Eagles, ospreys stake claims to fishing holes along Sycamore Shoals

John Thompson • May 19, 2020 at 10:04 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Sycamore Shoals has long attracted people who love history to the banks of the Watauga River to imagine the many events that took place there, like the Transylvania Purchase and the gathering of the Overmountain Men

Now Sycamore Shoals is attracting people who love watching wildlife and birds.

Sycamore Shoals is in an area of quality trout, and eagles and ospreys know it, and take advantage of it. The birds have been seen perched in trees and then suddenly taking a plunge into the river, only to resurface a few sections later with a fish caught securely in their talons.

Mike Mains, directors of the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, told the City Council about the city’s new attraction during last Thursday’s Council meeting. The birds can be seen from Riverside Park and also along the Linear Bike Trail as it winds along the river between the park and Sycamore Shoals.

Mains said he and his staff have seen eagles while doing their normal park duties near the river. He said ospreys have also been seen. 

“They are similar in some ways (to eagles) and beautiful to watch as they dive into the river for fish,” Mains said.

Chad Bogart, a longtime employee of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, said he never expected to be able to stand on the park’s grounds and watch the magnificent birds make a spectacular dive and fly away with a fish. It certainly brings back a feeling of what Sycamore Shoals must have been like in the 18th century.

Bogart said it is also difficult to believe that this is inside a city and the site where two large rayon factories once operated on the banks of the river.

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