Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears

Lake Clark is in the centre of the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (LCNPP). It is located 160 km southwest of Anchorage in the state of Alaska.  LCNPP is around 1,630,889 hectares of pristine and untamed Alaskan wilderness, of that approximately 1,067,000 hectares is the park and 570,000 hectares is in the preserve.

Stunning landscapes on the shores of Lake Clark
Stunning landscapes on the shores of Lake Clarke
Beautiful meadows, landscapes and untouched wilderness
Beautiful landscapes and untouched wilderness
Sunrise at Lake Clark
Sunrise at Lake Clark

This area comprises of many streams, lakes, glaciers, salmon run, bear fishing and foraging, salmon fishing, forests, meadows and two volcanoes (Mount Redoubt and Mount IIiamna). Mount Redoubt is still an active volcano, the last eruptions were in 1989 and 2009. 

Mount Redoubt Volcano
Mount Redoubt Volcano

There is a large population of brown bears which are attracted to LCNPP due to the abundance of sockeye salmon, which has made this destination a very popular one for bear watching and photographing.

Juvenile male bear
Juvenile male bear

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 there are no bears on the beach.

Charter Air from Anchorage
Shared beach, bears, humans and small planes
Shared beach, bears, humans and small planes
The Main attraction – the Bears

Alaska is home to 95% of brown bears in USA. Lake Clark provides a protected habitat for its brown bears. 

Sow with her two cubs
Sow with her two cubs
Bear on the run!
Bear on the run!
Sow teaching her cub to swim
Sow teaching her cub to swim
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 diet consist of vegetation. All bears have the characteristic shoulder hump, long curved claws and wide head.  

Bear fishing
Bear fishing

Lake Clark’s coastal brown bears have a wide variety of vegetation and marine food as rivers are full of 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 up to 450kg. Average weight for males is 270 – 410 kg, height 2 – 3 metres. Females weigh approximately one third of a males weight.

Bear hunting for clams

There are very few places in the world where you can find such a large concentration of brown bears in such a small area. Lake Clark’s coastal habitats are wild places, and have no roads, towns or camping grounds. With a very small human population, humans are vastly outnumbered by the bears.

Bear sitting and waiting for fresh salmon to swim by on the shores of Lake Clark
Bear sitting and waiting for fresh salmon to swim by on the shores of Lake Clark

Bear viewing occurs in two small areas, Chinitna Bay and Silver Salmon Creek. It is due to strict guidelines and the use of trained local rangers that the bears in these areas are used to human presence and have no fear. 

Bear cooling off oblivious to the human presence nearby
Bear cooling off oblivious the human presence nearby

Bears have never been hunted or fed in these areas, which makes these bears not fearful of humans. The trained and knowledgeable guides ensure that the bears are protected at all times. There is also an abundance of food for the bears and they do not have to share it with anyone.

A pair of bear cubs frolicking in the meadow
A pair of bear cubs frolicking in the meadow

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. Both lodges are accessed by small planes from Anchorage or Soldotna. The best time to visit is in June – July when bears are out feeding in preparation for their winter hibernation. Sows are now more comfortable to show off their very young cubs

Silver Salmon Creek Lodge
Silver Salmon Creek Lodge
Fireweed meadow
Fireweed meadow

Fireweed is a tall plant (0.70m – 1.5m), with pink flowers. It is so named 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 other wildlife feast on the small shoots.

Bear photographers from Lake Clark
My team of photogarphers

It was such a great privilege to observe and photograph bears, sows and their cubs, and roaming around in their natural and undisturbed habitat in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. 

Heading home at the end of the day!
Heading home at the end of the day!

Please enjoy this short video of Lake Clark
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