The Anan Bay Bear
Observatory is a unique place. Accessible only
by boat or floatplane, it offers a controlled-environment
opportunity to watch bears fishing for the salmon that are struggling
to get up Anan Creek to their spawning
Anan has become so popular that they now limit
the number of people allowed each day, and they
charge a nominal fee. Since we hadn't gotten
onto the reservations calendar way ahead of time,
we had to call three days before our intended
visit, right at 0800, and hold our breath
hoping we would get one of the reservation slots
they don't open until that moment. Lots of charter
vessels and float planes (out of Wrangell and
Ketchikan) bring groups here. We felt very
lucky to be able to go.
Boats don't usually anchor in Anan Bay itself
because there is a large area of shoal (too shallow)
that suddenly drops off to 100 feet (too deep
for most cruisers), where this charter sailboat
was anchored. Since we now have a high-power
skiff, we anchored in Frosty Bay and ran up the
nine miles to Anan for our time at the Observatory.
A great idea I learned
about this year is for cruisers to call and reserve
the Anan Bay cabin for the day. The cabin remains
unused; it's the FLOAT (available only to cabin
renters) that is useful. It makes a nice spot
to tie up and overnight in complete confidence.
loved going to Anan years ago and consider
it one of my favorite bear viewing experiences. (Remember
Barb and Monte?!) But on that trip, Dave missed
the experience because he stayed with the
boat in the marginal anchorage in Anan Bay. This
time he got to go too. And my experience this
time was even better than the first time. This
time we saw both black bears and brown bears.
They usually don't co-exist very well (the grizzlies
usually run the blacks out), but they do at Anan.
By the way, the control I mentioned above at
Anan is focused on the humans - not
the bears. We enter their environment under strict
rules and our reward is a truly amazing
There is a ranger at the beginning of the trail
that gives you the regs. NO food, gum, etc goes
with us. We are instructed to stay on the path
and to make noise as we move along. Surprising
a bear is not a good thing. This is a comfortable
walk (about a half mile) through a forest trail
that is part boardwalk. The ranger told us that
the bears have become acclimated to humans
being on the path between the hours of 8
AM and 4 PM. I clapped. I banged on the boards.
We had a clear path all the way to the viewing
platform. Noise is good.
As we walked along, we
could see a veritable carpet of salmon in the
stream. They all were heading for a rather narrow
point in the stream that is surrounded by some
nice flat rocks. The bears are waiting for them
The observatory has an
upper viewing platform as well as a lower platform.
The lower platform is all
enclosed like a duck blind. We had to take turns;
six people at a time. Being on that "photo-blind" platform puts
you right down at the level of the stream ...
and the bears. Wow!
Here is what we came
And this is what
the bear wants to see. This salmon is in mid-air as
it struggles to make its way up the creek. However,
farther along, at the edges of the creek, the
salmon are swimming right next to the waiting
All he has to do is
Dip his snout in and...
You would think a fish-in-the-mouth
would satisfy him. Noooo. He is thinking about
grabbing a second one.
Finally, off he goes to
dine at a convenient rock-table.
We saw several black
bears like this, all needing only to stick their
snout in the water and chomp down on a fish.
A few swiped with their paw, but they were clearly
the junior fishing crew.
There was one bear that was both black and brown. I
have learned enough about the shape of a black
bear's face (sharper, longish snout) and shoulders
(no hump) to see that this is a black bear.
But I wonder why there is so much brown. I
seem to remember something about the black-bear
juveniles having some brown. I would need a naturalist
to vet me on this one.
He was a bit more reclusive
than the rest of the gang and went off into the
woods a ways to deal with his catch in private.
hope this email is not exploding anyone's internet
pipeline with its size. You'll have to wait
for the next email to see Part Two of Anan and
the very beautiful grizzly we watched as it came
to within 50 feet of where we were standing
on the photo-blind platform.
M/V Royal Sounder