Entering Seymour Canal, we see Pacific Sapphire on our AIS eight miles ahead. Spirit Journey is heading north up Stevens Passage 10 miles away. We are all bound for Windfall Harbor for the 2nd annual Krogen Mini Rendezvous. Last year there were three of us. Our number has grown this year to five Krogens. Voyager and Ptarmigan arrive the second day. Windfall Harbor is a nice protected anchorage just three miles away from Pack Creek.
We are here to see the brown bears of Pack Creek. Admiralty Island 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 a legend in these parts. After his death, a joint venture was created between the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to protect both the bears and humans from harm. Pack Creek remains a wilderness area and is monitored by four rangers camping on a nearby island who commute daily to the sanctuary by a small boat. 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 are no fences or cages separating humans from bears but we are allowed only in certain areas. The bears know where to expect us and there has never been a bear attack at Pack Creek. This will be our fourth year for visiting this special place.
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. We catch a few as bait for the crab traps and halibut rigs.
The bears are out fishing also and we have some excellent bear viewing from the comfort of our pilot house.
At one point we count eight bears roaming the flats in search of salmon that have become trapped in pools as the tide goes out.
At low tide, they concentrate digging for clams.
Paddling the Kayaks up to Middle Creek, we again get extra close to the hungry bears as they charge into the salmon swollen streams.
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 trip from Juneau. Our Krogen flotilla was fortunate to all get permits for two days of bear viewing. Since we have been here many times, we volunteer to dog sit Ron and Michele’s 10 month old puppy, Forrest, aboard their boat Spirit Journey so they can both attend the first day of bear viewing. This is their first time to Pack Creek and despite the rainy weather a great time is had viewing the bears. We have a blast spending the day with Forrest and teaching him new tricks.
Tomorrow we will spend the day with the Bears of Pack Creek. Thanks for following along.