Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears
Brown bears have made Lake Clark Alaska, their home. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (LCNPP) is approximately 160 km southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. It comprises 1,630,889 hectares of the pristine and untamed Alaskan wilderness, approximately 1,067,000 hectares in the park, and 570,000 hectares in the preserve. LCNPP was created in 1980 to protect and preserve its natural habitat and the brown bears that live in the park. As a result, it is often called Alaska’s wildest park.
Approximately ninety-five per cent of brown bears in the USA live in Alaska. Therefore, Lake Clark has a large population of them.
This area comprises many streams, lakes, glaciers, salmon run, bear fishing and foraging, salmon fishing, forests, meadows and two volcanoes (Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna). Mount Redoubt is still an active volcano; the last eruptions were in 1989 and 2009.
There is a large population of brown bears attracted to LCNPP due to the abundance of sockeye salmon, which has made this destination a trendy one for bear watching and photographing.
Lake Clark is so remote, the only way to get there is by boat or a one-hour small scenic air charter from Anchorage. The airstrip is on the beach, a shared zone with bears, humans and small planes. Rangers are present for all landings and take-offs to ensure no bears on the beach.
The Main attraction – the Bears
Alaska is home to 95% of brown bears in the USA. Lake Clark provides a protected habitat for its brown bears.
Brown Bear or Grizzly Bear – what is the difference?
Both brown and grizzly bears are the same species. The only difference between them is their location, which impacts their diet, size and behaviour. Coastal bears are called ‘brown bears’ with diets that consist of marine-based food, while ‘inland bears’ are called grizzly bears diets consist of vegetation. All bears have the characteristic shoulder hump, long curved claws and broad head.
Lake Clark’s coastal brown bears have a wide variety of vegetation and marine food as rivers contain clams and salmon. Bears gather in estuaries in large numbers to eat and mate. With the plentiful food in this area, the brown bears grow larger and fatter, some males weighing 450kg. The average weight for males is 270 – 410 kg, height 2 – 3 metres. Females weigh approximately one-third of the male weight.
There are very few places in the world where you can find such a large concentration of brown bears in such a small area. In addition, Lake Clark’s coastal habitats are wild places, having no roads, towns or camping grounds.
Bear viewing occurs in two small areas, Chinitna Bay and Silver Salmon Creek. Due to strict guidelines and trained local rangers, the bears in these areas are used to human presence and have no fear as long as humans keep a reasonable distance from the bears.
Bears have never been hunted or fed in this area, making them not fear humans. The trained and knowledgeable guides ensure that the strict viewing rules are adhered to at all times.
There are two lodges in Cook Inlet to stay at when visiting Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park. Alaska Homestead Lodge and Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. To access Lake Clark and its lodges is by small plane from Anchorage or Soldotna. The best time to visit is between May to September. Bears are out for the salmon run. Salmon migrate up rivers where they spawn on gravel beds, creating a plentiful supply of food in preparation for their winter hibernation. Sows are now more comfortable showing off their very young cubs.
Fireweed is a tall plant 0.70m – 1.5m, with pink flowers. It’s called fireweed due to its ability to grow fast on forest floors and following fires. It grows in meadows, woods and along Alaska’s Highways. Bears and another wildlife feast on the small shoots.
It was such a great privilege to observe and photograph bears, sows, and cubs as they roamed around in their natural and undisturbed habitat in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
As the bears were heading home, so did I.
I spent a week at Lake Clark. During this time, I had the privilege of walking with these unique brown bears. For anyone who loves brown bears and wild wilderness, I can highly recommend a visit to Lake Clark.
Please enjoy this short video of Lake Clark
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