The shower doors clattered obnoxiously, waking us up. Wondering what our neighbors—normally so quiet—could be doing to at this ungodly hour, Dale climbed out of bed and wandered into the living room. Even in the dark, he could tell that the blinds and other objects were also shaking. This was no noisy neighbor; we were having an earthquake.
We stood on the Lower River Platform one afternoon and watched a family of bears for some time. The mama, a beautiful sow with blonde ears and a distinctive, upturned nose, occasionally lifted her head to check her surroundings and then returned to napping. One of her cubs lay beside her.
The other cub, however, had no intention of taking an afternoon nap.
Katmai National Park is known for its brown bears, but the origins of the park are centered around something entirely different—the volcano Novarupta, which erupted in 1912. It was the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 2oth century, and as part of our visit to Brooks Camp we took a tour to the site of the devastation, a place now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
It was September 9, and we were on the Brooks Falls Platform, where two Katmai Park Rangers, Dave and Becca, were broadcasting a “Play-by-Play” streaming video for the Bear Cams audience, with Becca narrating the activity. Dale and I were listening as well, hoping to learn a little more about Brooks Falls bears.
The brown bears of Katmai National Park like their fish fresh, juicy, and in large volumes. The biggest males eat between 80-90 pounds of food every day, and much of it is in the form of salmon.
Obviously these bears are experts at what they do—catching fish. They start young, learning fishing techniques from mom, and then branch out from there. Some bears have successfully learned a variety of methods, while others employ one or two that work for them. Here’s a look the fishing styles that we observed at Brooks Camp.
Alaska’s Katmai National Park is an immense, wild place, and there is much to see here, but most of it is undeveloped and challenging to get to. That’s why the destination for most people is Brooks Camp, a little bit of infrastructure and comfort in all that wilderness. The camp, which consists of a lodge, campground, and other facilities, is the most accessible part of Katmai, but “accessible” is a relative term. Even a place as established as Brooks Camp takes effort to reach, and here’s some of what we learned as we planned our trip.