viewing is a big business in Homer. A
dozen or more companies offer trips to various locations to seek out these magnificent
creatures. This was definitely something
I wanted to look
into. We could have taken a
shorter flight to nearby beaches to see bears, but I had it in my head that I
wanted to go all the way to Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park to see the bears
to see for myself that iconic view of a grizzly bear perched atop Brooks Falls,
catching a salmon in his mouth. Watching
salmon leap over the falls in their heroic attempt to reach their spanning
grounds would be an added bonus. Yes, it
was a longer flight to Brooks Camp, and much more expensive, but I didn’t
care. That’s what I wanted to do, and
Tim was happy to indulge me.
flight to Brooks Camp was scheduled for Saturday, but the fickle weather forced
a cancellation. I really didn’t want to
miss this trip, so we decided to stay a few extra days in Homer and reschedule
the flight for Monday. As it turned out
the company had to rebook us on an afternoon flight with another outfit, which
turned out to be Adventure Airways. Once
again, Trent was to be our pilot. We
were thrilled because we had had such a great time with him on the flight the previous day to Lake Clark National Park.
It was a
much clearer day when we took off from Homer at 2:00 pm for our eight-hour
adventure. Dramatic clouds created an
interesting backdrop as we flew over Cook Inlet. As we were flying high over a cloud bank, I
looked out the window and noticed the reflection of the plane below. The reflection was encircled by a
rainbow. That was such a cool sight! Trent says that happens sometimes, and I was
so happy to have seen it.
|The Reflection of Our Plane Encircled by a Rainbow|
I had expected beautiful views on the flight to Brooks Camp, my focus had been
on the bears. I hadn’t thought too much
about what we might see on the way. That
was just as well since we flew high over the mountains and the clouds obscured most
of our view. We encountered a heavy rainstorm,
and for a brief while we were flying through clouds with no visibility whatsoever.
I wasn’t exactly afraid, but it was
certainly an eerie feeling. It was still
raining when we arrived at Brooks Camp, but we had expected that – it seems to
be raining there more often than not. In
Alaska, one should never leave home without raingear.
|Would the Clouds Obstruct our Views?|
Once we landed at Brooks Camp, I found out how lucky we were to have arrived on an
afternoon flight. We discovered that most
of the other day trippers were just getting ready to fly out. What luck!
What could have been us and dozens or even hundreds of other visitors
turned out to be just us and a handful of people, most of whom were staying at Brooks
Lodge. I could not believe our good fortune.
a brief planning tip before I proceed to describe our day. For anyone contemplating a day trip to Brooks
Camp, I would highly recommend an afternoon flight so you can see the bears
without jostling for space on the viewing platforms. We were told that people typically have to
wait an hour or more just to reach the platform since only a limited number of
people are permitted at one time. Then,
you can only stay for less than an hour to make room for others. By arriving later in the day, we did not have
to wait to reach the platform, which we shared with only a handful of people, plus
we could stay as long as we wanted. It
to the story. We arrived at Brooks Camp
and were ushered to the visitor center for a “bear etiquette” talk, which outlined
park regulations, safety rules, etc. We
had to leave all food behind in the food locker, since no food is permitted
outside a fenced-in area near the visitor center. After that, we were free to go.
three elevated viewing platforms along the Brooks River where people can view
bears. The platforms were designed not
only for visitor safety, but also to protect the bears. Tim and I followed the 1.2 mile path to the
main viewing platform at the falls and were immediately awestruck at the sight
of 15 brown bears. The scene before us
was just like the one I’d seen in photos and wildlife documentaries, only a
hundred times better. We were right
there, so close.
|This Is the Scene that Greeted Us at Brooks Falls|
|It Was a Thrill to See the Bears Up Close|
describe how exciting it was to view the bears in action. We were not watching bears in a zoo or a
rehabilitation center. They were in
their natural habitat doing what bears do.
And we had the privilege of being there with them.
many bears to look at, it was hard to know where to focus my attention. I decided to concentrate on the large males standing
at the top of the falls. These were the
bears who tried to catch the salmon in their mouths as the fish hurled themselves
over the falls. I quickly learned that
some bears were better fishermen than others.
They all seemed to get their fill, however.
|I'm Going to Catch You|
|Oh No, Which One Should I Go For? |
|I Won't Miss This Time|
|This One's Mine!|
While the larger males claimed their spots at
the top of the falls, others stood at the base and would dive into the water to
catch their fish. Each bear had his own
|Diving Is a Popular Technique|
|How About Saving a Morsel for Me?|
|How Do You Like My Technique?|
was the males who dominated the area around the falls. We watched as a sow and her three cubs tried
to get close, but were usually pushed back.
We especially enjoyed watching the mother teach her cubs how to fish. Several times she would catch a salmon and
make the cubs fight for it. It was also
fun to watch the young bears play-fighting with one another.
|Follow Me, Children|
|I Wonder If the Big Boys Will Let Us Get a Little Closer|
|Now Children, This Is How to Fight for a Fish|
| But Mom, Why Does Junior Always Get the Fish?|
|Just Stick By Me and I'll Teach You Everything I Know|
For the most
part the bears got along with each other and respected each other’s
territories. There were occasional
scuffles, but that was not common.
|This Is My Spot, Find Your Own|
|Maybe There's Room for All of Us|
we learned was that Alaska’s brown bears and grizzly bears are now considered
to be one species. Brown bears are
larger than grizzlies because of their rich diet of salmon. In the short time we were there, several
bears had caught and eaten at least ten salmon. No
wonder they get so large.
stood by the platform railing and stared at the bears for several hours. I was mesmerized. Even when it started to rain, I didn’t move. Thanks to a good rain jacket and rain pants, I
barely noticed the weather, which is highly unusual for me. I tried my best to capture the action with my
little camera, and I was impressed with how well it did. Patience was the key, however, to capturing the
moment when a bear actually caught a fish.
|I Think I've Got Him|
|I Wonder if I Can I Catch Both of Them?|
I know I
could have stood on the platform much longer, but after a few hours it seemed
to be time to go. I was satisfied with
my short time there. Yes, it might have
been nice to spend the night and go back several times, but for that you must
make reservations more than a year in advance.
Tim and I experienced more in just a few hours than some people
experience in several days. Our timing
could not have been better. We arrived
during the peak salmon run, which attracts the largest number of bears to the
falls, and we arrived late in the day, which attracts the smallest number of
people to the platforms. I couldn’t have
asked for anything more. I had witnessed
what I had come to see.
|Tim and I Were Grinning from Ear to Ear|
doubt this was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It was a totally different adventure than the
trip to Lake Clark National Park, and even more magical. Here, we were closer to the largest land predators
on the continent than I had ever imagined, witnessing nature in all its
glory. This was also one of the most
expensive day trips I’ve ever taken, but it was well worth it. Once again, I can’t believe how lucky we are
to be able to take advantage of such opportunities.
you can’t watch the bears at Katmai in person, it is still possible for anyone
to see them in action. The National Park
Service had five live-streaming bearcams that bring the bears directly to your
computer screen. During the peak months of
the salmon run, as many as 18,000 viewers from all over the world tune in and
get to known the personalities of the individual bears. It’s definitely worth watching.
that I have included way more photographs that usual, since I just couldn’t
seem to choose which ones to include. Therefore,
I’ll save the photographs from our return flight to Homer for the next post.
I don't think there are words to describe how very cool this was. I had to enlarge the photos and go through them a few times. Then, I had to bookmark the bear cam! You certainly didn't put too many photos in the post. I could have looked at many more. What an amazing experience! I've seen photos of the bears "fishing" for the salmon, but being there personally must have been fantastic. I could feel your excitement in your words. Thanks so much for sharing:) I love this!!ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. It was so much fun to write it and to try and capture what I was feeling while we were watching the bears. The hardest part was going through all the photos and picking and choosing my favorites! As I said, it is without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.Delete
You can't have too many photos of bears ;-) We debated long and hard about Brooks Camp vs the week-long boat trip we eventually made from Kodiak to Katmai to spend time with the bears. In the end, it was the crowds that dissuaded us from Brooks ... but I'm sure it will be one of the places we go to when we return to Alaska with the motorhome, so thanks for the tip about going in the afternoon. I still get a tingle when I think of the wonderful experience of sitting with these great creatures in the wild ... nothing quite like it. Love all the photos and am delighted you had such a wonderful experience.ReplyDelete
Having a week to spend with the bears must have been such an incredible experience. With only a day, I just took a chance on Brooks Camp. It was pure luck that we arrived when everyone else was leaving. Fighting with the crowds would have taken away a big part of the magic that came with simply standing quietly and gazing at these amazing animals.Delete
So glad you eventually made it, and it looks like it turned out to be a better outing since it was in the afternoon. Great photos! We are going to try to see bears at the "poor man's Katmai - Hyder" that you can drive to, but we might be a bit late as we have quite a few stops along the way. We will see.ReplyDelete
Thanks. For a while I wasn't sure we would ever make to Katmai, but it certainly turned out for the best that our first flight was cancelled. I hope the bears hang around Hyder for your arrival.Delete
Is amazing to see the bears so closeReplyDelete
I'm still amazed how close we were.Delete