January 18, 2012

Katmai Brown Bears - Platforms and Trails

At this point, you are probably wondering how the Brooks Camp area is set up for bear viewing. Let me try to explain it for you, with the help of this map provided by the National Park Service. There are three platforms that have been constructed by the Park Service to allow visitors to safely observe the bears for long periods of time: lower river, riffles, and falls. 

The closest to the lodge is the lower river platform. It is located about 1200 feet from the lodge and is reached by a trail and then a bridge that goes over the Brooks River. 

There is a park ranger stationed on the land point before the bridge and also one on the platform. They radio back and forth to confer about any bears spotted in the area and whether visitors are permitted to cross the bridge. In bear safety class, we were taught to maintain a minimum distance of 50 yards. It is a very long bridge, so the rangers consider how long it will take someone to cross and how quickly a bear could possibly approach the structure. 

There are times when bear activity prevents crossing for a significant period of time. When this happens, it is called a “bear jam”. During our last day, we waited for over an hour to cross the bridge to go back to the lodge! 

In the photo below, this bear came right around the point from the lake and beach area (probably after greeting a floatplane, LOL). The ranger (wearing the backpack) was in the process of getting a group of visitors to back up on the trail. From the looks of them, this crowd consisted mostly of day-trippers. They were not well equipped (e.g., no raingear or hiking boots), and there was even a older toddler in the mix being carried by an adult (go figure). The bear acted in typical fashion and totally ignored them.

The lower platform is quite extensive. The bear action in this area is less than near the falls. As a result, we found this overlook to be rarely crowded. It provided a great opportunity for photographers to see some of the smaller bears traverse the marshlands and fish, and it was located close to the lodge. 

The scenery was incredible from this vantage point. Here is a wide-angle view, looking northwest, over the marshland. A young ranger is shown on the left. Hubby (in the middle) and another photographer are searching the horizons for bears. There is one that shows up at a tiny little dot in the water, located above the back of the ranger’s hat. (And yes, it was raining.)

To get to where the heavy bear action is located, Brooks Falls, we had to hike over a mile and a half, mostly on a bear trail through dense forest. No rangers are stationed along the trail. We walked in groups, paid attention to our surroundings, didn’t dawdle, and made constant noise. Our tour guide carried bear spray, but we didn’t always walk with him. We never stopped long enough to take a picture of the trail through the forest. But here is a bear trail example near the lodge that goes down to the beach. (Please note that this is hubby’s photo.) The trail going to Brooks Falls is wider and much more worn. 

So after a long hike to the falls platform, this glorious scene was our reward! 

Next, you’ll get to see some of these bears up close!


  1. All marvelous shots. That last one, WOW, what and amazing experience to see them all together like that.

  2. Wow. That's a lot in the public bath there. Am I missing something? What prevents the bears from climbing up into the platforms?

  3. Oh My Heart... WOW! That last picture was fabulous... I can understand why you loved this so much... AND--to me, it would be seeing the waterfall in addition to the bears... WOW!!!!

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh man, it was totally worth it to get that last shot. Wow! How cool is that?
    Can't wait to see more!

  5. I just can't Imagine how thrilling it Was to see the Bears up close like this! Great photos Donna! Jim does pretty well himself in the photo arena!Hahaa...
    Can't wait for more!!

  6. It is so hard to believe that you can view bears...like we birdwatch! That last photo is spectacular! Were you ever afraid? ♥

    1. I only worried a little bit that we weren't making enough noise while walking through the forest. I didn't want to surprise any bears!

  7. Replies
    1. Great! And thank you for letting me know that I can do replies in the comments!

  8. Good grief! Bear jam indeed! Not something I'd want on my toast, but what a sight. Mercy. Glorious, Donna. I don't know how you have the presence of mind to get the pictures.

  9. I had to go back and look at all your bear photos, Donna! What a marvelous adventure. I really enjoyed it through your eyses. I became a "follower"! Thanks


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