Fodor's Expert Review McNeil River State Game Sanctuary

Katmai National Park and Preserve Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge Fodor's Choice

At the northern end of the Alaska Peninsula, this game sanctuary protects the world's largest gathering of brown bears. Since 1967, it has earned a reputation as the finest bear-viewing locale in North America, and likely the world. The main focus is where bears come to feed on chum salmon returning to spawn. During the peak of the chum run (July to mid-August) dozens of brown bears congregate at the falls to hunt for and eat fish. As many as 70 bears, including cubs, have been observed along the river in a single day while more than 100 bears roam along the river each season. The bears will play, eat, nap, and nurse cubs within 15 to 20 feet of the falls viewing pad (sometimes even closer) allowing visitors to learn firsthand that bears smell like very wet dogs, at least when fishing. The sanctuary staff make sure that visitors behave in a nonthreatening, nonintrusive way around these wild animals. Only 10 people a day can visit the bear-viewing sites from June 7 through August 25,... READ MORE

At the northern end of the Alaska Peninsula, this game sanctuary protects the world's largest gathering of brown bears. Since 1967, it has earned a reputation as the finest bear-viewing locale in North America, and likely the world. The main focus is where bears come to feed on chum salmon returning to spawn. During the peak of the chum run (July to mid-August) dozens of brown bears congregate at the falls to hunt for and eat fish. As many as 70 bears, including cubs, have been observed along the river in a single day while more than 100 bears roam along the river each season. The bears will play, eat, nap, and nurse cubs within 15 to 20 feet of the falls viewing pad (sometimes even closer) allowing visitors to learn firsthand that bears smell like very wet dogs, at least when fishing. The sanctuary staff make sure that visitors behave in a nonthreatening, nonintrusive way around these wild animals. Only 10 people a day can visit the bear-viewing sites from June 7 through August 25, always accompanied by armed staff. Because demand is so high, an annual drawing is held in mid-March to determine permit winners (Alaska residents get preferential treatment in the lottery). Applications must be received by March 1 to be eligible. Nearly all visitors fly into McNeil Sanctuary on floatplanes, with most arranging air-taxi flights out of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. Once in the sanctuary, all travel is on foot and closely guided by state biologists.

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Anchorage, Alaska  99518-1599, USA

907-267–2189

www.adfg.state.ak.us

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