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.

Lake Clark
Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears

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, home of the brown bears.
Sunrise at Lake Clark, home of the brown bears.

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. 

Mount Redoubt Volcano seen from Lake Clark, home of the bears.
Mount Redoubt Volcano.

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.

A juvenile male brown bear appeared to be very curious.
A juvenile male brown bear appeared to be very curious.

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.

Charter Air from Anchorage is about to take off from Lake Clark beach landing strip.
Charter Air from Anchorage is about to take off from Lake Clark beach landing strip.
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 the USA. Lake Clark provides a protected habitat for its brown bears. 

Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears

Sow with her two cubs
Sow with her two cubs
Bear on the run in search of salmon.
Bear on the run in search of salmon.
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 diets consist of vegetation. All bears have the characteristic shoulder hump, long curved claws and broad head.  

Bears head our early  in the morning in search of salmon 

Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears
Brown bear out in search of salmon.

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.

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. In addition, Lake Clark’s coastal habitats are wild places, having no roads, towns or camping grounds.

This bear was keener on the paparazzi than the salmon.
This bear was keener on the paparazzi than the salmon.

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. 

Bear cooling off oblivious to the human presence nearby.

Lake Clark Alaska ~ Home of the Bears
Bear cooling off in a stream.

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.

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. 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.

Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, one of two camps to stay at Lake Clark.
Silver Salmon Creek Lodge.
Fireweed meadow.
Fireweed meadow.

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.

My team of photographers who were a great group to travel with.
My fellow photographers were a great group.

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. 

Heading home at the end of the day!
They were heading home at the end of the day!

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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