Day Trips

The bald eagles have arrived at Lake Buchanan, and Vanishing Texas River Cruise is taking hundreds of visitors to look for them daily. The birds winter at the lake between Burnet and Llano from November to March. As if right on cue, the first eagle was spotted November 3.

Ed Low, owner of the year-round river cruise tours, expects about 30 birds on the lake this year. The main group of eagles follows the first good norther into Texas.

Last year, volunteers in Texas counted 248 bald eagles at 21 sites. The overall count in the state was down from 303 in 1995. Lake Palestine and Lake Fork each had 37 wintering eagles, while Lake Buchanan had 22 last winter. Still, the total number in Texas has dipped from a high of 339 in 1992.

In the 1960s, only 400 adult pairs of bald eagles could be found in the lower 48 states. No longer listed as endangered, nearly 5,000 pairs of adults have been recorded in the U.S.

There is no guarantee you will see an eagle from one of the three decks of the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, but the two crew members work hard to insure that you have a pleasurable cruise. The best time to see the bald eagles is weekdays, December through February. The 180-passenger Eagle II is usually about half full, giving passengers room to roam the enclosed all-weather deck and two observation decks for the two-and-a-half-hour cruise.

Low began the cruises in March 1982. He didn't even know the eagles were on the lake until a Llano newspaperwoman pointed one out to him. He originally gave tours on pontoon boats on the northernmost of the Highland Lakes on the Colorado River.

The eagle cruises leave the dock on the northeast side of Lake Buchanan at 11am every day except Tuesday. Passengers are welcome to bring an ice chest and picnic lunch or may order a box lunch for $5 over the $15 admission price. "We go out no matter how cold it is," he said, "the only thing that keeps us in is the wind."

Vanishing Texas River Cruise is about an hour and a half from Austin. To get there, take TX29 three miles west of Burnet, turn north on RR2341 for 14 miles to the cruise entrance. For more information and to make reservations, call 800/728-8735.

Other winter sites for the bald eagle around the state include: Lake Livingston, Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Lake O' the Pines, Wright Patman Reservoir, Lake Meredith, Lake Conroe, Lake Warren, Lake Texoma, Lake Fairfield, Lake Tawakoni, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Lake Whitney, and Cooper Lake.

Coming up this weekend...

Christmas Lighting of parkway, downtown, and courthouse in Hondo includes a night parade, carnival, and dance, Nov. 23. 210/426-3037.

Texas Thanksgiving Celebration in Waco at the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village returns to the 1890s, Nov. 23. 817/755-1160.

Coming up...

Regional Christmas Light Tour runs Nov. 29-Jan. 1 in Blanco, Boerne, Bulverde, Burnet, Fredericksburg, Lampasas, Llano, Marble Falls, Mason, and Round Mountain. For a brochure, call 210/997-6523.

Eagle Awareness Week at Vanishing Texas River Cruise brings Last Chance Forever experts along as tour guides with live birds of prey,
Dec. 2-8. 800/728-8735.

Annual Bald Eagle Survey conducted by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. is looking for volunteers the second week of January. Deadline for signing up is Dec. 15. 903/566-1626.

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