Our one and only schedule for this summer is a mini rendezvous with three other Krogen owners at Pack Creek, a spectacular bear preserve. We have visited Pack Creek several times and it is an amazing place.
Pack Creek has been a popular bear viewing area since the 1930’s. It’s location is on Admiralty Island which is home to over 1600 Brown Bears. They outnumber humans nearly 3 to 1. The Tlingit name for the island is Xootsnoowu which means “ Fortress of the Bears”. In 1990 the Stan Price Wildlife Sanctuary was created encompassing 60,800 acres. Stan Price was known as “The Bear Man”. He homesteaded this land in the 1930’s and learned to peacefully coexist with the native brown bear population. He lived on the island for 40 years until he died of cancer in 1989. Stan was known far and wide as “ the bear man of Pack Creek”. After his death, a joint venture was created between the Forrest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to protect both the bears and humans from harm. This remains a wilderness area and is monitored by four rangers camping on a nearby island who commute daily by small boat to Pack Creek. Pack Creek is a relatively safe place for viewing bears in their natural habitat. These bears have grown up around humans and view us as neither a threat or food source. There has never been a bear attack here.
Between June 1st and September 10th, a permit is required to enter the Pack Creek bear viewing area. Only 24 permits are issued per day, 12 to private individuals like us and 12 to tour operators. Many of the visitors arrive by a 30 minute float plane ride from Juneau. Our Krogen flotilla is fortunate to be able to get permits and all travel together in our Krogens.
The three Krogens rendezvous in Windfall Harbor, a nice protected anchorage just 3 miles away from Pack Creek. We arrive a few days early for some fishing and exploration. The pink salmon are jumping like crazy as they are gathering up in mass just outside the numerous streams in Windfall. They aren’t quite ready to go up river for spawning and bite at our spinning lures. It is quite fun catching 8 lb salmon on a light spinning rod and reel. We catch eight pinks and could have caught more but don’t want to be greedy.
The bears are out each evening along the beach waiting for fish and digging for clams. Our anchorage provides a great spot for watching them.
When there are bears and salmon the Bald Eagles are never too far away.
The next morning, we travel by dinghies up to Pack Creek. After a clearance from the park rangers, we tie up to the outhaul lines and pull the dinghies away from the beach so the bears won’t bother them.
Ranger McKenzie gives us a briefing on the rules.
All food is stored in bear proof lockers and we are allowed to eat only in one spot along the beach. We are only permitted to visit two areas of the Island, a bear viewing meadow and the two mile trail to a tower overlooking a salmon stream. A sow and cub are asleep along the beach when we arrive so the ranger has us wait until they move to hike the beach to the viewing meadow.
We spend several hours at the meadow viewing area watching the bears come and go as they catch salmon in the stream.
There are two mom’s with cubs out today. Once the mom catches a salmon the cubs come running to snatch a meal.
It is hard work catching salmon so naps are in order once the bellies are full.
This guy is just waking up from his nap.
We hike the two mile trail to the viewing tower while making lots of noise. There are many bear signs but no bears on the trail. It’s a beautiful hike to the tower but with no bears around we return to the meadow.
Evening brings more bears out onto the flats in search of salmon.
These bears are used to humans being around and show no fear as they walk within 60 feet of us.
Watching the little guys follow mom around is quite entertaining.
Pack Creek was a great first stop for our mini Krogen rendezvous. Tomorrow we will all head towards Fords Terror, with its notorious rapids leading to glacial valleys . Thanks for following along.