Notices

McNeil River Game Sanctuary, Alaska

Reply

Aug 17th, 2009, 10:27 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 38
McNeil River Game Sanctuary, Alaska

I am thinking of applying for the McNeil River Sanctuary lottery for 2010 and would like to hear from anyone who has won a place and visited there. It sounds like a trip of a lifetime. We will be in Alaska in July 2010 and I will need to hire camping gear if we are luck to get a place. Any information and tips from someone who has visited would be greatly appreciated.
threadies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 28th, 2009, 07:14 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 3
I have spent 25 nights at McNeil, once as a visitor and twice as a pre-season volunteer. I have several thoughts: July is peak season -- the salmon run is most intense then and you will see lots of bear action. That's why so many people apply for the July time slots and you have about a 15% chance of being chosen. Although you may see fewer bear in June, it may prove to be a more "intimate" experience. Second thought: pack LIGHT! Packing heavy means buying an extra seat on the floatplane for all your stuff. You can rent a backpack tent at REI in Anchorage; bring your own GOOD sleeping bag as it can always be cold at night. By basic hip boots at Fred Myers - they will be your everyday shoes. Regular hiking boots and Teva shoes don't cut it; there is simply too much water and mud. You can't wear fancy chest waders in the float planes. Food -- there are gas hot plates in the cook shack, so don't bring a stove or a lantern. Surprisingly, you can eat in front of the bears -- just don't eat tuna or sardines. PBJ sandwiches make a good lunch. Bring a mini-mag light and a water purifier. Spend money on GOOD rain gear -- it will keep you dry and act as a wind breaker. Bring extra parachute cord -- the wind can be intense and you'll need to anchor your tent well. Fly out of Homer with either Northwind Aviation or Beluga Air service; they have seat pricing and do a lot of flights to McNeil. If you don't get picked, Ken and Barbara Day do some great bear viewing trips to the west side of Cook Inlet. You can check out some photos at pbase.com/jhinson_04096. Good luck!
New_Englander is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 28th, 2009, 10:48 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,881
"Ken and Barbara Day do some great bear viewing trips to the west side of Cook Inlet"

I think you meant Ken and Chris Day at Emerald Air (unless there has been a recent divorce) ... http://www.emeraldairservice.com/
Bill_H is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2009, 03:41 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 3
Yes, Bill, you are absolutely correct. I wouldn't want to start any rumors!
New_Englander is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 30th, 2009, 12:47 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 38
Thank you "New Englander" and "Bill H" for your replies. There are some interesting tips for us. We will definately be there in July as we cant change our dates. If we dont win passes to McNeil River we will be looking for another alternative to view the bears so any more suggestions will be welcome.
New Englander you have me wondering now about food and cooking/eating utensiles. What sort of food do you recommend taking? Also did you do any fishing there? Is it viable to hire fishing gear?
We will be staying 4 weeks in Alaska and would also appreciate any tips on outstanding places to visit.
threadies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 30th, 2009, 08:32 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,881
If we dont win passes to McNeil River we will be looking for another alternative to view the bears so any more suggestions will be welcome.

No doubt McNeil is the best situation for those willing to camp, but hard to draw the permit. Tom Walker wrote a good book about McNeil, "The Way of The Grizzly" (also published as "River of Bears"), which you can find used for a few bucks. The photos were taken by Larry Aumiller, who was the manager of McNeil for many years, perhaps when New_Englander was working there as a volunteer?

For campers who don't get drawn (like me for several years) an alternative is Brooks Camp at Katmai National Park, where there is excellent bear viewing in early July and again in late August and early Sept. The flight in is costly ($550 - $600) but once there you can camp for about $10/night and you can eat some meals at the Brooks Lodge cafeteria and use their showers for a couple of bucks, so pretty cush camping. http://www.nps.gov/katm/planyourvisit/brookscamp.htm

There is also excellent fishing at Brooks, for big rainbows in the fall when I've been there, and for salmon in July, though you will often have to break off your fish when a bear comes after it.

But there are a lot of people at Brooks in the peak weeks, which detracts from the experience a bit. Still, a great bargain and for sure you'll see bears very close.

If you don't want to camp and have plenty of money then there are lodges and bear camps along the coast, maybe a dozen or so total. These seem to run $500 - $600/night. If the bears are there these lodges are great.

The day trips from Homer, like with Emerald Air or Bald Mountain, are also great trips. Typically they go to less crowded places and you'll have very close encounters with the bears.

Most expensive are the 'bear boats', where you sleep on a boat and go ashore for bear viewing during the day. Many people feels this is the best way to go but expect to pay double what the lodges charge.
Bill_H is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 1st, 2009, 12:12 AM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 38
Hi Bill_H
This is excellent information - many thanks.I will have to spend some time on the net investigating an alternative to McNeil. Lucky I have plenty of time to do it. Seeing the bears and the salmon run is our top priority for this trip and we want to make sure we do it the best way we can and of course cost is always a consideration.

I have read that bears often visit camp sites. Would this be the case at Brooks Camp? A bit scarey I reckon!!!
threadies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 1st, 2009, 10:09 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,881
I have read that bears often visit camp sites. Would this be the case at Brooks Camp? A bit scarey I reckon!!!

When I first went to Brooks (maybe 8 years ago or so) the bears would occasionally wander thru the campground and the younger ones would sometimes bed down nearby. The main "problem" was that during the day when the campground was nearly empty an occasional curious bear would push on a tent and when it sprang back he would push again, collapsing the tent. Sometimes they would rip up the gear.

This was a problem for the Rangers, who had to supply spare gear to the campers, so 4-5 years ago they put up a three-strand electic fence around the campground, which seems to keep the smaller, less agressive bears out.

At any rate in 25 years there was only one bear-caused injury at the campground, when a moron cooked salmon near his tent (which you can't do now) and fell asleep and a bear nipped him on the butt when it came to steal the salmon. So not a problem, especially now with the fence.

If I get a few minutes I'll put up a couple of photos of bears interacting closely with people at Brooks ... the bears are not the problem, too many people is the problem at Brooks.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 19th, 2009, 03:28 PM
  #9
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Wishing you luck with McNeil, Threadies. I can only make a comment on your 2nd choices if you don't win McNeil.

I concur with BillH and the two of us have had some bear chats in the past. I'll be at Brooks in July 2010 for a 4th visit and also with Katmai Coastal Bears by boat for a 2nd visit. Katmai Coastal operates out of Kodiak. Maybe we'll cross paths.

Please let us know if you win in McNeil and if not what you plan to do.

No info on fishing.
atravelynn is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 20th, 2009, 07:22 PM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 38
thanks atravelynn, I will check out Katmai Coastal. Is this a day trip or overnight? So much to check out, but I do enjoy it!!!!!!

I like the look of Brooks Camp,but the fact that it will be very crowed puts me off. I would prefer something less crowded. Have you heard of Hallow Bay Bear Camp or Aleut Island Lodge? The lodges seem very expensive and I think we will have to decide whether to do a day trip, or stay at a lodge if we dont get into McNeil. I will certainly let you know if we do get in.
Threadies
threadies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 21st, 2009, 04:06 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Here is my report from July 2008 on Katmai Coastal
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...bear-tours.cfm

You can do 3, 4, or 7+ night stays. I did a 3-night that turned into a 4-night due to weather.

Andrew Airways will do daytrips out of Kodiak and they are the float plane co. that takes you to the Katmai Coastal boat.

Brooks can be crowded, especially after the day trips come in, but before and after them, it is good. Also around lunch time there are fewer people at the viewing platform. But there are 2 other places to view bears that do not get crowded. One is "the riffles" and that is just down from the falls. In fact the falls are visible from the riffles. This area is used by younger bears who have been kicked out of the falls by the big guys. Also mothers and cubs come here.

Then near the cabins is the lower platform. It overlooks a lake and mothers and cubs can be seen here. There is not non-stop action at the lower platform but it can offer hours of non-stop viewing.

I'd wonder how many bears on Aluet Island, just from the name. But never even heard of it. I spent a week at Hallo Bay Bear Camp and really liked it for the bears and a couple of wolves and some very curious red foxes that came up to sniff around us, plus eagles.

Here is a link to more info on Hallo Bay.
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...ear-outing.cfm
atravelynn is offline  
Reply With Quote
Oct 19th, 2009, 10:05 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 3
Food for McNeil River can be summed up in one word: "Weight"! When my wife and I visited, we needed to pack as light as possible. We brought basic food that could be cooked with hot water -- mac and cheese, spaghetti and instance sauce. Breakfast was bagels, instant oat meal, tea. Lunch was peanut butter sandwiches and trail mix. There were three other visitors there with me, and they ate gourmet. They were all small people (probably averaged 120 lbs each), so they brought a large ice cooler with prepared meats -- marinated lamb, steak tips, a prepared vegetable and a matching bottle of wine. They could handle the weight, so they ate first class. The McNeil cook shack has propane hot plates, several pots, tea kettles and one or two skillets. I would bring a plastic plate, plastic bowl, mug and plastic silverware. If you get a permit, you'll make arrangements with a float plane operator -- he will define your weight limits. That will determine what you bring. Good luck -- permit deadlines will be here before you know it!
New_Englander is offline  
Reply With Quote
Nov 4th, 2009, 01:30 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 38
Thank you for this information New_Englander. The more information I receive, the better prepared I will be. Did you stay the full 4 days when you visited? Did you hire camping gear? Which float plane operator did you use? We will be staying in Alaska for 4 weeks and I have prepared an itinerary, excluding McNeil River. If we do get a permit, I will have to re-adjust the itinerary cut out part of it. Allowing an extra day at each end of a 4 days stay at McNeill in case of bad weather, will possibly cut 6 days out of our itinerary. Quite a lot of time. However,if the 4 days are a wonderful experience I dont want to cut our time short.
Threadies
threadies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 6th, 2017, 10:07 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 1
fantastic information in this thread for anyone interested in a trip to McNeil.

My wife and I are going there this year (we got drawn for prime time in July and found this very useful.

One thing I have seen missing when I have searched for more information on McNeil is a detailed trip report. I intend to write one after our trip, but I would also encourage others who have been lucky enough to go there to write one up.

McNeil is as remote as it gets and I think the availability of limited information can be a handicap when it comes to day to day planning.

Thanks a lot!
psychoanalyst is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:55 AM.