Embracing nearly a million acres of old growth rainforest, alpine tundra, and rugged coastline, Admiralty Island National Monument has been home to the Tlingít people for centuries and to the brown bear even longer. The Tlingít call this island Kootznoowoo - the Fortress of the Bear - and their name is accurate.The 956,155-acre monument is home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears, the highest concentration anywhere in the world and more brown bears than the rest of the states combined. The island also has the world's greatest concentration of nesting bald eagles. More than 5,000 eagles live on Admiralty Island and average a nest every mile along the coastline of Seymour Canal. Admiralty Island has a variety of other wildlife as well. Bays such as Mitchell, Hood, Whitewater and Chaik contain harbor seals, porpoises and sea lions. Humpback whales can often be spotted feeding in Seymour Canal. Sitka black-tailed deer are plentiful, and the streams choke with all five species of Pacific salmon that spawn in July and August. Located 15 miles southwest of Juneau, Admiralty Island is bounded on the east and north by Stephens Passage, on the west by Chatham Strait and on the south by Frederick Sound. Admiralty is a rugged island, with mountains that rise to 4,650 feet and covered by tundra and even permanent icefields. Numerous lakes, rivers and open areas of muskeg break up the coastal rain forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. More than 90 percent of the monument is designated as the Kootznoowoo Wilderness while the lone community is Angoon, a predominantly Tlingit village at the mouth of Mitchell Bay on the west side of the island.
Bear Viewing Day Trips to Admiralty Island
Bear Viewing at Pack Creek:
There are two primary bear-viewing areas along Pack Creek. The most accessible is a sandy spit of land right at the mouth of the creek and a short beach hike from where floatplanes land and boats tie up. A bit more challenging is a beautiful one-mile trail that leads through an old-growth rain forest to a viewing tower. The tower has room for eight people and is an excellent place to watch bears as they pass directly below you.
Brown Bear Viewing at Windfall Harbor:
Windfall is even more rugged and raw than Pack Creek as there are no designated structures to view the wildlife. However, there are more bears frequenting the various streams running across the estuaryand into the saltwater.
The best time of year to view brown bears is July and August, during salmon spawning season. May and June may offer excellent bear viewing at Pack Creek. Although the bears are not fishing for salmon they are feeding extensively on meadow vegetation and digging for clams in the intertidal zone. Spring is also their mating season and rare courtship behavior can be observed at that time. This also makes spring the most likely time to see big boars passing through the area. Fall at Pack Creek has its own magic. Although the salmon run has peaked it really never ends, and there remain large numbers of fish in the creek for the bears to feed on. Starting on August 26th and continuing into September we can guide you to the season where bears enjoy the abundance of Admiralty Island. Salmon still fill the creeks, the berry crop continues to beckon, and the bears are focused on fattening up for winter. The number of bears a group sees varies greatly through the summer, but most visitors see at least one bear, if not more. However, bear sightings are not guaranteed. This is wild Alaska!
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