Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of North America's great wildlife-viewing areas. Katmai was declared a national monument in 1918 to preserve as a living laboratory its cataclysmic 1912 volcanic eruption, particularly the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The intervening years have seen most of the geothermal activity die out, but an equally compelling attraction prompted the expansion of this area into a 4.2-million-acre national park and preserve in 1980—the awesome Alaska brown bear.
"If you are looking for a trip to see Alaskan brown bears (grizzlies) look no further. Brooks Falls is the place to be in July. We saw as many as 20 bears within 100 yards at the same time. They are everywhere and the photo opportunities are fantastic."
The Brooks River, in the heart of Katmai, is without a doubt the most accessible location in the world for photographing these magnificent animals. During the latter part of June and all of July a massive sockeye salmon run in the river attracts the bears, which come from the surrounding countryside to feed on the fish as they return to spawn after spending three years in the North Pacific. The bears, intent on fishing, give us the opportunity to photograph them in a variety of habitats, from a beautiful waterfall where they forage for jumping salmon to a quiet bend in the river where mothers can bring their cubs. Other viewing platforms, built at the waterfall and at two additional strategic locations along the river, expand our bear photography potential and increase the number of people able to visit the platforms at one time. Walking one mile along a woodland trail attains access to the legendary Falls Platform.
Cabin accommodations at the Brooks Lodge offer bear photography literally outside your cabin door. There is a pleasant lodge and dining room for relaxing after a great day in the field.
For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.
Day 1 (Jul 2)
We meet in our Anchorage hotel lobby at 6:30 PM for orientation and dinner. (D)
Fly to King Salmon and continue by floatplane to Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. After a ranger-led safety discussion, we begin encounters with the Katmai wilderness. (BLD)
Our days are spent in serious pursuit of photography, with bears as the primary subject. Most are seen singly or in pairs—except at the Brooks Falls where several may fish at once. Occasionally a mother and cubs can be seen and photographed, or a couple of very large and extremely handsome males put in an appearance. We also spend some time focusing on leaping salmon, lichens and mosses, verdant ferns, blooming wildflowers, a variety of birds—and maybe even a moose. Informal discussions about the best ways to capture the dramatic action and sometimes complex exposure problems at the river are held—both on location and back at the lodge. (BLD)
After a final morning of bear photography—the exact time depending on flight schedules—we return to King Salmon and Anchorage. (BLD)
Day 6 (Jul 7)
Participants may depart at any time today. (B)
The trip to Katmai to photograph brown bears was absolutely terrific—it exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend this tour.
Photographing bears in their natural environment is exhilarating. Especially when the tour leader exclaims that the photo you got of a salmon just about to enter the bear's open mouth is a 'screamer'!