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Alaska Part 1 - Bears At Brooks Falls

Discussion in 'Special Sessions, Events, and Tour Announcements' started by bobhoge, Feb 2, 2005.

  1. Our 2004 Alaska Trip is divided into four parts:

    LOCATION: Alaska Part 1 - Brooks Falls

    PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: Alaska Brown Bears, Salmon, Valley of 10,000 Smokes

    WHERE TO STAY: Brooks Lodge

    BEST TIME TO GO: Last three weeks in July, also 3 weeks in September for Bears.

    Here is a photo of Nan taking a photo from the platform. Note cubs on ground and mother above Nan's elbow. D-100 28mm! (All photos uncropped)
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    Nan's photo of mother and cubs. D-70 70mm!
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    Sometimes 300mm is too much!
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    Falls from the lower platform
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    Bears deciding who gets the best fishing spot D-70 300mm:
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    New canyon in ash deposit at Valley of 10,000 smokes:
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    DETAILS: This is in the middle of Katmai National Park, the only way in is by float plane. We spent 2 nights at Brooks Lodge. We flew in from Anchorage to King Salmon early on day one transferred to a float plane for a 20-25 minute flight to Brooks. Upon landing you have to attend a bear etiquette session with the park ranger. We had a quick lunch at the dining hall and then took the one mile hike to the falls viewing platform.
    There are three viewing platforms, like a deck on the back of a house. One is just after you cross a floating bridge about 1/4 mile from the Lodge. The other two are another 3/4 mile at the falls where the bears gather to fish for salmon.
    The "safe" distance from a bear is 50 yards, 100 yards if it is a mother with cubs. On the platforms the bears are maybe as close at 10-15 feet! You feel relatively safe on the platform, but I'm sure the bear could climb up if it wanted to. There are so many salmon to eat that they do not seem interested in us.
    We did encounter bears on the trail up to the platforms on two occasions and three times in the area of our cabin. It is scary to say the least, but they did not pay much attention to us. You can't run or they will chase you and they are twice as fast as you are (and 10 feet tall and up to 1000 pounds)!!
    We saw so many bears the first afternoon (300+ keeper images) we opted to take the all day trip to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes on the second day. This valley was created by a large volcanic eruption in 1912 and is the reason the park was created. The bears only started coming about 25 years ago. The ash deposits are up to 700 feet thick and we took a long hike down to a river cutting through the ash deposit forming new canyons.
    On the third morning we went back to the falls platforms after an early breakfast. For at least 45 minutes we were the only 2 people there! Another 200 keepers. We flew back to Anchorage leaving a 2 PM in about 4:30PM.
    There are only 16 cabins, they are quite rustic. It is a fishing camp the rest of the year. They are fairly small with space for 4 in bunk beds, but you better be good friends! Toilet in a little box room and a sink and shower stall in the main room. We felt cramped with just 2. For two people on the 2 night package from Anchorage + Meals + Valley Trip + Tip = $2500. More details at http://www.bear-viewing.com
    There are alternative ways to fly in and out from King Salmon the same day, but you would have to stay 2 nights in King Salmon and only really have about 1/2 day on the platforms. If the weather is good it would not be too bad to do this.
    We made reservations in early January for the end of July and got the last available cabin at the very end of the first salmon run. I would suggest you plan a year in advance.
    More of our photos at http://bob-nan.smugmug.com/gallery/344396 (Bears) and http://bob-nan.smugmug.com/gallery/344359 (Katmai)
    email us with any questions.
    Bob & Nan

    Added Note 2/4/05 - If the platforms are crowded, there is no room for a tripod to be set up there. A monopod would be OK, I think. Maybe take both an use what you can. The platform has a fairly tall railing and I just put both elbows on the railing to hold the camera steady and take the weight off of me.

    Also, on the float plane in and out, there is no room for hand luggage with you, but one bag (cameras for us) can go with you. You can take a camera with you on the plane to shoot in-flight, but you have to hang it around your neck. I was in the right seat - next to the pilot - and I had to hold the camera up at the ceiling whenever he pulled back on the wheel.
    It was really cramped there, no way to change a lens or battery, so select a lens and check your battery before getting on the plane.
  2. Hi Bob:
    This is a great post and I'm very interested in doing this trip one day real soon.
    At this point the plan is to go from our home in the NWT and pickup the Alaska HWY at Whithorse, then travel north. Now that I know about this place it will be HIGH on my hit list.
    Again, thanks for the info and I will be sure to contact you once we know when this will happen.
  3. First of all this looks fantastic! And your shots are amazing.

    Second, I think a locations forum is a great idea. There are so many places we may even take for granted locally, but someone from another area may be unaware. For instance, Bill always talks about the Skagit Valley. Other than a vague notion that it is in Washington, I have no idea where it is or how to get there.

    A Locations forum could also be for queries about locations, like "who knows a good spot to shoot eagles in New Jersey" etc.
  4. This is not a good idea, it is a GREAT idea...

    Janet, you make a very good point, and that is why when I go somewhere I try to identify "where" in the event that someone might find the place interesting :wink: .

    For me, places like this for the Bears and Bosque are grand ideas, but I am equally as interested in the "wheres" that are within a weekend for me, which would be for me BC, Canada, Oregon, Utah, etc. I'm sure the same is true for most of us. For example I just found 3 places within 30 minutes of my house, totally by accident. And with as many folks as we are gettting over here, it won't be long before most areas of North America are covered.

    Slick idea, thanks.
  5. Great idea...

    I like the ideas presented here...

    When I finally got off the fence and picked up this hobby a couple years ago, one of my justifications for it was that it would be a great excuse to travel to neat places and see parts of the country (world?) I'd always wanted to.

    Lots of things seem to keep standing in the way of that noble goal, but having the benefit of non-commercial recommendations from cafe regulars would help a lot to cull out the fluff and generate ideas.

    There's always room for the "accidental" discoveries (that's how I found Antelope Canyon), but knowing a little in advance can make planning a lot easier.
  6. I agree with the need to include the local area information. In fact, my #2 version is a recreational pulloff from I-75 just west of Ft. Lauderdale on Alligator Alley that we made a 10 minute stop at last March.

    Sneak Preview-It seemed like there might be something to shoot there:
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    Bob & Nan
  7. Great idea

    Fantastic idea great way to share ones local hot spots or places we visit on vacation. BTW awesome shots, must be so cool to be in the middle of the feeding frenzy like that
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