Website Feedback Button
Fish and Game Home

Alaska Department of Fish and Game


McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge
Wildlife Viewing

Description

The largest known gathering of brown bears in the world happens at McNeil River. Visitors get an unparalleled opportunity to watch the bears feeding, fighting, playing, and mating. In early July, as chum salmon return to the river to spawn, a series of cascading rapids and pools slows their migration making them easy prey for hungry bears. As many as 74 bruins have been observed in the area of the falls during the peak of the run in late July. Earlier in the season, red salmon returning to adjacent Mikfik Creek also draw bears, which plunge into the cold water in pursuit of the darting fish. Visitors may also see harbor seals, red fox, and a great diversity of birds, including cormorants, harlequin ducks, bald eagles, glaucous gulls, and songbirds.

Viewing Information

Apply by March 1 for a permit to visit the popular sanctuary. Permits are awarded through a lottery and are valid for an assigned four-day period between June 7 and August 25. Each day, up to ten permit holders hike to one of the bear viewing areas, accompanied by an Alaska Department of Fish and Game naturalist. Typically, groups spend six to seven hours watching and photographing the bears. Visitors camp at an established campground and cook in a nearby cabin. For additional information visit the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary website.

Directions

Although the sanctuary is accessible by boat, virtually all visitors fly from Homer to the McNeil River area using one of several air charter companies.

Contact

ADF&G (907) 267-2253 or visit the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary website.

Please take a moment to help us improve your experience at the ADF&G website.
How did you arrive at our website?
Why did you visit our website today?
Did you find what you were looking for?
How easy or hard was it to find?
Very Easy Very Hard
Please provide any other comments or suggestions about your experience on the ADF&G website.

Having Trouble with this form?