The renowned Alaska Bear Viewing camp is located on the shores of Lake Clark National Park in a rugged wilderness. Named North America's best Bush camp by the "Outside Magazine" and one of America's Best Adventures by the "National Geographic" traveler. This amazing camp sits in a virtual time machine...between the towering snow capped mountains of the Alaska Range and the ice cold waters of Cook Inlet. Accessible only by air or water (or some seriously rugged bush-whacking from town of King Salmon!) It has been called "The Alaska of your dreams" and "all I imagined it could be" by past guests. You may enjoy the trip via one of our extended Alaska Adventure travel trips, or as the perfect 1, 2 or 3 day add-on to your independent tour of Alaska.
Great Alaska Bear Camp | Information
You’ll be met at 7:30 am at the Millennium Hotel by our private van for the scenic 2 ½ hour total trip to the bear camp. Lunch and orientation is followed by a flight to our incredible bear viewing camp in Lake Clark. Following your arrival at camp and a thorough orientation at the camp, you’ll spend the afternoon viewing the amazing coastal Alaskan Brown Bears at the very base of - Mt. Illiamna, one of Alaska’s most beautiful mountains. You’ll overnight in an electrified fence perimeter of high-tech Weather-Port tent cabins with heater, toilet, writing desk, and twin beds.
Your 50 minute flight carries you over Cook Inlet, (spectacular home of one of the world’s largest tide swings) and skirts the ancient glaciers of Mt. Illiamna and Mt. Redoubt. You may see Mt. Augustine still smoking as you wing your way to the Bear Camp along the gorgeous western side of Cook Inlet. The beach landing at our private camp in Lake Clark National Park begins your time at one of the world’s great wild animal experiences. Chosen by Outside Magazine as “U.S. Best Bush Camp”, this remote encampment in a treasured National Park is the highlight of every visitors trip to Alaska. Our guests and their guides will spend 24 to 36 hours with these marvelous icons of our Alaska wild lands, before returning to civilization to share the experience.In the early spring, female Brown Bear (Ursos Arctos) leave their dens with young in tow, to feed on the succulent saltwater and sedge grasses found around Chinitna Bay, and our camp. This allows us the opportunity to view and photograph these magnificent animals without impacting them, in their own environment. Like the grasses and salmon they feed upon, the bears are transitory following the most available food source. For our Alaska Bear Viewing Trips, One day trips to the camp take place in June through the beginning of September, with overnight stays all throughout the season.
Great Alaska Bear Camp
A final days with the bears….you and your guides will perhaps choose another viewing location, walk the beach, journal or pace, and spend the morning in true wilderness beauty with the royalty of Alaskan wildlife. After lunch it’s back to the planes for the trip to our riverside main lodge. You’ll have a few hours there to sort your gear and ready for the van trip back to Anchorage. Arrive in Anchorage in the evening (some may choose the no transfers option, and will join up with their car upon return to the main lodge in the early afternoon.
The camp itself sits in a copse of trees between the mountains and the shoreline. Custom “Weather-Port” cabin/tents are on raised platforms with small decks out front and sleep two apiece. The tents feature carpeted, wooden floors, solid doors, propane heat and light and twin beds. Meals are brought in daily by plane and finished off by the staff at camp. Meals are family-style, and feature fresh seafood, meats, pasta and even a glass of wine for those who like. Battery charging is available via solar panels and some limited generator time but we highly recommend bringing a few spare batteries for your digital cameras. You can also give them a final charge at the main lodge prior to boarding the plane for the flight.
Located in southwestern Alaska, Brooks Falls is one of the best places in the world to observe brown bears. The bears and humans have been peacefully coexisting at Brooks Camp for over 30 years. There are three viewing stands set up for viewing the bears while they fish for salmon at the Brooks waterfall. However, you commonly run into bears on the trails to the observing stands and campground. The bears have learned that they can trust humans in Katmai so they pretty much pay no attention to humans and simply go about their business of non-stop eating. Katmai has the largest concentration of protected brown bears in the world and there are roughly 2,000 brown bears in the 3.6 million acre park. Unlike many other bear viewing locations in the world, the bears at Brooks Camp are protected from the grossness of sport hunters so most are not scared of humans. They are not aggressive to humans either. Brooks Camp is one of the finest examples in the world of peaceful human- and animal coexistence. It has almost a utopian feel to it. It's such a fun and exciting place to be with everyone excited about bears. The lodge has a bar, excellent food, and an indoor fire that people sit around while talking about bears and photography. Best time to visit is in July or early September. Overall, the world can learn a lot from Brooks and the national park service does an excellent job managing the camp.
You have several options for visiting Brooks. One option is to do a day trip; however, we strongly advise against it because between weather, flight delays, and bear jams (i.e. the bears frequently decide to take naps on the trail and you have to wait until they wake up) you may never even make it down to the actual falls (although I found getting to the falls to actually be more exciting than being at the falls). Also, once you see a few of these amazing bears you won't ever want to leave. If you do decide to overnight you have the option to stay in the lodge cabins (privately owned) but there are only a few so they're very difficult to actually get one. (they must be reserved at least one year in advance)
How to Get There
From Anchorage, scheduled jets fly the 290 miles to King Salmon, park headquarters; from there, June to mid-September, daily floatplanes fly the last 33 miles to Brooks Camp, site of a summer visitor center and the center of activity. Air charters can be arranged into other areas. You can drive the 9 miles from King Salmon to Lake Camp, at the western end of the park on the Naknek River, then go by boat to Brooks Camp, the Bay of Islands, and other areas of Naknek Lake.
When to Go
June to early September. Only then, with transportation from between Brooks Camp and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, are the lodges, cabins, and Brooks Camp Campground open. Bear watching, an increasingly popular pastime, is best in July when the sockeye salmon spawn (bear watching suffers a brief lull in June and again in August). Fishing and hiking are good throughout summer, but come prepared for rain. Heavy snowpack may remain in the upper elevations into July. Summer daytime temperatures range from the mid-50s to mid-60s; the average low is 44°F.
How to Visit
If your time is short, get to Brooks Camp. People, fish, bears, boats, and planes concentrate here. Compared to the rest of the park, it's crowded. But the lodge and campground are comfortable (reservations required) and the bear viewing unforgettable. You'll find good hiking and fishing. If at all possible, take the bus or van tour 23 miles out from Brooks Camp to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Return the same day or hike into the valley and camp. You can extend your stay by boating or flying to the many other lakes, streams, rivers, and lodges in the park. Pick your area, make a safe plan, and go.
A trail from Brooks River Lodge, about a quarter mile long, leads to a floating bridge across the Brooks River. After crossing the river, an elevated viewing stand is available for watching bears in this popular area where the river empties into Naknek Lake. Bears often approach the bridge from both land and water. If it appears that a single bear will approach within 50 yards, or a sow with cubs within 100 yards, a ranger stationed on the viewing stand will direct everyone to get off the bridge and onto the viewing stand, or to return to the trail to the lodge. Another ranger is normally stationed on the trail to prevent people from the lodge walking to the bridge when a bear is present. The gates at each end of the bridge do not keep adult bears off the bridge, but probably do keep small cubs from getting separated from their moms. A smaller gate is at the viewing stand entrance. The bridge area of the river is a popular fishing spot, and many large salmon are caught there daily. The fishermen must also move to the viewing stand if a bear approaches. If a fish is hooked and a bear approaches, the angler must break their line immediately and not land the fish. The bridge is a popular place to watch the salmon swim through the shallow water.
Meals are rather expensive at Brooks Lodge: Breakfast $17.00, Lunch $22.00, Dinner $35.00 (based on 2014 Information) Outdoor Clothing: Warm Jacket or Sweater, Personal Items, Walking Shoes or Boots, Sunglasses, Raincoat, Camera & Memory Cards, Long Sleeve Shirts, Mosquito Repellent should be kept with Scarf, Hat or Cap during your travel. The atmosphere at the lodge is casual, so bring comfortable medium weight sport clothes. By dressing in layers, you can add or subtract clothing and be comfortable regardless of the whim of the weather. Internet services are not available at the lodge. Trading Post Shop: The trading post offers a variety of items to purchase. Candy, freeze dried foods, soft drinks, and other snack items (trail mix, beef jerky, etc.). Personal items such as: Toothpaste, insect repellent, soap, film (no memory cards available), batteries and tobacco. Fishing items such as Line, leader, lures, flies and Alaska fishing license. You may also rent: Rods & reels, chest waders, canoes, kayaks, single burner stoves, bear resistant containers and showers and towels (for campers).
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