McNeil River is a remote, low impact camping experience. You should have complete camping gear and come prepared to be self
sufficient as there are no accommodations available. The ADF&G does provide some support facilities at the site, see
Facilities and What to Bring below for a description of facilities available and gear to bring.
Weather at McNeil is typical of coastal Alaska Peninsula and can vary from clear with temps in the 60’s to cold rainy conditions
(temps in 40’s) with wind driven sideways rain. Note: Wind is common at McNeil - Clear and sunny does not necessarily mean warm
and cozy. Bring outdoor apparel suitable for layering and cool wet fall weather. Good rain gear is critical as the area is
subject to storms. If rough weather sets in, it may be necessary to remain a few additional days at McNeil River until your
air taxi can pick you up. Make your plans with this possibility in mind.
To reach the viewing areas you will need to complete a 4-mile round-trip hike to and from the falls. While this hike is not
particularly hazardous it does involve slogging across mud flats and wading across Mikfik Creek or McNeil River Lagoon. Hip
boots are essential.
Portable stools are provided for your use while at the McNeil River falls viewing area. While in the field elsewhere
at McNeil, visitors sit on the ground or they stand.
The Bears Come First At McNeil River. The McNeil River area was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1967 (and enlarged
it in 1993) to protect the world’s largest concentration of wild brown bears. As many as 144 individual bears have been
observed at McNeil River through the summer with as many as 74 bears observed at one time! All human use in the sanctuary
is managed for the continued protection of this bear concentration. The goal of the permit program is to provide the public
with an opportunity to view and photograph bears while minimizing their impact to bears and wildlife habitats.
You are required to sign a liability waiver because there are inherent risks anytime one travels in brown bear country. We
have an excellent safety record at McNeil River Sanctuary and no one has ever been injured by a bear at the sanctuary. Armed
department personnel accompany visitors in the bear viewing area and are readily available should a bear wander into base camp.
Therefore, we advise against carrying personal firearms.
As noted above McNeil River is a remote camping experience, however, some facilities are provided to support visitors and staff.
The following is a brief summary of the facilities available at the McNeil Camp.
The layout of the facilities in relation to each other and viewing areas can be seen through the
overview map (PDF 212 kB),
overview sketches (PDF 57 kB),
aerial view of camp (PDF 529 kB)
camp site sketch (PDF 37 kB).
There are 14 gravel pad campsites within the McNeil River camp. These are clustered in the campground area near the Cook Cabin
There is an approximately 16’ x 24’ (5m x 7.5m) public use cook cabin at the McNeil campground. All food and scented items
(toothpaste, lotions, etc.) are stored in the cook cabin. All cooking is done in the cook cabin, six propane burners and
basic cookware are provided for visitor cooking needs. Visitors do need to bring their own food and personal utensils and
any specialized cook gear. The cook cabin also acts as a community gathering place and has a wood stove that will
allow you to warm up and dry gear. The cook cabin has tables, benches, and a collection of natural history literature.
Two pit type outhouses are provided at the far end of camp.
A small individual use washhouse is provided for guest and staff personal cleanliness.
Untreated fresh water is available from a nearby stream and is gathered by visitors in 5 gallon jugs and stored in the cook
cabin and used on a community use basis. Visitors will need to filter or treat their own drinking water and should bring
water filters or other water treatment methods to purify drinking water. There is no electricity or power access for visitors.
Two staff cabins and a combination tool shed / cabin exist on the site to provide staff with office space, living
quarters and camp maintenance equipment during their 3 month stay at McNeil.
Emergencies: Staff have emergency medical supplies on site and are trained in first aid and in
responding to emergencies. Additionally, they are equipped with emergency communications including satellite
telephones and VHF, SSB and Marine band radios to communicate emergency response needs with the USCG, local
hospitals and emergency response. Satellite telephone use is limited to State business and visitor emergency
response. If you believe that you will need communications while at McNeil, you will need to arrange to bring your
own satellite telephone. You should bring personal physician and emergency contact information with you in
case there is a need for staff to contact them in an emergency. There are no cell phone or internet capabilities.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
P.O. Box 115526
1255 W. 8th Street
Juneau, AK 99811-5526