Picture the rugged, authentic American West. Soaring bald eagles, majestic wild mustangs, and snowy mountain peaks come to mind. There’s an icy stream and a working cowboy in view.
That’s winter in Carson Valley, a destination that’s become a mecca for photographers, birders, and wildlife enthusiasts.
From January to March, two natural phenomena draw photographers and fans of the outdoors to this off-the-beaten-path locale:
1 – Bald eagles and other birds of prey migrate to the region, drawn by calving season and access to the food it provides.
2 – The seasonal weather drives a larger population of wild mustangs into the valley.
Eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls are abundant in Carson Valley during the winter months. The calving season is just one draw (the raptors like the afterbirth). They come for the weather, access to water, and for the same thermal air flows the valley is renowned for among paragliders and glider pilots. The eagles also come to Carson Valley to launch their young juveniles onto lives of their own. As most parents know, there comes a time when the young need to “leave the nest.” Fortunately for visitors to this region, that transition happens here for the eagle and falcon families.
Outdoor explorers have easy access to view the area’s bands of wild mustangs. And, yes, they truly are wild. Five to eight bands (70+) of these majestic creatures make Carson Valley their home, especially during the peak winter months when the weather and access to food are ideal. A growing number of photographers have made wild horses their subject, capturing their personalities, emotion, and behavior against the romance of the “old West.”
Eagles & Ag, an annual event celebrating the area’s wildlife is a centerpiece of the season. Sponsored by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, this year’s event is January 25-29 and includes photography classes, contests and ranch tours, as well as social and networking events with photography and wildlife professionals and hobbyists.
Go for it! Grab your camera, phone, binoculars, and curiosity, and make your way to Carson Valley this winter. Get quiet, sit and watch, take it all in, capture the priceless moments. Or, find a guide and sign up for a tour. Or, drive the area’s roads and backroads on your own. Chances are you’ll see eagles and hawks, wild mustangs and other like-minded people who share your passion for this classic version of the West.
Explore and learn more about the area at Visit Carson Valley.