Although commonly referred to as “coastal brown bears” rather than “grizzly bears”, the brown bears on the Alaska Peninsula are classified as the same species as other North American grizzly bears (Ursus arctos, for the Latin scholars and biologists out there). However, these lucky bears fare better than grizzlies in terms of both their food sources and the milder coastal climate where they live. In addition to the annual salmon run and the clams that they dig out on the coastal flats, there is an abundance of berries and other bear-friendly vegetarian dishes on the menu. They are therefore larger, on average, than the (already imposing) inland grizzlies. They also live in higher densities. We were lucky enough to visit one of the prime sites for seeing these bears up close, Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park. Small planes that land on the beach is the only way to reach this lodge, so getting there was part of the fun. Here are some of our photos of this magnificent adventure.
Hanging around at the boarding gate feels a bit different at Anchorage’s Lake Hood Seaplane Base & Strip
Our plane had a rather “vintage” feel but looking at the scenery instead of the instrument panel helped
Muskegs are “North American swamps or bogs consisting of a mixture of water and partly dead vegetation, frequently covered by a layer of sphagnum or other mosses”
Lake Clark National Park from above
The beach on the left serves as a landing strip for Silver Salmon Creek Lodge
Tim, our pilot, trades us in for a pair of fishermen
On the rainy second day, we saw several bears vigorously shaking themselves. Saul’s camera caught this cub in the act.
These siblings, recently exiled by mom, are staying close together for now
Despite his weather-proof coat, this bear did not appear impressed with the downpour
With a knowledgeable guide keeping a close eye on us, we were able to get close to bears without triggering any changes in their natural behaviour (which, in autumn, is focused eating before hibernation). Only the occasional cub showed any interest in us.
I now understand why the Americans call them ATVs (all-terrain vehicles)
Saul photographs a young bear (this one was about 2.5 years old, according to our guide)
I sometimes get tired of Saul’s red Arc’teryx jacket. But when I saw this, I was grateful for the red jacket again.
Another photographer in an even more… shall we say… traditional bear photography outfit
When they get going, the speed is impressive (and a little bit scary)
A cub that fell behind takes the shortest and muddiest route back to mom
Almost time to go clamming
Lined up and ready to fly back to Anchorage