Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park

The Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme Park-
By Dr. Barrie Gilbert

One of Alaska’s most treasured bear-viewing sites is about to be turned into a destination theme park, sacrificing grizzly bear habitat on the altar of commercial development. After a decade of development planning, EIS and public input, once aimed at major improvements in resource protection, the National Park Service has aborted earlier plans for removal of facilities at Brooks River in Katmai National Park. Protection of a unique population of bears at this premier site is now seriously compromised, going against 50 years of research-based recommendations. A stealth plan to expand development into bear habitat on both sides of Brooks River has quietly been hatched turning prime bear habitat into a sacrifice area. The Service is abandoning the long-planned removal of visitor and park facilities from one side of the river, the heart of essential bear habitat. Only moneyed interests will be happy.

The Brooks River near the camp.
The Brooks River near the camp.

Across the USA we are about to witness another instance of commercial development over-running the Park Service’s responsibility to protect park wildlife resources. Those who remember a similar planning process to eliminate the Fishing Bridge development in Yellowstone National Park for relocation out of essential grizzly habitat will recognize this current sham advancing for similar reasons at Brooks River.

Brooks bears are a large, ecologically unique population that concentrates in a small area around Brooks Camp in the heart of Katmai National Park due to unusual physical and ecological conditions.  Nowhere does such a dense aggregation of bears extend their fishing over a 4-month long season as a result of a super-abundance of salmon available first at a 5 foot falls then moving into spawning streams over a wide area culminating in massive carcass accumulations accessible into the fall.  Over time these protected bears have developed complex traditions to efficiently exploit this rich resource, a fascinating pattern unreported anywhere else on the planet.  This unparalleled ecological and behavioral complex stands to be degraded before the phenomenon is fully understood. If the massive permanent bridge, encroaching on both sides of the river and already designed and funded, is constructed, excessive human presence, accompanied by elevated noise and disturbance, and predictable over-use, will severely damage the area.

This ecological gem has further value because of the surprising but successful 50-year recovery, moving toward historically natural, high numbers and density of brown bears.   This high density permits the full ecological role of the bears in the system to be fully realized: processes such a nutrient transport into the higher elevation forests, seed transport in fecal deposits are now at work, but bridge impacts are likely to threaten ecological and behavioral functions that have yet to be discovered.

Studies beginning in 1955 followed by others in the early 90s showed clear impacts of escalating visitation at Brooks Camp and the attendant din of aircraft engines, boat motors and motorized vehicles used to service visitors.  Approximately half of the female bears with cubs were prevented from using large parts of their feeding habitat due to human activities.  Currently the number of visitors, aircraft landings and noise grows unabated. A high permanent bridge and a new 1500 foot elevated walkway threaten the last relatively people-free bear habitat.

There is rich irony in the Park Service’s failure to impose any limits on visitation compared to McNeil River’s visitor management (10 person limit) by Alaska Fish and Game, oft ridiculed as the hook and bullet bureaucracy, and not recognized for their conservation agenda in the McNeil case. Over 10,000 visitors arrive by seaplane or boat between May and October, with daily use exceeding 300 visitors during peak times. The fingerprints of the late Sen. Ted Stephens are all over Katmai management as a destination tourism cash cow. On the other hand, the state defends bear hunting interests by strangling bear-viewing state-wide. Nice trick.

If current plans for these permanent structures proceed the impacts of people on bear use will envelop virtually all of their essential habitat on both sides of the lower river.  This includes bears using the beach, Brooks Camp area, riffles, falls and the whole lower river.  Instead of providing people-free zones for bears, the amended plans have mysteriously mutated into development over-kill instead of the camp removal that was approved and which the public was promised.  As currently conceived the construction will not remove the concessionaire lodge and facility and will expand the footprint of development over archeological resources and valuable bear habitat, development which encourages further human impacts over larger areas with accompanying harassment and disturbance of bears.

A former Katmai National Park Superintendent, Ray Bane, wrote this recently:

Decisions as to the future of Brooks River must be, in large part, founded on scientific research. It is significant that three eminent bear biologists who had endorsed the Final Brooks River Development Concept Plan have recently withdrawn their support for the amended plan. Their rejection of the current plan reflects a growing concern that the welfare of the affected bear population will be adversely impacted by the on-going expansion of facilities and human activities at Brooks River.

The primary attraction at Brooks River is not the scenery or inanimate geological features. It is the bears, one of the most intelligent and complex species of wildlife found in North America. These animals are more than mere animate objects providing public entertainment. In their natural setting they have much to teach us about the complexities of nature and our own place in the natural world. We have much to learn from them, but that will require that we respect their fundamental needs and not overly impose our presence on their habitat.

As a university scientist I studied bear behavior and bear-human interactions for the Park Service under contracts beginning in 1984. Those studies of potential conflicts showed that Brooks Camp, including a concessionaire’s lodge, cabins and park service buildings were situated on trails used daily by bears during the summer salmon runs. Our results and the parks’ own records supported earlier studies by Will Troyer in the 50s. Troyer recommended that Brooks Camp be moved away from the heart of bear habitat. All studies showed that 500-1000 lb. bears were walking in close proximity to hundreds of people both day and night.

In 1998 the NPS regional office invited two wildlife biologists, Drs. Christopher Servheen and John Schoen, to assess Brooks bear-human interactions. Their report said that Brooks Camp is “the most dangerous bear-human interaction situation” of which they were aware.

Since the current amended plan allows dozens of float planes to land each day and deliver passengers on the same north beach as well as permitting the lodge and cabins to remain in bear habitat, the major source of conflicts remains. This means that a planned $5 million bridge and elevated walkway will no longer reduce these interactions with bears except in some minor locations.

The Park Service’s reversal in plans without adequate public review or even sufficient announcement is a threat to America’s willingness to trust this institution and calls into question the Service’s ability to resist political pressure that puts profits for a concession above the protection of the nation’s most cherished biological and cultural resources. We all need to insist that the NPS uphold its mission as mandated in the Organic Act of 1916, which is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  The appended plan needs to go back to the drawing board.



  1. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Surely this can be stopped or held up. What a disgusting development.

  2. cindy Avatar

    This must be stopped. Go back to the original act and as you stated so perfectly:We all need to insist that the NPS uphold its mission as mandated in the Organic Act of 1916, which is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The appended plan needs to go back to the drawing board.Once man comes in the park the next thing will be the “harvesting” of the bears!

  3. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Or the tourists will totally ignore safety warnings, and a bear(s) will have to pay the price and be killed. The park will pull rank on the bears as they did in Yellowstone recently, no matter how negligent the human’s behavior, as long as they are a paying customer! I am still so disappointed with the Park Service.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Ida Lupines,

      I am disappointed to, but it is important to notice the heavy political hand of Senator Stevens here. Given the insecurity of appropriations in this Congress and the power of individuals of the majority party to add and subtract funds in the government funding bill with no public notice, the Park Service has to be brave to do the right thing.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        Did you see this news story Ralph?

        “I’ve read everything from, you know, foul play – has someone poisoned them? Could it have been something chemical that leaked from a boat or left by a park visitor? Is it the plants, is it the mushrooms? Could it be disease? Could it be neurological?”

      2. North Country Avatar
        North Country

        As “Ted Stevens” posted below, Senator Lisa Murkowski is now the one wielding a heavy political hand. No matter how brave the NPS is, Murkowski still has the power to direct how the money will be spent: It is likely that Katmai’s concessioner, Katmailand, is behind the machinations of Murkowski, just as they were behind those of Senator Stevens.

  4. Junk Chuck Avatar

    So, I can’t seem to find much about this apart from Dr. Gilbert’s essay. The NPS site still has info about the 1996 plan to increase protection via removing and moving facilities. I appreciate having these things brought to my attention, but I want to see the actual details rather than get it second hand from Dr. Gilbert. If anyone finds any relevant links, it would be good to see those posted here. As always, Ralph, thanks for keeping an eagle eye open and letting us know about this stuff….

  5. Junk Chuck Avatar

    Is this what he’s talking about…I might just have needed to look a little further.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      That is it.

    2. North Country Avatar
      North Country

      This link might be helpful as well, particularly the document list on the left:

  6. Barrie Gilbert Avatar
    Barrie Gilbert

    Ralph, Here is a first hand, verbatim exchange on this issue between Interior Sec. Sally Jewell and Sen. Murkowski. It is the most current information I have from over a hundred hours of research on this fiasco. Help from all is needed. Please write the Secretary.

    Question. Madam Secretary, your budget request includes $4.4 million for the first phase of a $7.5 million project to replace the existing floating bridge at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park with an elevated bridge and walkway. This new bridge will be a minimum of 10 feet above the ground. The purpose is to minimize human-bear interactions which frequently cause lengthy delays for workers and visitors getting back and forth across the Brooks River.

    While these objectives may be worthwhile, I’m troubled by the fact that this bridge is part of what I view as an outdated Development Concept Plan (DCP) completed in 1996 that also calls for moving the entire existing Brooks lodge to the other side of the river. I completely disagree with that not only because it would be totally cost prohibitive, but also because of the historic significance of this facility. It was created by one of Alaska’s aviation pioneers who built this camp before Katmai National Park was established. I don’t want to see the construction of this bridge if it is part of an effort by the Park Service to move Brooks lodge.

    Is it still the DOI’s position that the Brooks lodge facility must be moved to the other side of the Brooks River?
    Answer. The National Park Service (NPS) does not plan to move the historic Brooks lodge facility. Once the bridge is finished, the NPS will complete the supporting infrastructure at the Valley Road Administrative Area and move the majority of NPS housing to the south side. This combined effort will significantly reduce development on the north side, mitigating the impact to cultural resources and bear use areas. It will greatly improve the visitor experience. The lodge, campground, cultural exhibits, and limited concessioner housing will remain on the north side.
    Question. Would the Department agree to go back and re-do the
    existing DCP so that it reflects the latest science and budget
    realities that we are operating under?
    Answer. The 2013 Brooks River Visitor Access EIS amended the 1996 Development Concept Plan (DCP) by retaining existing floatplane access on Naknek Lake and Lake Brooks, and approving an elevated bridge and boardwalk system across Brooks River. It improves visitor safety by reducing the risk of bear interactions and provides for permanent,
    reliable access across the river.

    The NPS utilized scientific expertise in formulating the 2013 plan (Amended EIS). For instance, NPS convened a panel of State, Federal, and university brown bear experts to advise the planning team during project scoping. Other special studies of cultural resources, river hydrology, geotechnology, and bear movements informed the plan. The
    plan was vetted through full public involvement, including project scoping and meetings conducted in Anchorage, King Salmon, and Brooks

    1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
      Kirk Robinson

      Thank you so much for this timely information, Barrie! I will write and ask many others to do the same.

      And thanks for the excellent article too!

    2. Ted Stevens Avatar
      Ted Stevens

      To be clear, Murkowski has taken up Stevens’ place and is apparently FOR the bridge/boardwalk boondoggle, as long as it lets the lodge/buildings/etc stay where they are to keep those interests happy (i.e. ignoring the 1996 DCP).

      The estimated cost is about $9M per NPS funding requests (split up to “lower” the cost with $4M in 2015 and $5M waiting on the current budget), with around $1M spent on design. Prior to this NPS spent a similar amount prepping an area for relocation of both NPS and KatmaiLand housing/personnel out of the sensitive areas…

      5 years later that still sits mostly vacant, with utilities and roads all installed, but limited buildings – just like a real estate development abandoned in Las Vegas. And the bridge further decreases the chances things move…

      Moderator comment: this is not from Sen. Ted Stevens

    3. North Country Avatar
      North Country

      The most unfortunate aspect of Jewell’s remarks is that they contain a frequently repeated misunderstanding. Katmai National Monument was established in 1918 and the Brooks River area was added to the existing monument in 1931. Brooks Lodge was not built in the already established Katmai National Monument until 1950, and they applied for a concessions permit from the National Park Service to do so. Katmai National Monument was enlarged with the passage of ANILCA in 1980 and became Katmai National Park at that time. So when Jewell states that one of Alaska’s aviation pioneers “built this camp before Katmai National Park was established,” she is technically correct but it is a very misleading statement. This was never a private inholding-it was always a concession operation. This fiction is frequently repeated by the park concessioner, Katmailand, as a way to attempt to assert their authority over NPS management of the area.

      1. North Country Avatar
        North Country

        I just reread the comments and realized it was Murkowski who stated the lodge was built prior to the establishment of the park and Jewell did not correct this statement.

  7. Stephen Stringham, PhD Avatar

    Ecotourism adds about $1 billion/yr to Alaska’s economy. Bear viewing accounts for a sizeable fraction of that. So there is strong incentive to increase viewing opportunities. Some areas like Brooks and the east coast of Katmai, as well as Wolverine Creek farther north are increasingly hammered by viewers. However, even before viewers were abundant, many of these areas were being hammered by anglers after the same salmon that bears covet. Development of the bear viewing industry has actually reduced a lot of impacts that prevailed when fishing was the primary use of these areas. Development of boardwalks, etc. at Katmai was designed to reduce viewer impact along with risk to humans from bears. Nevertheless, I agree with my long-time colleague and friend Barrie that this approach can be overdone, and in fact may have already been overdone. When I first studied Katmai bears in 1972, I could walk the whole length of the river and encounter only 1 or 2 other people. When I was there this summer it was Grand Central Station.

  8. monty Avatar

    Where can a map be found to compare the old with the new? The reality is that “improvements” for increased human use are usually at the expense of the critters!!!

  9. North Country Avatar
    North Country

    I appreciate Dr. Gilbert bringing attention to this issue, but it may be too little, too late since construction on the elevated bridge is slated to start in fall 2016. Dr. Gilbert states “A high permanent bridge and new 1500 foot elevated walkway threaten the last relatively people-free bear habitat.” Anyone who has visited Brooks Camp in recent years could tell you that this habitat is not remotely people-free. The same conditions that led to the 1996 Development Concept Plan have continued for the past 20 years, and unrestricted visitation leads to frequent bear-human interactions throughout Brooks Camp. In my opinion, the greater concern is that, as Dr. Gilbert states, “a planned $5 million bridge and elevated walkway will no longer reduce these interactions with bears except in some minor locations.” In fact, I predict that bear-human interactions will increase once the elevated bridge and walkway is in place. Currently, the Brooks River corridor adjacent to the Brooks Lodge area is intensively managed by NPS personnel, particularly during daytime hours when visitation is at its heaviest. As the EIS Record of Decision states, “Visitors regularly come into close proximity to bears when fishing in the river, walking around the Corner area (a primary route for people traveling from Brooks Camp to the bridge and an important area for brown bears to rest) on the at-grade trail to the north of the floating bridge, and travelling along the trail from the lower river platform to the falls platform” (4). If the current floating bridge is replaced with an elevated bridge and the remainder of the facilities are not moved, visitors will continue to interact with bears in all of these locations, just as they currently do on the Naknek Lake beach and adjacent to the NPS and lodge facilities. If NPS personnel no longer have a regular presence on the Corner and lower wildlife viewing platform due to the construction of an elevated walkway, it is likely that visitors will remain in close proximity to bears for longer periods of time.

    The NPS has begun construction of new housing facilities along the road to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on the south side of Brooks River, and plans to move employee housing to the south side in phases. However, there are no plans in place to move housing for lodge employees. Without NPS employees residing on the north side of the river, 120+ visitors per night in July and 20+ concession employees will be left to their own devices in terms of managing bear-human conflicts. Currently, it is not uncommon to encounter groups of visitors standing a few feet away from a bear on the lawn at Brooks Lodge while walking around Brooks Camp in the evening when few NPS staff are on duty. Concession staff frequently haze bears off the Naknek Lake beach to make way for incoming planes when NPS staff are not within earshot. These types of bear-human interactions are likely to increase if NPS staff move to the south side of Brooks River.

    The decision to implement the 1996 DCP may be out of NPS hands. Senator Lisa Murkowski bragged about directing the NPS not to use funds to move Brooks Lodge: It seems like someone got to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as well, since she mistakenly stated that “[Brooks Lodge] was created by one of Alaska’s aviation pioneers who built this camp before Katmai National Park was established.” Actually, the National Park Service granted Ray Petersen a concessions permit in 1950, nearly 20 years after the Brooks River area was added to the existing Katmai National Monument: If the area had not been managed by the NPS, there would have been no need for Petersen to obtain a concessions permit.

    In most recent articles about the failure of the NPS to implement the 1996 DCP, the role of Katmailand is rarely acknowledged. Who do you suppose it was that convinced Murkowski to block funding for moving Brooks Lodge to the south side? Has anyone asked Sonny Petersen, owner of park concessionaire Katmailand, whether he supported the move of the lodge? If the NPS constructs an elevated walkway over Brooks River and moves all of their personnel to the south side, Katmailand will have exactly what it wants: unrestricted access back and forth across the river, with the ability to drive vehicles over the heads of bears fishing below, and minimal NPS presence in the evenings to deter visitors and lodge staff from encroaching on the bears’ space. Will a letter to Secretary Jewell setting her straight on Katmai history help? Or is the only hope at this point a call for legal action? It seems that only legislators or lawsuits would have the power to stop the construction of the elevated bridge and walkway. The NPS did state in the Brooks River EIS that the bridge was needed in part “to provide dependable access for the phased relocation of facilities and park concession operations,” while Jewell stated in her testimony that “the lodge, campground, cultural exhibits, and limited concessioner housing will remain on the north side.” This is a significant departure from the plans stated in the EIS and seems to warrant attention.

  10. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    At worst, there will be injuries and bears will have to be killed; at slightly less bad (there is no best), bears will become (more?) habituated to human presence, and may still have to be killed if visitors feed them or they rummage through garbage or smell human food at concessions.

    Haven’t we been here before at other national parks? Do we ever learn from the past, or does the prospect (!) of money just blind us and wipe out our brains to good sense?

    1. North Country Avatar
      North Country

      Brooks Camp has strict regulations on the management of food within the immediate area and no bears have been killed for obtaining human food since 1983. This aspect of Brooks Camp is unlikely to change. More likely impacts are that non-habituated bears will be discouraged from using this critical feeding area and the hazing of bears along the Naknek Lake beach, along the Brooks River, and within the boundaries of Brooks Camp will continue.

  11. Barrie Gilbert Avatar
    Barrie Gilbert

    While I agree that food is well managed I also was at Brooks when a sub-adult tore doors off a series of cabins. Keep in mind that Bristol Bay has had excellent runs for a long time: this year some 51 million fish were estimated to come into the drainages. So what happens when we have a year of failed sockeye spawning? The 50 plus bears will be ravenous for food, changing all the traditional equations.
    As to getting information second hand from me I would just note that the NPS has not been open about the massively amended plan. If you contact them they will direct you to old DCP and EIS documents which are obsolete, of course. It is never too little or too late to contact Sec. of Interior Sally Jewell and express your opposition. Otherwise the NPS just serves Katmailand, a nice trick if you own it.
    PS North Country: I like to know who I am talking to. My email is if you would be kind enough to divulge your name. I don’t want to communicate with a sleep NPS employee w/o knowing it. You sure have it right about the role of Sonny Petersen and his power base.

    1. North Country Avatar
      North Country

      Bears do occasionally do property damage due to the location of the cabins. Someone should ask to take a look at the data from the Bear Management Report Forms. I am well aware of the historically high runs of salmon-it was quite eerie this July when the salmon run was a bit delayed from its typical pattern. My concern is that being overly dramatic about the impacts detracts from the real issues. I absolutely do not support leaving facilities where they are. Having spent significant time at Brooks in recent years, my greater concern is that bears are frequently hazed and pushed out of their habitat. I suppose it is more likely that a bear will be shot now that visitors are allowed to bring guns into national parks. Once the NPS moves all of its staff into housing on the other side of the river, it is likely to be a free-for-all in terms of harassing bears on the north side of the river.

  12. North Country Avatar
    North Country

    For those inclined to write to Secretary Jewell, here is some suggested wording to get you started:

    The Brooks River Visitor Access EIS ROD states that construction of an elevated bridge and boardwalks at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve will “provide safe and dependable access for the phased relocation of facilities and park concession operations.” On March 26, 2014, however, you stated: “The National Park Service (NPS) does not plan to move the historic Brooks lodge facility. Once the bridge is finished, the NPS will complete the supporting infrastructure at the Valley Road Administrative Area and move the majority of NPS housing to the south side. This combined effort will significantly reduce development on the north side, mitigating impact to cultural resources and bear use areas. It will greatly improve the visitor experience. The lodge, campground, cultural exhibits, and limited concessioner housing will remain on the north side.”

    According to Figure 1 on p. 11 of the Brooks River Visitor Access FEIS, it appears that at most the NPS plans to move approximately 11 buildings that now house NPS staff from the north side of Brooks River, while 25 or more will remain in place. How does this significantly reduce development on the north side? In fact, with the construction of additional facilities on the south side of Brooks River and limited removal of facilities on the north side, the NPS footprint within the vicinity of Brooks River has expanded. Impacts to bear use areas and to cultural resources such as those underlying Brooks Lodge will continue.

    It is also questionable that an elevated bridge will greatly improve the visitor experience. In the Summer 2014 Katmai National Park and Preserve Visitor Study, only 8% of visitors surveyed said that bear related delays while moving around Brooks Camp detracted from their experience. Although the NPS collected data on bear-related bridge delays for several summers, this data was never shared with the public. What is the average length of a bear-related delay?

    Given the significant departure from the plans outlined in the Brooks River Visitor Access FEIS, I request that the National Park Service halt implementation of the plan to construct the elevated bridge in 2016 until the public is informed and has a chance to review the amended plan.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I really do feel that this Administration sees National Parks only as glorified zoos for the people’s entertainment and maybe, education. Protection of wildlife and wildlands for their own sake doesn’t seem to be a concept they can comprehend. Secretary Jewell is always more concerned with the people’s interests, and her lauding the ‘cooperation’ of all ‘stakeholders’ on protecting sage grouse has been an epic fail, hasn’t it?

  13. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    This wasn’t the same place or near it, was it? Something rings a bell. You just never can tell what people are going to do, and it is never the human who has to pay for their dumb behavior:

    1. North Country Avatar
      North Country

      That incident happened near Haines, while Katmai is near King Salmon. Here is a former Katmailand employee rafting the Brooks River at Brooks Camp in Katmai, though:

  14. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Sacrificing them everywhere else too. Was there ever any doubt? “A mutually understood process with State officials”.

    The proposed plan means that the hunting of the bears could be allowed as soon as January, with the FWS unlikely to officially unveil its verdict on the status of grizzlies until the new year.

    Bad News, Bears – Yellowstone Grizzlies Poised to Lose Protection From Hunting

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      “We have agreed on the following mortality limits.”

      I’m just aghast. It truly is mind-blowing.

  15. frank Avatar

    Here are a few observations and facts the park service likes to leave out of their fact finding, self generated wildlife studies:

    I’ve been guiding bear safari trips to Katmai National Park for the past 15 years, including daily trips to Brooks camp in July and September. The remainder of the time I’m on the coast of katmai National Park observing bears without the “protection” of the park service. I learned my guiding skills from individuals who grew up working at Brooks camp 20 years before me and from other wildlife experts.

    To most people that don’t understand the adaptability of bears they are surprised to learn that there are more bears at Brooks camp today then there ever have been in the recordable past. In fact, back in the 1950’s/60’s fisherman would fish the area just below the waterfall during the summer. The trees we see next to the falls today were small bushes back then. Fishing the falls was not a scary event because there was rarely a bear sighting. This particular site in Katmai is one of the oldest archeological sites in North America dating back approximately 5000 years. This means people and bears have been co-habitating at this place for a long time. Actually, harvesting bears for food and clothing is more accurate.

    Today there are thousands of people that self guide themselves along the trails at Brooks without incident. Learning about bear behavior and sometimes eliminating ideas that bears are “always dangerous” and ready to eat people at a moments notice. There are many other areas these “Brooks” bears travel finding fish. One place is called Margot Creek, for instance, is a favorite bear fishing area for these bears during the month of August. Located only 4 miles or so from Brooks. The bears frequent this area and many other high volume fish areas. These areas see very little human traffic so essentially the bears could survive without ever going to Brooks or even seeing a human. But, they still come to Brooks. In fact, last year in mid July I’ve see as many as 35 bears at the Falls at the same time. I was one of 40 people staring at them from the adjacent viewing platform. Then there were another 25 bears within view at the lower river viewing platform. If you have never seen that before, it’s a lot of bears in a small area.

    Amazingly, most of the bears that frequent Brooks Lodge during July for the Sockeye salmon run will head to Margot Creek in August regardless of the seemingly endless supply of salmon in the river at Brooks.

    For the big government fans out there it does seem weird that government studies are not always communicated unbiased.

    It really wouldn’t have an effect other than disruption to move the buildings to the other side of the river. The bears are everywhere.

    The best thing to do is visit and learn about bear habitat from multiple sources before making comments.

  16. Doreen Lozano Avatar
    Doreen Lozano

    What is the current state of plans for Brooks Falls? I see most of these comments were from 2015. I was at Brooks Falls for the first time at the end of August 2016. It is a magical place. We were there for four days and were only stopped from crossing the bridge a couple of times and it had no impact on our positive experiences at Brooks Falls.

    I didn’t witness any hazing of bears by staff. Rangers were in and around the camp when bears were sighted and visitors were not adversely impacted by having to wait for a bear to move on. We did meet a bear with cubs on the trail to the Falls but followed procedures safely.

    Road work was taking place near the camp on the road to 10,000 Smokes and now I’m wondering if that was in preparation for the bridge work to start.

    I think adding the new bridge and bringing in more visitors to this one area would definitely be detrimental to wildlife and the habitat.

    We were also unable to use the trail to Beaver Lake because of “negotiation with local tribes” was taking place. Can anyone shed light on where that fits into the plan for this area.


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Ralph Maughan