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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Can You See Bears In Juneau?
Alaska’s state capital, Juneau, is located at the heart of the Inside Passage on the Alaska Marine Highway. It sits in the southeastern part of the state, on the Gastineau Channel, and hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors each cruise season. Many of the travelers hope to see bears during their trip to Alaska! Never fear – Juneau bear viewing opportunities are as unlimited as the cruise ships docked in port.
Let’s Learn More About Juneau’s Bears!
There are two main species of bear found in Juneau: black bears and brown bears. But don’t be fooled – both bear species come in a variety of colors! The best way to tell the two apart during Juneau bear tours is to remember that black bears are smaller than brown bears, do not have a shoulder hump, and have a straight, flat-faced profile. Black bears can be black, brown, or cinnamon-colored. The rare blue “glacier” bear is also a sub-species of black bear – it just happens to have a blue cast to its fur.
Coastal-dwelling brown bears belong to the same species of bear as the much smaller grizzly bear. Grizzly bears live in the Interior and Northern regions of Alaska, while their coastal cousins live on – well, the coast! Brown bears are larger than black bears and also have a noticeable shoulder hump and much longer claws. No matter what shade of fur they display, brown bears can weigh up to 1,000 pounds! This makes identifying them during Juneau bear viewing expeditions fairly easy.
When Is Juneau Bear Viewing Season?
There are many places to see bears around Juneau, but the best Juneau bear tours will take you to Admiralty Island. Peak Juneau bear viewing season runs from July 5 to August 25, but the sanctuary of Admiralty Island is open from June 1 to September 10. If you want to avoid the crowds, book a Juneau bear tour during the shoulder season, which runs from June 1 to July 4 and August 26 to September 10. Admiralty Island is a bear-viewing hot spot because of the salmon runs!
Make Sure To Pack Your Permit!
One of the most important things you need to know about bear viewing on Admiralty Island is that you will need a permit to visit the sanctuary. There are permits available for purchase in Juneau, but your best bet is to apply for a permit ahead of time. Better yet, reserve a Juneau bear tour to Admiralty Island with a professional guide. They will source permits, arrange travel to and from the island, and provide expert knowledge about Bear Country.
The Ultimate Juneau Bear Viewing Adventure
The best place to see bears on Admiralty Island is at the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area. Each July, Pack Creek fills with salmon and becomes a rich feeding area for brown bears, who flock to the area to feed. The creek has been protected for 80 years but has been a popular bear-viewing destination for even longer. On a good day, between 10-12 brown bears can be found fishing on the river, digging up shellfish at the estuary, and grazing on beach grasses. Females with cubs, adolescents, and even adult males can be found at Pack Creek.
How Do I Get To Pack Creek?
For the ultimate Juneau bear-viewing adventure, Pack Creek is just a short 30-minute floatplane ride away from the capital. After landing on Admiralty Island, in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, you’ll be met by your guide. From there, you will hike to Pack Creek’s viewing area, where you will spend the day with your guide, watching the bears in their natural habitat!
Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll have the chance to see bears and their mating displays, foraging, browsing or fishing for salmon. You might get up close to mothers teaching cubs how to catch salmon, spot sleeping bruins in grassy day beds, and wander trails stamped out by bears.
Pack Creek Bear Viewing
There are two main bear observation areas along Pack Creek. The first is a 15-foot tall viewing tower and the second is a sand spit at the estuary of Pack Creek. It’s a one-mile walk to the viewing tower from your drop-off point, on a trail through the forest. The sand spit is a quarter-mile walk from your drop-off location. Keep in mind that Pack Creek is a wilderness area, with no bathrooms, amenities, or phone service!
However, Juneau bear tours at Pack Creek are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From its headwaters 4,000 feet above sea level, Pack Creek descends rapidly to the ocean salt water in the upper Seymour Canal. Sediments are deposited at its mouth, creating a 400-acre estuary. These mudflats are an important source of food for many animals, including bears, which feed on clams, shellfish, and other creatures throughout the summer. This estuary is one of the bear-viewing locations for tourists.
Bears gather at the creek when the pink and chum salmon return to spawn in their natal stream. Like all things wild, it is not possible to know exactly when the salmon runs begin in Pack Creek as it is part of an intricate and dynamic system. In the last several years, bears have begun catching fish between the second and last week of July.
The Biodiversity of Admiralty Island
Although visitors come to Pack Creek to see brown bears, the creek is home to many more animals. The wilderness world of Pack Creek contains endless opportunities for nature enthusiasts, including the highest concentration of bald eagle nests in the world. Other birds, mammals, and marine life thrive in this rich ecosystem of old-growth rainforest and coastal marine environments. Come for the Juneau bear viewing, but stay to discover the rest of the incredible things that Pack Creek has to offer!