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Kodiak & the Alaska Peninsula
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Kodiak & the Alaska Peninsula



Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge

Afognak, Raspberry & Shuyak Islands

Katmai National Park & Preserve

McNeil River State Game Sanctuary

Becharof National Wildlife Refuge

Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve


Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge

Sand Point

King Cove

Cold Bay

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

McNeil River State Game Sanctuary

Location/Size: Above Kamishak Bay on Cook Inlet, 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. 83,840 acres.

Main Activities: Bear observation.

Gateway Towns/Getting There: Anchorage/scheduled air service, vehicle access via Seward Highway and Glenn Highway (AK 1); Kenai/scheduled air service, vehicle access via Sterling Highway

(AK 1); Homer/scheduled air service, scheduled ferry from Seward and Kodiak, vehicle access via Sterling Highway (AK 1). Sanctuary access: limited access via lottery, charter plane to Kamishak Bay, hike to falls.

Facilities, Camping, Lodging: Trail to designated bear observation area. Designated primitive camping area.

Headquarters and Information: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, AK 99518, 267-2182 (applications), 344-0541, www.wc.adfg.state.ak.us/mcneil/index.cfm.

The greatest seasonal concentration of brown bears in the world is found along the McNeil River, which flows from high cirques and glaciers in Katmai National Park into McNeil Cove of Kamishak Bay. Upon recognition of its status, the state created a contiguous sanctuary from the national park wilderness boundary to the sea. Hunting and fishing are banned in the refuge, and only 200 to 300 visitors per year are permitted.

Entry to the sanctuary is by lottery selection from all applications received. Applicants must obtain an application via a written or phone request to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Wildlife Conservation, 333 Raspberry Road, Anchorage, AK 99502. Call 267-2182 for an application, 267-2137 or 267-2344 for information. More information is available online at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website: www.wc.adfg.state.ak.us/mcneil/index.cfm.

Submit the application and a nonrefundable $25 fee before March 1. Non-Alaskan lottery winners must pay an additional $350 fee while runners-up must pay $175 to hold a place on the stand-by list. Alaska residents pay $150 and $75. Visitors must cover all transport costs and supply their own food, camping gear, and waders for stream crossings. From the camping area, a ranger takes small groups of visitors on a two-hour hike to an open gravel viewing pad by the falls where as many as 100 bears may gather at one time.

There are many other places to see bears, but McNeil River is an archetype for all the rest. You’ve certainly seen McNeil bears in photos and documentaries. Consider trying to visit the source.