Inside Passage Blog

By Linda Lewis



August 4, 2007 – Anan Bay Bears - Part One


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 beds.
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.

I 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 experience.
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 there.

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 to see.

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 bears.

All he has to do is look and...

Dip his snout in and...

Haul it out.

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.

I 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.

Linda & Dave
M/V Royal Sounder



Copyright © 2017 LLC   |  Last updated January 7, 2017