Wildlife watchers with some extra time might consider visiting Pack Creek, Anan Creek or Tracy Arm. Located slightly off the beaten path, these sites offering outstanding wildlife viewing. Visits can be arranged through a variety of commercial tour companies.
Visitors should recognize that Pack Creek and Anan Creek are not zoos or animal parks. Bears here are wild animals and have full access to the entire area, including trails and the observatory.
Pack Creek is one of Southeast Alaska's premier brown bear viewing areas. Located on Admiralty Island, the Pack Creek estuary provides an unusual opportunity to observe wild brown bears up close. The area is jointly managed by the Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Visits during the prime viewing season are by permit only. Most visitors arrive via floatplane from Juneau, about a 30-minute flight. The peak season is from July 5 to Aug. 25, with a shoulder season from June 1 to July 4 and again from Aug. 26 to Sept. 10. Permits are $50 during peak season and $20 during the shoulder seasons. Fish and Game technicians and Forest Service staff are available at the site.
The primary wildlife watching spot is known as the "viewing spit," a raised gravel bar overlooking the tidal estuary. The second location is a "viewing tower" in the forest reached by a one-mile hike on a good trail. Bears can be seen here fishing in the creek and traveling between the forest and the flats.
For more information, see http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/admiralty/packweb/packhome.html or contact the Forest Service in Juneau at (907) 586-8760.
Another outstanding bear viewing area is Anan Creek, 30 miles southeast of Wrangell. The creek supports one of the largest pink salmon runs in Southeast Alaska. During the salmon runs, from late June to late August, visitors may see brown bears, bald eagles, harbor seals, and sea lions, but black bears are the main attraction.
Anan Creek is accessible only by floatplane or boat, and a number of commercial operators provide transportation. The Forest Service has built an observatory at the falls so that people may view feeding bears in relative safety and comfort. The observatory is accessed by a half-mile scenic boardwalk that begins at the mouth of Anan Lagoon.
From July 5 through August 25 an individual pass ($10) is required.
For more information on Anan, see http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/ro/naturewatch/southeast/anan/anan.htm or contact the Forest Service in Wrangell at (907) 874-2323.
Tracy Arm is a stark but picturesque glacial fjord about 60 miles south of Juneau. When locals talk about Tracy Arm, they are usually referring to the entire Tracy Arm area, which includes Endicott Arm a few miles to the south, and Ford's Terror, which branches off Endicott Arm. Tidewater glaciers are found in both Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. These glaciers terminate as walls of glistening ice that are constantly calving icebergs into the waters of the fjords. Mountain goats may be seen on the cliffs and slopes above the water.
Sheer cliffs sweep 4,000 feet upward from the water in these deep, relatively narrow flooded glacial canyons. John Muir, who explored the area in the late 1800s, likened the area to a flooded Yosemite Valley. The Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness was designated in 1980 and contains about 650,000 acres.
Most visitors arrive by cruise ship. Interpretive day trips from Juneau are offered by a variety of operators as well. Adventurous visitors may explore the area by sea kayak. The many visitor information centers in Juneau offer information on day trips to Tracy Arm.