Near the mouth of Pack Creek on the tidal flat viewing area.

Alaskan Brown Bear on Admiralty Island
and a visit to Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary.

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We met our new "Alaska Discovery" tour group the night before we left Juneau. The next morning we all drove to the airport (there is a body of water that is adjacent the runway where all of the floatplanes are docked) and hopped on two floatplanes (twin Beech and a DeHavoline Beaver). We flew about 50 miles southwest to a spot near Staunch Point, at the mouth of Windfall Harbor on Admiralty Island.

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DeHavoline Beaver on floats

Peggy waiting for the Twin Beech to come in.
We made camp near Staunch Point. There were two mink that shared our campsite the next 4 days and didn't seem to be even slightly concerned about us being there. They often walked right through camp only 5 to 8 feet away. Occasionally they would chatter with each other as they playfully wrestled and tumbled near the edge of camp. A couple of days we saw a humpback whale in Windfall Harbor, once quite close. Our guides were surprised because they had never seen a humpback in those waters before.

Pieter the Dutchman.

View from viewing tower.

Admiralty Island, where we camped, has the heaviest population of bear of any place in the world. This one island has 2,400 bears. More than all of the lower 48 states combined!

The second day we paddled over to Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. Each day only 24 people are issued permits to enter this restricted area. The day we were there only 19 people arrived and most were only there 3-4 hours. We unloaded our day supplies and placed them in bear proof, underground, steel lockers. We then attached the kayaks to a pulley system and tied them offshore to a buoy.

Within 5 minutes we saw our first Alaskan Brown Bear. He was fishing for salmon in the mouth of the creek but was still a long way away (probably 50 to 80 yards). We hiked a short distance to a gravel viewing area that over looked the mouth of the creek, kind of a delta area. It was exciting, there was nothing between the bears and us and within the next couple of hours we saw 7 bears. Including a sow with a spring cub, another sow with 2 second year cubs. The ranger said the largest bear we were watching was probably about 850 pounds. A young adult bear (about 550 pounds) got chased away by the bigger bear and ran straight towards us. At one point he was probably only 10 or 15 feet away from us. Exciting! After a few hours on the delta we hiked back to the anti-bear lockers and had lunch.

Afterwards we hiked about a mile over a small ridge to a 20 foot tall viewing tower located up stream near a wide spot in the creek in the middle of a densely wooded forest. We didn't see anything for at least an hour until our first bear arrived and fished for a while. Eventually we saw 5 adult bears from the tower. Most came within 5 feet and we watched them interact with each other (chase some away) and catch and eat salmon. The stream was almost solid pink and chum salmon in spots. The salmon were packed in like cordwood. When it came time for us to leave we were detained for about 45 minutes. The tower was surrounded by bears, including the trail out. Since we were over due at the ranger checkpoint we finally decided to just make a lot of noise and make an organized departure. It was very exhilarating.

All total we were at Pack Creek 9 hours. On our mile and a half kayak back to camp we saw another sow with a cub on the beach. That brought our total to 14 bears in one day. That night we saw the Northern Lights. We had an exceptional day!

The next couple of days we kayaked in and around Windfall Harbor and up past Swan Island to Swan Point on the other side of Pack Creek. Our last day was drizzly and low overcast clouds but the floatplanes arrive right on schedule to pick us up. We found out later, that because of the weather, our planes were the only planes to get in and out of the Pack Creek area all day. We were lucky.

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