timistravels

My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area

on July 4, 2013

After meeting my husband I have become more and more interested in brown bears and less and less frightened of them.  Pack Creek is on Admiralty Island about 30 miles south of Juneau.   Also called “Kootznoowoo,” (hence our chocolate lab was named Kootz) or “Fortress of the Bears,” by the native Tlingit people, Admiralty has more brown bears per square mile than any where else in the world, about 1,500 in total, more than all the lower 48 states combined. IMG_10081bear clam look

This area was first homesteaded by Stan Price and because of his interaction with the brown bear the bear are much more habituated to humans  and the area provides a protected space for the brown bears. IMG_10059homestead

Both the US Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish & Game work to insure that visitors can come to the area and yet have  minimal impact to brown bears.

IMG_0895 IMG_0888 IMG_10179cubs

IMG_9779fly us

our flight out, note the ear plugs, a must on small planes

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essential items flying with us to camp, including all our food and some fresh water.

IMG_9770fly

our plane at the float pond in Juneau

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loading the plane

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off we go

You must have a permit to visit Pack Creek between June 1 and Sept. 10 and you can get them by visiting Recreation.gov or calling their toll free number 1-877-444-6777.   People can also sign up with a tour guide in Juneau.  Individual then must figure out how they will get to Pack Creek, most come by plane but many also arrive via boats of some kind.

IMG_10208fly packcreek

a view of Pack Creek and mud flats from the air

Pack Creek is formed from the snow that starts about 4000 feet above and descends into Seymour Canal. At the base is about a 400-acre mud flat that is especially visible at low tide.  The bear spend a lot of time in flats clamming and looking for other food sources UNTIL the fish arrive.  Typically the BEST  bear viewing on Pack Creek is when the pink and chum salmon begin heading back up the river in early July.  My husband had seen a fish in the river as early as June 30, his colleague, June 28th but as the 3 of use were out at the viewing tower, we saw one on June 26th.  The summer of 2013 is off to a good start for the bears.

IMG_10055sign trailhead

the bears all but destroyed the sign placed here in the 90’s

IMG_10056sign 'pack'

what’s left of the Pack Creek Trail sign

IMG_10054bear scratch tree

signage of bear everywhere, this tree has bear claw marks in it

IMG_10043fresh poo

yep bears do poop in the woods and on the walking trail

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paw print in the sand

Upon arrival a staff member will meet you and make sure you are aware of all the rules that you must follow to visit this area.  No food can be on you, you are only allowed to walk in certain areas, etc.  The rangers fill you in on what has been recent activity and will lead you to the viewing spit, or direct you to the 1 mile trail to the viewing tower.  The trail to the tower is a MUST do regardless if you see bear or not, walking through the old growth rain forest is something pretty special. IMG_10008bear hair tree IMG_10007bear scratch tree IMG_9924Pcubs

IMG_10077bear clam

clamming!

We saw a lot of activity, including a bear clamming, 2 sub adults playing with each other, and a mom and her 2 cubs.  The 2 sub adults have been friends since they were with their moms.  It is really unusual that the mom allowed their cubs to play together, but they did and after the moms ‘kicked the out’ these two have remained friends.  The mom with her 2 female cubs was the most visible.  She seems to feel quite safe at the south spit and spends a lot of time there.  We saw the cubs playing with the out haul lines, rousting with each other and simply exploring.IMG_10173cub IMG_10167pokey cubs IMG_0969 IMG_10160popkey cubsIMG_10179cubs

We got quite close to the mom and her cubs as we were returning to our boat on the night of our visit.  They were not on the spit when we walked the trail, but they were upon our arrival back.  Mom checked us out quite a bit, but in the end they just laid down and we continued on our route.  We did NOT displace them or stress her out and she was not worried about us at all.

IMG_9816windfall

tip of windfall as we paddled back from our night at Pack Creek

IMG_10218fly bear alpine

as we flew home we saw 7 brownies in the alpine. In late June they follow the snow line up and eat along the way. Plus with the heat we were having that day (high 70”s) they were climbing to cool off as well as find food.

I hope you someday consider a visit to Pack Creek, it is a magical place. IMG_9797IMG_0939 IMG_0937 IMG_0936


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