Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bear Viewing at Brooks Falls

It is fun to be a tourist in our home state of Alaska. 
My husband came up with a full itinerary when friends from Texas
 scheduled their vacation with us last winter. 

Hubby is a commercial airline pilot but he also has two small airplanes.
 Our first adventure was only accessible via a float plane so good thing we have one of those. 

We went to Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park and Preserve. 
We were on the early side of the season for major numbers of bears fishing at the falls but we saw
 25 different bears throughout our day.

There are a series of raised walking paths and viewing platforms as you make your way to the main platform at the falls. It seemed like every step we took brought a bear into view. Here is a sow with her two-year-old set of three cubs.  

A bit of a better view when we got to the first platform.

There were parts of the walk through ground level wooded areas which was very unnerving to me. We saw this sow with her cubs taking a nap within 10 feet of the main trail. Yipes...I couldn't believe Mama Bear didn't rip our heads off but she was fine with all the traffic. There were no barriers protecting people from the trails bears use to walk around the area.  Park rangers where sometimes present to keep people quiet and moving. I felt extremely vulnerable.

We had to get on a waiting list to access the main viewing platform at the falls.
While waiting, we squeezed our way onto the viewing platform below the falls and saw plenty of action. The younger bears who aren't ready to take on the mature bears at the falls are the ones we watched in this area.

Step one was to rip all the skin off the salmon.
The bears all ate the skin and then left the rest of the salmon for the birds.

Below, this young bear was so entertaining. He ran all over the area.

We saw him again when we finally made it to the platform at the falls.

Right at the base of the falls were these two large bears who knew right where to sit and catch salmon without moving much.

We waited an hour-and-a-half for our turn on the main viewing platform and then had 30 minutes to hang there. We left after about 15 minutes as the action seemed to hit a lull.

But there was lots of action as we walked back to the main park ranger camp.  There were eight of us on the trail when we went around a bend in the path and saw a young male bear walking toward us. We tried walking into the woods off the trail but he started to follow us.

No park ranger in sight, We did have a canister of bear spray.
The bear wasn't aggressive but he was more than just curious.

So we raised our hands and started saying forcefully that the bear should leave. We didn't yell but spoke confidently. The bear watched us for a while (which seemed like an eternity), then turned and walked into the woods.

We were headed toward the lagoon where all the float planes park on the beach. Problem...Mama Bear on the beach with two cubs born this season. We didn't go anywhere for 40 minutes. The park rangers stopped everyone from going to the float planes.

On of my sons worked for a float plane operation out of Anchorage for two summers and he warned us this happens pretty often. The park rangers try to give the bears time to move on their schedule...not people schedules.

When the Mama Bear finally decided to leave the beach she headed directly toward us. We were right outside the visitors' center. We went inside to wait for her next move. She sat right outside one of the center's windows. The screen makes the photo a little odd but that's how close she was. 

From there she headed back to the beach and finally went far enough away for us to get to the airplane and leave quickly.

It is a very full day to fly back and forth from Anchorage to Brooks Fall so we spent two nights at Port Alsworth in first class accommodations, Wilder B & B. Really, it was half of a duplex we had to ourselves with a full kitchen stocked with breakfast making options. We even had WiFi...amazing. There is only cell phone reception for Verizon due to a local communications company that has a monopoly on the wilderness areas of Alaska. No AT&T  service which is what all of us on the trip had. We did carry a satellite phone which is a great safety tool to have when flying around the state.

There are no grocery stores of restaurants in Port Alsworth. There is a coffee stand where you buy aviation fuel. We packed in all our food and took advantage of the excellent propane grill at the B&B.

Our cabin sat on the edge of a large gravel runway. All the fuel for this town must be flown in as there is not a road, railway or water access for shipping. We watched the Everts fuel airplane landing the morning we left. This plane has been on several reality tv shows that feature living in Alaska.

Time to leave our sweet cabin.

This is our Cessna 185 that took us on our grand adventure. Prepping it to take off for Anchorage and our next adventures that will also be on the water. 

You can view the bears at the falls live via this Bear Cam link.


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

wow this is so neat - thanks for sharing all those photos. It must be wonderful to see things like this you live in such a neat place. It must have been a bit unnerving to have the bears so close to you

Anonymous said...

WOW! this was incredible! what an experience. I didn't realize it was a "thing" to go see the bears. Beautiful scenery, incredible experience. Lucky you to have such a great husband! Makes me re-think never "go to Alaska"!

SusanfromKentucky said...

I went on a Land & Cruise trip through Holland America last year. I would love to go back and make it to Katmai National Park. Such beautiful country and wildlife!

Sally said...

Oh, my gosh, that was amazing. Thank you for sharing...I would never have thought you could get that close to the bears...I'm a scaredy cat anyway...but WOW!

Ramona said...

Wow! What an adventure you all had. To see all of those bears is amazing. I’m glad you all were safe!

O'Quilts said...

I loved this post too!!!

Suz J said...

Wow. On the one hand what an amazing experience and opportunity. On the other hand... what the heck! Live wild bears! I can not even imagine. Well done on getting photos!