Bear and other wildlife viewing in May

Old Apr 29th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 70
Bear and other wildlife viewing in May

We'll be visiting Anchorage, Talkeetna, and the Kenai last week of May (7.5 days). My wife and 2 daughters are wildlife enthusiasts and I know its early but those are our only possible dates. I'd appreciate suggestions on optimizing our experience. Some thoughts:

1. We'll do a full day Kenai fjords tour.
2. I'd spring for a bear viewing flight although I understand that it is early and we might not see alot?
3. I'd also do a horseback trip into the Kenai Wildlife Refuge if that was highly likely to be more productive than just day hiking.
4. Was not planning on going to Denali - road is open to Toklat in May but 6 hrs RT on a school bus does not sound appealing.
5. Mixed feelings on Homer, but we may have the time.
6. Alaska Canoe will shuttle to Skilak Lake and we can paddle back to Soldotna on the Kenai River. Maybe too many fishing boats and mosquitoes? They also will do guided trips on KWR lakes.

Thanks for any help.
drbeier is offline  
Old Apr 29th, 2011, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I would not spring for the bear viewing flight. We went in June and didn't see anything. August, when the salmon are running is the time to see the bears.
turtlegirl is offline  
Old Apr 29th, 2011, 07:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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We did the Denali bus and again, did not see much. One moose, 2 bears VERY far away and a wolf pups-also far away.We actually saw more wildlife on our train ride from Anchorage to Seward. I highly recommend the train, which I'd rate a 10 out of 10 and the Denali school bus a 7 out of 10.
turtlegirl is offline  
Old Apr 29th, 2011, 11:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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The only six times I've seen grizzly bears in the wild was in Denali, on June 1, while or after riding on a school bus during a six hour round trip. Being fifty meters from a grizzly was an experience I'll never forget. That I could do so, without spending a fortune or planning months in advance, made the bus ride a joy rather than a bother.

But I must add: seeing bears is a crap shoot. You might get lucky like I did, or you may see none. Plain and simple, there are no guarantees.
PaulRabe is offline  
Old May 10th, 2011, 10:37 PM
Join Date: May 2011
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Unless you are seriously good paddlers I would advise you not to do the paddle from Skilak to Soldotna. That is a dangerous paddle. The lower Skilak boat launch is not very close (check google Earth) to the outlet of the lake so you would be crossing open water and the lake can go to flat calm to 3 ft seas in under 15 minutes. Once you leave the lake it is pretty smooth through the swan sanctuary and past Dot's landing but once you pass Bing's landing you hit the Naptown Rapids. This is not good water for family paddling especially if you have never been through there before. If you do this paddle I cannot stress enough that you need to do WAAAAAAAAY more research into RISKS. You couldn't pay me to take a canoe through there.
You could make it safer by taking out at Bing's but you still have to deal with the lake.
(There wouldn't be many fishermen on this middle part of the river during that time of year because rainbow trout fishing is closed on the Kenai River and it is a little early for Kings. All king fishing would be focused towards the mouth.)

A different option for that day would be the Swan Lake Canoe Trail. AK Canoe offers shuttles there too. They should have tons of info or you could call the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. If you want to do it as a day trip you can do the first 4 or 5 lakes on the west entrance and do it as an in-and-out. If flatwater paddling sounds boring call Chugach Outdoor Center in Sunrise/Hope and have them take you down Sixmile Creek.

Hope that helps,

PS Do a slow morning drive down Skilak Loop Rd to look for wildlife. Do the same on Swanson River Rd or Scout Lake Rd
drewhh is offline  
Old May 11th, 2011, 12:58 AM
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Posts: 70
Wow, thanks for the info. Maybe we will stick to hiking to get our wildlife fix. I am not a big flatwater paddler (for the sake of our marriage, my spouse and I have agreed never to do that or wallpapering together ever again). We are planning on the 6-mile creek raft trip, if our nerve does not fail us. Thanks also for the ADFG link - that is really helpful.
drbeier is offline  
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