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Alagnak, Aniakchak, Katmai
A trip planning and information guide to Alagnak Wild River, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
Park Info National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior The Novarupta A trip planning and information guide to Alagnak Wild River Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Katmai National Park and Preserve ANELA KOPSHERVER Issue Number 2021 What’s Inside: LIAN LAW NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY NPS PHOTO Brooks Camp...............6 Katmai Origins............14 Backcountry Travel....20 Three National Parks, Many Amazing Experiences National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Alagnak Wild River Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Katmai National Park and Preserve Katmai was declared a National Monument in 1918; Aniakchak in 1978. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 established Alagnak Wild River, while Katmai and Aniakchak were expanded to include national preserve areas. Katmai was also redesignated a national park. Together, these lands encompass nearly five million acres of unique landscapes managed by the National Park Service. Mailing Address PO Box 7 King Salmon, AK 99613 Park Headquarters Phone: 907-246-3305 Fax: 907-246-2116 Websites Alagnak: www.nps.gov/alag Aniakchak: www.nps.gov/ania Katmai: www.nps.gov/katm Welcome to Katmai Country Welcome to Katmai! Katmai National Park and Preserve (Katmai) lies within the ancestral homelands of the Alutiit-Sugpiat (Aleut) people. Human habitation of this region goes back many thousands of years and speaks of thriving communities and perseverance in the face of challenging environments. Today, the Alutiit-Sugpiat people strive to maintain their traditional lifeways even in light of pressure brought on by an ever-changing world. Their connections to these lands are enduring and worthy of our respect. According, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge our Alaska Native communities—be they Alutiit-Sugpiat, Dena’ina, or Yup’ik—for their enduring legacy as the caretakers of this wonderous land we are fortunate to experience, and today call Katmai. Geographically, Katmai is found on the Alaska Peninsula which encompasses a vast and beautiful landscape where the National Park Service also has the privilege of managing Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, and the Alagnak Wild River. Regardless of your interests, collectively these different park areas offer a diversity of outstanding Alaskan experiences. The geology of Katmai is both ancient and new. The park’s diverse landscapes comprise expansive mountains, active volcanoes, flowing glaciers and a wild and beautiful seacoast that is frequently fed by sparkling rivers and lakes. The cataclysmic eruption of Novarupta in 1912 took place long ago when compared to a human lifespan, but is geologically recent. The resulting ash covered everything for miles and even today life is still recovering from the effects of the eruption. Many dedicated individuals from diverse walks of life have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that wildlife remains abundant and diverse throughout this region. It is in large part because of these efforts that Katmai today supports world-class fisheries and outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities. To observe an Alaskan brown bear in its natural environment is a testament to the priorities of our nation. Recently, we have all experienced some very trying times due to the far-reaching effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. Last year we were able to operate, albeit at a reduced operational capacity and this year promises to be similar, though we are striving to expand visitor services where possible during the 2021 season. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation with Covid-19 related mitigations; your adherence to them will help us stay open throughout the season. We are glad you have come here to experience for yourself the sights, sounds, and feel of this special place and we hope that you take home many memories that will last a lifetime. Mark Sturm, Superintendent Contents: Southwest Alaska’s Parklands.................................................2-3 Katmai and the National Park Idea......................................14-15 Essential Information...................................................................4 Exploring the Human History of Katmai..................................16 Getting Here, Getting Around....................................................5 Cycle of the Salmon...................................................................17 Welcome to Brooks Camp........................................................6-7 Fishing Information...................................................................18 Camping at Brooks Camp............................................................8 Backcountry Travel................................................................20-21 Brooks Camp Map........................................................................9 Aniakchak National Monument...........................................22-23 Bear Viewing.........................................................................10-11 Alagnak Wild River...............................................................24-25 Safe Travels in Bear Country.....................................................12 Park Neighbors......................................................................26-27 Live Bearcams.............................................................................13 Support Your Public Lands........................................................28 2 The Novarupta Alagnak Wild River Unbounded by dams or artificial channels, the Alagnak River meanders its way from headwaters in the Aleutian Range across the Alaska Peninsula to Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea. The upper 69 miles of river are designated a national wild river, meaning free flow, no dams, and little human impact. From the time of the earliest Alaskans, the river has given much to those willing to learn its ways. In summer, the river teems with salmon. Fall brings migrating caribou and berries. It traverses the beautiful Alaska Peninsula, providing opportunities to experience the unique wilderness, wildlife, and cultural heritage of the area. This river is one of the most popular sport fishing destinations in all of Alaska. Alagnak’s extraordinary rainbow trout, char, grayling, and abundant salmon are some of the most attractive sport fish in the world, and the river has become the most popular fly-in fishing destination in all of Southwest Alaska. National Monument and Preserve Midway down the wild, remote, and mostly roadless Alaska Peninsula lies one of the nation’s most fascinating, but least visited, volcanic features. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve surrounds a large caldera formed by the collapse of a 7,000 foot volcano. Set inland in a place of frequent clouds and fierce storms, Aniakchak was unknown to all but area residents until the 1920s, and had its last eruption in 1931. Nestled inside the caldera is Surprise Lake, a remnant of a much larger lake that catastrophically drained in a massive flood. Warm springs, melting snow, and glaciers feed Surprise Lake, which in turn gives rise to the Aniakchak Wild River. This narrow stretch of the Alaska Peninsula boasts a rich human history. Volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis have interrupted the human story, yet the land abides as a wild place where people can experience independence and interdependence. Life has persisted here in the face of catastrophic change. See pages 22-23 for more information. Katmai National Park and Preserve On June 6, 1912 residents of the northern Alaska Peninsula experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The eruption at Novarupta volcano sent ash over 100,000 feet into the atmosphere, led to the collapse of Mount Katmai, and created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Katmai National Monument was established in 1918 to protect the volcanically devastated region surrounding Mount Katmai and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Today, Katmai National Park and Preserve is still an active volcanic landscape, which also protects 9,000 years of human history as well as important habitat for salmon and the thousands of brown bears that feed on them. Katmai is a rugged and diverse land where bears are plentiful, salmon leap waterfalls on their journey to spawn, steaming volcanoes serve as a reminder of the earth’s power, and where cultural change continues. See pages 6-21 for more information. M. FITZ See pages 24-25 for more information. Aniakchak Glacially shrouded volcanoes, like Mount Mageik, form the geologic backbone of the Alaska Peninsula. Katmai National Park is the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century (see pages 14-15). The Novarupta 3 Essential Information Dates and Hours of Operation Alagnak, Aniakchak, and Katmai are open 24 hours a day every day of the year. Most services such as lodges and air taxis operate seasonally. National Park Service and concessionaire operated facilities at Brooks Camp are open from June 1 through September 17. Camping Within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls (i.e., the Brooks Camp Developed Area), camping is only allowed at Brooks Camp Campground. Camping is permitted elsewhere in Katmai with some seasonal exceptions (see Hallo Bay, page 20) and on any public lands within Aniakchak and Alagnak. Fees and Reservations There are no entrance fees associated with public use of Alagnak, Aniakchak, and Katmai. Reservations and fees are required for camping in Brooks Camp Campground and must be made by telepone or online prior to arrival. See pages 8-9 for more camping information. page 12 for bear safety information. Visitors to Brooks Camp are required, upon arrival, to participate in a brief, mandatory bear safety talk at the Brooks Camp Visitor Center. Food Storage All food, beverages, garbage, equipment used to cook or store food, and/or any odorous items must be properly stored in an approved bear-resistant container (BRC) or one of the food/gear caches at Brooks Camp. Certified bear-resistant products approved by the Department of Interior and Agriculture‘s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee can be found at http://igbconline.org/certifiedproducts-list/. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an additional list of approved items at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index. cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearcontainers. Hunting Sport hunting is only permitted in Preserve areas of Katmai National Park and Preserve and Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. Only non-guided sport hunting is allowed in the Alagnak Wild River corridor. In all other areas, sport hunting is prohibited. All hunting activities require a license and are subject to National Park Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulations and restrictions. Weather Even during summer, visitors to the Alaska Peninsula should be prepared for cool and stormy conditions with frequent strong winds. Clear skies occur about 20 percent of days. Visitors traveling to the Aniakchak area should expect significantly cooler, stormier, and windier conditions. Wherever you travel, remain aware of the dangers and treatments for hypothermia and be equipped with appropriate clothing and a shelter. Pets Pets are not allowed within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls (i.e. the Brooks Camp Developed Area). In other areas, pets must be leashed or physically restrained at all times. Reservations and fees also apply for public use of Fure’s Cabin at the northeast corner of the Bay of Islands on Naknek Lake. Reservations can be made through www.recreation.gov. Visitor Centers The Brooks Camp Visitor Center, open June 1 until late September, is the point of entry for all visitors to Brooks Camp. A park ranger is on duty to provide information, campground check-in, bear safety talks, and backcountry planning. An Alaska Geographic Association (AKGeo) bookstore offers books, maps, and other Katmai-related items (see page 28). Located next door to the King Salmon Airport, the King Salmon Visitor Center provides information on the many federal public lands in Southwest Alaska, particularly those in the Bristol Bay area. A large collection of films is available for viewing and an AKGeo bookstore sells maps, marine charts, videos, posters, clothing, and more. Contact the King Salmon Visitor Center at 907-246-4250. Bears This is bear country! Be prepared for a bear encounter! The Alaska Peninsula has a substantial population of brown bears. See 4 The Novarupta Weather Information for King Salmon, Alaska Month Average High Average Low Average Precip. January 22.8°F (-5.1°C) 8.0°F (-13.3°C) 1.03” (26.2 mm) February 23.8°F (-4.6°C) 7.4°F (-13.7°C) .72” (18.3 mm) March 32.0°F (0°C) 15.1°F (-9.4°C) .79” (20.1 mm) April 41.3°F (5.2°C) 24.9°F (-3.9°C) .94” (22.9 mm) May 52.1°F (11.2°C) 34.8°F (1.6°C) 1.35” (34.3 mm) June 59.5°F (15.3°C) 42.2°F (5.7°C) 1.70” (43.2 mm) July 63.8°F (17.7°C) 47.5°F (8.6°C) 2.15” (54.6 mm) August 62.2°F (16.8°C) 47.4°F (8.6°C) 2.89” (73.4 mm) September 54.9°F (12.7°C) 40.3°F (4.6°C) 2.81” (71.4 mm) October 40.5°F (4.7°C) 26.0°F (-3.3°C) 2.10” (53.3 mm) November 30.5°F (-0.8°C) 15.9°F (-8.9°C) 1.54” (39.1 mm) December 25.1°F (-3.8°C) 9.3°F (-12.6°C) 1.39” (35.3 mm) Getting Here, Getting Around Quick Tips for Accessing Three of the Most Remote National Park Units The National Park Service headquarters for Alagnak, Aniakchak, and Katmai is located about 290 miles southwest of Anchorage in King Salmon. Regularly scheduled commercial flights to King Salmon are available from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. These parklands are open year-round for the adventurous. Numerous companies— over 115 in and around Alagnak, Aniakchak, and Katmai—provide a variety of commercial visitor services, including transportation, guided day trips, guided multi-day trips, overnight accommodations and food services. Commercial partners are authorized by permit to operate in the parks. A complete list of services is available at go.nps.gov/AKComm. Katmai National Park and Preserve and Alagnak Wild River Katmai is located on the Alaska Peninsula, west of the Shelikof Strait and Afognak and Kodiak Islands. The Alagnak River is located on the Alaska Peninsula about 260 miles (418 km) southwest of Anchorage. Most destinations in the Katmai region, including Brooks Camp and Alagnak River, may be directly accessed via air taxi flights originating from Anchorage, Dillingham, Homer, Iliamna, King Salmon, Kodiak, Soldotna, and other nearby towns and villages. Boats can access Katmai from villages and towns along the Pacific Ocean coastline. Brooks Camp and other locations along the Naknek River drainage can be reached by both motorized and non-motorized boats from Naknek and King Salmon, located west of the Katmai. Boats can access the Alagnak River from towns and villages along Bristol Bay and the Kvichak River. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Aniakchak is one of the least visited and most remote of all national park areas in the United States. It is located on the Alaska Peninsula about 450 miles (724 km) southwest of Anchorage and 150 miles (241 km) southwest of King Salmon. Most people access Aniakchak by chartered airplanes departing from King Salmon and other nearby towns and villages. Boats can access the monument and preserve from the Pacific Ocean coastline. A few adventurous groups have also hiked into the Aniakchak Caldera via a cross-country route from Port Heiden. To view a map turn to page 26. NPS/M. FITZ Many people consider Southwest Alaska’s remoteness to be an attractive characteristic, but the remote nature of the area necessitates careful planning in order to overcome certain logistical and accessibility challenges. Unlike most national parks in the United States, Alagnak, Aniakchak, and Katmai are almost exclusively accessed by plane or boat. Much of this area is rarely visited and opportunities for incredible wilderness experiences abound. Other areas, such as Brooks Camp, are more easily accessed and have amenities like lodging and hot meals. The Novarupta 5 A. KOPSHEVER Welcome to Brooks Camp Brooks Camp is renowned for its remarkable bear viewing opportunities. For information about bear viewing at Brooks Camp, see page 10. The Bear Essentials: Brooks Camp attracts people from all over the world to fish for trout and salmon, to view brown bears, explore the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, and to learn about the long human history of the area. Brooks Camp is situated at the mouth of the Brooks River, along the shore of Please Remember... Upon Your Arrival Visitors to Brooks Camp are required to check in at the visitor center for a brief bear safety talk outlining park regulations. These important regulations are designed specifically to keep bears and people safe in Brooks Camp. Accessibility While most trails around Brooks Camp and the trail to Brooks Falls are wheelchair accessible, they are not paved and are frequently muddy. The walk to Brooks Falls can be arduous for some people with limited mobility. A limited number of wheelchairs are available to borrow from the visitor center. 6 The Novarupta Naknek Lake (the largest lake within any national park in the United States). From June 1 to September 17, the NPS operates a visitor center, ranger station, campground, and auditorium. Check at the Brooks Camp Visitor Center for any scheduled ranger programs. Food Storage Do not carry food, beverages, or any other odorous items around Brooks Camp. All food and drinks, except plain water, must be stored inside a building or in a designated food cache. Eat and drink only in buildings or at designated picnic areas. Only water can be consumed outside designated picnic areas. Gear and Equipment Storage All gear and equipment must be attended or properly stored inside a building. Gear or equipment cannot be left unattended at any time. Storage caches for gear are located at the Brooks Camp Visitor Center, Lake Brooks, and in the campground. Brooks Lodge Lodging, meals, flights, and many other services at Brooks Camp are provided by Katmailand, the park’s authorized concessioner For information on Katmailand’s sport fishing, bear viewing, air services, and lodging and meal service opportunities go to www.katmailand.com or call 1-800-544-0551. Camping Within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls, camping is only allowed in the Brooks Camp Campground (see pages 8-9). Bear Viewing Viewing platforms are situated to provide exceptional opportunities for observing bears. Three platforms are located at the mouth of Brooks River. Two other platforms—Falls and Riffles—are located at Brooks Falls. Note: these platforms are closed between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am, June 15 to August 15. Outdoor Recreational Opportunities A variety of hiking, fishing, and boating opportunities are available at Brooks Camp. For information visit https://go.nps.gov/rn68sz. Programs Junior Ranger Program Learn about Katmai’s natural and cultural resources by completing activities designed to help you engage with the park. While geared toward children 5 to 13, all ages can participate. Free Junior Ranger books are available at the King Salmon and Brooks Camp visitor centers or online https://go.nps.gov/ katmranger. Turn in completed books to either visitor center where a ranger will swear you in, sign your certificate, and present you with your official badge. Books can also be mailed to: Katmai National Park and Preserve Division of Interpretation PO Box 7 King Salmon, AK 99613 Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes Tour A park ranger leads this scenic bus ride through some of Katmai’s spectacular backcountry. After lunch at the Robert F. Griggs Visitor Center overlooking the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, join an optional park ranger-led hike into the Valley. The hike is 3.4 miles (5.5 km) round-trip, with 1,000 feet (305 m) of elevation change. Sturdy boots, water, raingear, and warm clothes are recommended. The tour is 7–8 hours. Inquire at Brooks Lodge for reservations or contact Katmailand at 1-800-544-0551 and www.katmailand.com. Evening Slide Show Programs Join a park ranger for a 45-minute illustrated program offering information and interesting perspectives on Katmai’s special features, history, and wildlife. Inquire at the visitor center for times and topics. Cultural History Walk A park ranger leads this short .25 mile (0.4 km) walk sharing the human history of Brooks River Archeological District and National Historic Landmark, including traditional Alaska Native uses of plants and animals. The walk lasts about an hour and leads to a reconstructed Alutiiq/Sugpiaq dwelling. NPS NPS NPS Creature Comforts: Braving Alaska’s Infamous Insects early summer. No-see-ums (very small biting midges) peak in August. Population sizes vary each year depending on weather and temperatures. No-see-ums could reign supreme one year and seem nonexistent the next. Everyone reacts differently to insect bites and thus there are differing opinions on which insect is the peskiest. Rain, cold winds, and the unrelenting onslaught of biting insects—the beauty of Alaska does indeed come at a price. While photographers are busy lining up the perfect shot at Brooks Falls, black flies and mosquitoes are working at an equally frantic pace to find the perfect shot into the photographers’ skin. So what do you need to know in order to survive with your skin intact? For starters, don’t plan on being attacked by mosquitoes alone. One of the most despised insects around Brooks Camp is the white sock. A species of small biting black fly, they are nicknamed for characteristic white stripes on their legs. Swarms can be brutal and persistent, working their way under clothing. Female flies rasp into the skin of their hosts, unlike mosquitoes that merely pierce the skin with their needle-like proboscis. Bites can be identified by a characteristic red incision mark in the middle of the swollen bite area. M. FITZ At Katmai, mosquitos and black flies are typically most abundant in late spring and Biting insects, like mosquitoes and black flies, are ubiquitous in Katmai. Expect close encounters! Relief from biting insects usually arrives on days when the weather is windy, rainy, and just generally dismal. Fortunately, skies around Brooks Camp are clear for only 20 percent of the summer. The best defense is to cover up. Many people report that insect repellent containing DEET is not always effective. Therefore, it is wise to invest in a good head net, wear long sleeved shirts, and be prepared to tuck your pant legs into your socks on particularly buggy days. It may be difficult to see value in the Class Insecta, but consider the indispensable role these insects play in the ecosystem. Male mosquitos and black flies are pollinators. They all serve as food sources for other animals. Furthermore, they respond more quickly to environmental changes than vertebrates do, which can help provide early detection of ecological changes. Regardless of their ecological importance, the insects of Katmai provide visitors with something else: stories to take back home— battle scars, even—to remind us that the beauty of Alaska can’t be won without persevering through hardships, however large, or small, they may be. The Novarupta 7 Brooks Camp Campground The only developed campground in Katmai National Park and Preserve is located at Brooks Camp. Campground reservations are required May to October and must be made in advance. The campground has a limit of 60 people. See page 9 for more information. Campfires Campfires are allowed in the three designated fire rings near each cooking shelter. Only dead and downed wood may be collected for firewood. Please do not cook over open fires. NPS/M. FITZ Because of the high numbers of bears in the Brooks Camp area, the campground is specially managed to minimize human–bear conflicts. Campers must take special precautions to reduce odors from food, garbage, and anything else that could appeal to a bear’s strong sense of smell. NPS/B. LUTES With its wildlife viewing opportunities, access to Naknek Lake, and stunning views of nearby mountains, the Brooks Camp Campground is considered by many to be one of the top campgrounds in North America. Facilities in the campground include cooking and eating shelters as well as food and gear caches. Cooking All cooking and eating must take place within one of the three shared cooking shelters. (As a safety precaution, campers arriving by air with portable camp stoves should bring empty fuel bottles and purchase fuel at the Brooks Lodge Trading Post.) Wash dishes and cooking utensils at the water spigot near the food storage cache. Food and Gear Storage All food, refuse, and any other odorous items (e.g., toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) must be stored in the centrally located food cache which also contains a trash receptacle. In order to prevent curious bears from investigating, please store any unused equipment in the gear storage cache adjacent to the food cache. A fireproof locker is available to store flammable materials, such as stove fuel. Electrified Fence Brooks Camp Campground is enclosed within an electric fence designed to deter bears from entering. The fence is not bear proof, although once “shocked,” bears tend to avoid any subsequent contact with these fences. How Far is the Walk to... Visitor Center Brooks Camp Campground Cultural Site South Platform Falls Trail Outhouse Falls Platform Lake Brooks (one way distances) Visitor Center 0 0.3 mi (0.5 km) 0.25 mi (0.4 km) 0.3 mi (0.5 km) 0.6 mi (1 km) 1.2 mi (1.9 km) 1.2 mi (1.9 km) Brooks Camp Campground 0.3 mi (0.5 km) 0 0.55mi (0.9 km) 0.6 mi (1 km) 0.9 mi (1.4 km) 1.4 mi (2.3 km) 1.5 mi (2.4 km) Cultural Site 0.25 mi (0.4 km) 0.55 mi (0.9 km) 0 0.55 mi (0.9 km) 0.85 mi (1.4 km) 1.45 mi (2.3 km) 1.55 mi (2.5 km) South Platform 0.3 mi (0.5 km) 0.6 mi (1 km) 0.55 mi (0.9 km) 0 0.3 mi (.5 km) 0.9 mi (1.4 km) 1 mi (1.6 km) 0.6 mi (1 km) 0.9 mi (1.4 km) 0.85mi (1.4 km) 0.3 mi (0.5 km) 0 0.6 mi (1 km) 0.7 mi (1.1 km) Brooks Falls Platform 1.2 mi (1.9 km) 1.4 mi (2.3 km) 1.45 mi (2.3 km) 0.9 mi (1.4 km) 0.6 mi (1 km) 0 1.3 mi (2.1 km) Lake Brooks 1.2 mi (1.9 km) 1.5 mi (2.4 km) 1.55 mi (2.5 km) 1 mi (1.6 km) 0.7 mi (1.1 km) 1.3 mi (2.1 km) 0 Falls Trail Outhouse 8 The Novarupta Campground Reservations During the month of July, campsites may be reserved for a maximum of seven nights, cumulatively. Campers arriving without a reservation, especially during July when the campground is usually full, must be prepared to backcountry camp outside of the Brooks Camp Developed Area—defined as the area within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of Brooks Falls. Reservations cost $12.00 per person per night from June 1–September 17 and $6 per person per night in May and September 18 to October 31. Please visit www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777 (within United States), 518-8853639 (international). NPS/M. FITZ Reservations are required for the Brooks Camp Campground from May to October. Reservations can be made beginning January 5 each year. Telephone and internet access are not available at Brooks Camp, so campground reservations must be made prior to your arrival. Brooks Camp Campground is surrounded by an electric fence. It is bear-resistant, but not bearproof. Campers must take precautions so that bears are not tempted to enter the campground. Brooks Camp Area Map Bear Jam! Bear activity may delay travel in Brooks Camp at any time. Be prepared to wait in windy and/or rainy conditions and allow yourself ample time to meet meal services and/or your departing flight. The Novarupta 9 Bear Viewing at Brooks Camp Bears Galore Brooks Camp is world famous for its bear viewing opportunities. It is one of the most accessible and popular bear watching sites in Katmai National Park. Watching bears at Brooks Camp is an unforgettable experience, but timing your trip properly is critical because the overall number of bears as well as their general behavior varies with the seasons. When can bears be seen at Brooks Camp? Springtime is a lean season for bears. Little food is typically available to bears in the spring so bears are dispersed throughout the area and are only infrequently seen at Brooks Camp in May and June. When the salmon begin to arrive in late June, bears migrate to the Brooks River. Bears can be seen fishing at Brooks Falls and in the lower Brooks River throughout the month of July. Mid-July is typically when the largest number of bears can be seen along the river. In late July, after the salmon run peaks, bears begin to disperse to feed in other areas. In August, salmon are beginning to spawn in the Brooks River, but they are less concentrated, remain energetic, and are no longer migrating. This creates difficult fishing conditions for bears and almost all of the bears will leave the area. Like June, there are typically days in August when no bears are seen at Brooks Camp. By late August, many salmon have already spawned and will begin to die. As the fish weaken and die, bears will again migrate to the Brooks River to feed. In September, bears are usually present in high numbers as they search for dead and dying salmon. 10 The Novarupta NPS/M. FITZ Bear viewing at Brooks Camp is best from very late June through the end of July and again in September. At other times of the year, like June and August, less food is available along the Brooks River so bears are not seen as frequently. Watching a mother bear play with her cub is an unforgettable experience. The behavior and appearance of the bears also varies with the season. In July, more aggressive interactions between bears are observed, especially at the beginning of the month. Bears are also thinner and many will shed their fur at this time. In September, bears at Brooks Camp are typically less aggressive towards each other. In contrast to early summer, bears in September and later in the fall are usually fat and covered with a new coat of fur. Where can bears be seen at Brooks Camp? The brown bears of Katmai are eating machines. A Katmai bear must eat a full year’s worth of food in 6-8 months to ensure its survival. Katmai’s bears predictably congregate around rich and concentrated sources of food. At Brooks Camp this means salmon. During the peak of the salmon migration in July, bears will fish for salmon all along the Brooks River, but bears will be especially concentrated at Brooks Falls. The falls creates a temporary barrier to migrating salmon which gives some bears the opportunity to catch many fish with little effort. Typically, the largest and most dominant bears along the river fish at Brooks Falls. In July, many of the bears that cannot compete for fishing spots at Brooks Falls will fish the lower half of the Brooks River. At this time of the year, females with cubs are usually easiest to see near the mouth of the Brooks River. After the salmon begin to spawn and die in late summer, bear activity is concentrated in the lower half of the Brooks River. In some years a few bears may still fish at Brooks Falls and the upper Brooks River in September and October, but most will patrol the slower moving waters of the lower Brooks River as they search for dead and dying salmon that collect in the slow moving currents and eddies near the river mouth and bridge. Five wildlife viewing platforms can be found along the river – one at Brooks Falls, one downstream of the falls, and three at the mouth of Brooks River. Each one can offer unique bear watching experiences in season. Other Considerations Brooks Camp is a unique place with special regulations designed to protect bears and people. as well as biting insects like mosquitos and black flies. Everyone who arrives at Brooks Camp is required to check i