Katmai, Lake Clark, and McNeil River Coastal brown bear viewing (grizzlies who aren’t landlocked) in southwest Alaska remains one of the most exhilarating, memorable, and worthwhile experiences of a lifetime— and it’s safer than you might think. The bears in Katmai, Lake Clark, and McNeil River have been habituated to human presence, meaning that they don’t see bipeds as a threat or prey. Generations of bears in the preserves know that humans won’t hunt them, and that people are not a food source or competition for food or a mate. If bears are your thing, you owe it to yourself to take a summer day trip from Homer or Anchorage out to Katmai or Lake Clark, or better yet, to stay a few days in either location. Katmai’s Brooks Falls is famous for what I call “the bear pool party,” with at least a dozen bruins congregating to spar, play, fight, and overindulge on the spawning salmon leaping up the falls, while tourists watch from viewing platforms. In contrast, Lake Clark bears comb the open stretch of beach for clams, nurse their
young, and run the rivers diving for fish while visitors walk the shores. McNeil River bears have a waterfall, bay, river, and cliffs for a playground. Only 10 people per day are allowed into the McNeil refuge, where the lucky winners camp and hike among the bears for an intimate experience, led by ADF&G personnel.
Every fall, bald eagles descend en masse onto the rivers of this little hamlet at the edge of Lynn Canal— thousands of them—think Hitchcock movie, The Birds. It’s the last of the salmon run and November, and somehow word gets out like avian gossip gone wild. Grab your parka, rain jacket, and boots and be ready for rain, snow, or hoarfrost. These birds drag dying chum to shore and defend their take from dive-bombing thieves using beaks and talons and mid-air collisions.
ABC Islands: Admiralty, Baranof, Chichagof Three of the largest islands in the U.S. sport the densest population of brown bears. In particular, we recommend
A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M JULY/AUGUST 2019
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Alaska Magazine July 2019