Nests empty as eaglets fly at Smith Rock

Campsites and climbing routes reopen

Routes and campsites open after...

Terrebonne, ORE. - Smith Rock State Park is a world-renowned climbing location.

It's also one of Oregon's Seven Wonders.

Which means, the park sees lots of foot traffic. In 2015, 750,000 people visited Smith Rock. 

Despite the impressive tourism numbers, the park's birds of prey still come first.  

Climbing routes and campsites will be shut down for as long as they need to be, to protect the raptors. 

David Vick is the interpretive naturalist at Smith Rock.

"We just lifted two closures yesterday for our bald eagles and golden eagles in the park," Vick said Friday.

"So every year, we post closures, depending on the location of where birds of prey are nesting," he said. 

From February until this time of year, certain areas of Smith Rock have been closed to camping and climbing to protect the eaglets before they learn to fly.

If the eaglet's parents get scared off by human activity, the eaglet will likely die. 

That's why these sensitive areas have to be closed off to the public.

"In the case of the bald eagles, we closed the campgrounds that are right along the rim of the canyon because that basically overlooks the tree next to the bald eagles," Vick said. 

An area called Monument that is frequented by climbers has also been closed for the past few months. 

At a place with so many visitors, it would seem that closing off popular areas could pose a problem, but Vick said it never has.  

"You know, most of our rock climbers here in the park are nature-oriented people," he said. "And one of the big draws of Smith Rock, besides the variety and skill level of routes, is the ability to observe wildlife on a daily basis. And it's a pretty cool thing to be climbing and see a big raptor fly by."

It's a sight that people can't get enough of.

"The most rewarding thing is the reaction of people, because all of sudden you're right there with a bald eagle. Lots of 'wow's', excitement, lots of 'thank you's, lots of questions as well," Vick said.

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