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Grizzly Bear Viewing Adventures in Alaska

Ever thought about the Huge Kodiaks, or going to visit one for an adventure vacation. There is no time like the present for taking advantage of this years salmon run and the Grizzly bears that appear with them. A Grizzly bear viewing adventure is among the top vacation adventures in the world, and if you’re the adventurous sort, then this is the place for you..

Once upon a time Grizzly bears roamed most of the country ranging from the Arctic to the south of California.

A large Grizzly salmon fishing on the Russian river (photo from webshots)
A large Grizzly salmon fishing on the Russian river (photo from webshots)

The Grizzly bears are now relegated to just a few small areas in the lower 48 United States, but fortunately, in part due to the remote areas, Alaska boasts record numbers of these great animals, estimated at about 40,000 individuals, more than 25 times the number of Grizzly bears that roam the rest of the US.

Also known as brown bears when living in coastal areas, the grizzly bears are wild and untamed as anything could possibly be and incredibly unpredictable, yet, their patterns of feeding, particularly their dependence upon the salmon runs that make their annual spawning appearance, makes it relatively easy to know when and where the best place to view grizzly bears is going to be.

There are several places in AlAska where the grizzly bears seem to meet on rivers and streams to gobble up enough of the salmon to provide them with the fat they need for surviving the winter time.
If you visit the right place at the right time, the opportunities to see these giant brown bears in their own habitat will be excellent and certainly worth the trip.

These Grizzly cubs seem to be waiting for something. Could it be lunch?
These Grizzly cubs seem to be waiting for something. Could it be lunch?

Places to consider when you trek to Alaska to view the Grizzly bears will be:

The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which has some of what are considered the largest bears in Alaska. There are however no viewing areas which are developed, and as such, you may in fact see vast numbers of bears but it will be from rustic cabins, meaning no stove, no plumbing and no electric, and accessible by charter plane only.’
The huge Kodiak browns will be at the salmon streams between June and september.

To contact the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge,
1390 Buskin River Rd,
Kodiak, AK 99615.
(907) 487-2600.

There are, on private lands in the area, some commercial viewing areas which you can arrange to visit by contacting:
Kodiak Wilderness Tours
907-486-8101.

McNeil River Game Sanctuary
The most famous viewing area of all for bear viewing is the McNeil RIver area, where the bears will gather near the falls to feed on the salmon.

There are no commercial outfitters taking viewers to this site, and it must be applied for through State of Alaska lottery.
One of ten who applies will win the lottery and once you have done so, you are responsible to make your own way there and view the bears.
To apply for this lottery, you will pay twenty dollars and if you win, an additional 250 for the usage fees.

You will spend four nights camping at McNeil river, in a campground area. You supply your own tent, food and gear, and a cook shed for food prep and storage is available to you.

Time out to play
Time out to play

Known in the local Tlingit dialect as the “fortress of the bear, Pack Creek on Admiralty Island is one of the most lush forest areas in the Tongass National Forest.
Over sixty thousand acres comprise the Stan Priced Bear Sanctuaryu, which is home to myriad bears as they feed on the salmon that are running in Pack Creek.

Your visit here will offer not just brown bears but also multiple other species including bald eagles, as you view what is one of the most unusual rainforests on earth.
Pack creek makes its way through an open meadow before spilling out into the ocean, and at one end of this meadow sits an elevated sandy area that is the bear viewing area.

There is also in the sanctuary a very beautiful one mile hike thorugh the rainforest to take you to an elevated bear viewing platform that sits above the creek.

Only a very limited number of users may visit Pack Creek during the salmon runs and your only access will be by boat or floatplane.
The closest city of any size is Juneau.

The Sanctuary area at Pack creek has no phones, no bathrooms or outhouses and no facilities of any kind, nor do they permiot camping, however you can camp at Windfall Island, which is close by Pack Creek, and rent a sea kayak.t.

“Apply for a lottery permit through the U.S. Forest Service at 907-586-8751 and go on your own (permit fee is $36/person and charter air transportation is approximately $200/person), or you may go with a commercial outfitter (Alaska Discovery, 800-586-1911; Wilderness Swift Charters, 907-463-3466; Fly-n-Fish Charters, 907-790-2120) who will provide permits, guides, and transportation.”

World famous for its geology and history as well as the most incredible salmon runs and the prolific numbers of bears, Katmai National Park will be the place to view those bears for the most adventurous at heart.
Bring your own tents, and camp at the campgrounds here or a private lodge will supply you a place to stay and all that you need to stay ther. There is a February lottery that will provide camping permits, and camping is limited to four person parties and four nights of camping. You can charter a floatplane to get where you want to go here.

Brooks camp will provide bear viewings all summer long but most of the great viewing takes place from July to September. A platform for bear viewing is on the edge of Brooks falls where you might see a bear standing at the top with salmon jumping into their mouths.

 Two Grizzlies search for a meal
Two Grizzlies search for a meal

For camping info and how tos regarding getting to Brooks Camp contact: Katmai National Park, Box 7, King Salmon, AK 99613. (907) 243-5448.
They can also give you information on tour operators and fishing guides. There is one lodging concession at Brooks Camp (Katmailand, Inc., (907) 243-5448).

Like all of the truly wild places, Denali Park will offer incredibly scenery and breathtaking wildlife viewing, showing you the bears you came to see. Many visitors to Denali take the shuttle or tourbus to view the wildlife here, but you can also backpack and camp here as well.
Plant to spend time in this area as the clouds don’t always part first thing in the morning and you won’t want to miss the view of Mt McKinley.
Denali Park is accessed by car, bus or train from Anchorage or Fairbanks.

“Bears are often visible from the park road throughout the summer. Most shuttle bus tickets and park campground spaces can be reserved no more than 2 days in advance, in person only, at the park. A limited number are available in advance. Contact central reservations: (800) 622-7275 or Denali National Park, Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755. (907) 683-2294.

If you are planning a visit to one of the Alaskan bear viewing areas, it won’t hurt to do a bit of light reading to familiarize yourself with the area and some safety precautions.
The following books will help you to do that.

**Alaska Wildlife Viewing Guide ($8.95)
by Michelle Sydeman and Annabel Lund
Falcon Press Publishing Co.
Box 1718
Helena MT 59624-9948
1-800-582-2665

**River of Bears ($35.00)
by Tom Walker and Larry Aumiller
Photo book of McNeil River
Voyager Press
800-888-9653

**Backcountry Bear Basics ($10.95)
by Dave Smith
A guide to understanding bears and avoiding negative encounters.
The Mountaineers
1001 SW Klickitat Way
Seattle WA 98134

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