In 1978, along with our mentors and partners, we made the first organized, intentional effort to offer wildlife photographers the opportunity to photograph Alaska brown bears in their natural environment.
We established a camp 8 miles north of McNeil River, a spot famous for its brown bears on the Alaska Peninsula. The only access to McNeil River was by a small boat during high tide, and our trips were coordinated with the State Department of Fish & Game so that we could access McNeil Falls. From our base camp at Chenik Lagoon, we made daily trips to view the bears.
The McNeil River Sanctuary is currently managed and run by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game on a lottery based system. The applications for the lottery are available after the New Year on their website. If you're drawn, they will notify you and you can make the plans for your trip accordingly.
Now, because of our heartfelt love for the bears, we wanted to continue offering the Brown Bear Viewing to our guests. Because of the high interest in bears as a result of the NcNeil River program, and because it is such a popular activity that visitors to our state enjoy, we use two air-service businesses with many years experience of flying and guiding people to the Alaska Peninsula for a day of Brown Bear Viewing.
For your Alaska bear tour, while staying at Alaska’s Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge, we will book your flight out of Homer, with the best pilots and guides in Alaska. The pilots we work with are excellent - they have exemplary safety records and are incredibly knowledgable about Alaskan Brown Bears. Depending on the species of salmon, and when during the summer they spawn, both of the companies we use have a wide range of creeks and rivers to choose from between the southern boundaries of McNeil River and the northern boundaries of the Katmai National Park, which are on par with any of the Alaska Bear Viewing Lodges in the state. Because our Brown Bear Viewing adventures are so popular, these reservations need to be made in advance of the upcoming season. Please contact us for this years rates for this activity.
While staying at the Ridgewood, you also have the opportunity to observe Black Bears around the Halibut Cove area. They are the smallest of the North American bears, can vary in color from jet black to white, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game reports about 3,000-4,000 black bears are estimated on the Kenai Peninsula.