer should own) and take an incident reading of your light-source, then make your simple adjustments +/- to get both the shadow and highlight shape you desire. Also you can use in-camera “evaluative” (Canon) or “matrix” (Nikon) metering. This way you can avoid having a blue sky turn white due to a little over-exposure. You will also make smaller corrections to Ev this way as well.. Many folks shoot spot and that’s great if they have control over it.. I do as well a lot of the time too! All of this is a preference as to each photographer and my comment here is simply an alternative……..

  20. Super information, great pictures must be awe-inspiring to see so many of them in the air at the same time. If I had such wish list then the Dam would certainly be on it. Thanks for sharing

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