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Anan Creek Bear Observatory

We didn’t leave Thoms Place until around 8am this morning so we got to Anan Creek by about 9:30am. We anchored out in about 95 feet. By the time we backed up toward shore all the way to set our anchor we were in 20 feet (at low tide)…it shoals up fast! Here we are anchored near a big megayacht called Sin or Swim:


There’s a Forest Service cabin here (in the back, rented right now by a group of kayakers we met later while watching bears), and the ranger cabin on the floating dock.


When you’re ready to come ashore, you’re supposed to call the Anan Creek rangers on Channel 16 and get permission. We did that, and then dinghied over to the trailhead which is up at the mouth of the river.


Looking back at Airship and Sin or Swim with the space compressed like this makes Airship look almost as big as Sin or Swim. It’s totally not.


Ranger Mike, greeting us from the rock:


Since it was low tide, we beached the dinghy and then pulled a very long line from the bow up to one of the highest rocks, looped it around the rock and wedged the anchor in a good spot. We’d certainly be floating by the time we returned, as it was a minus 2.7 foot low tide this morning. (Dinghy in the lower left, next to the ranger’s skiff…)


Looking up river:


The information I read online said you’d be accompanied up the 1/2 mile trail to the observation area by an armed ranger…but you actually have the option to go up on your own. We opted to have Mike come with us, since there were only two of us (a larger louder group is better) and we have little experience with bears on trails (lots of experience with bears seen from boats though!)


Mike talked to us about Anan Creek, the bears, bear behavior, etc. The bears apparently also use this trail often, and there were signs of that all over the place. We stepped over many piles of bear scat just within the first 5 minutes or so of our hike. I’d JUST been thinking about how glad I was that Mike was with us, when we spotted a brown bear off to the right of the trail, down on the sandy shoreline area. The bear was headed toward where the trail curved around to the right. We kept an eye on her and Mike said he expected she’d be crossing the trail ahead of us, and just as promised, here she came.

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(I took these with the zoom lens, don’t worry.) The three of us just kept talking, so she’d know we were there, and she wasn’t bothered or interested in us at all. She continued up the steep slope of the hillside and after she’d gone, we continued on. Mike radioed the ranger at the top and gave her the bear report. This brown bear might soon be appearing at the top of the hill near the observation deck (or in front of the outhouse!)


Fish hanging out in the shallows:


Soon we were at the observation deck (with maybe 6 other people). Gorgeous…and no bears (yet).


After maybe 45 minutes or so, here came one black bear down the side of the hill toward the stream:


He made his way down to a spot where some water peels off from the main stream and then he just stuck his head in the water, looking for fish. He had a couple of quick moves, but never caught a fish from here while we were watching.



Pretty soon, another black bear came climbing down the hillside. (Bear number one here was keeping an eye out the whole time. He must have been expecting him. I bet they know each other.) 🙂


Bear number two:


Bear number two first went to a completely different fishing spot, walked right into the water and seemed to be looking for fish rather passively. (Tiffani: if Lucy was a bear, she’d be this bear.)

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But then, bear number two decided to go over to where bear number one was fishing. The first way he tried to get there was a short cut through a crevice between two big rocks, and bear number one just came over and growled at him and wouldn’t let him come through. Awwww.


Next, bear number two took the long, high road over the top:



This turned out about the same as the first attempt (in a growling, none shall pass kind of way):

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Eventually, bear number one gave in and moved downstream a bit. He fished from in the stream this time, where he eventually caught a big salmon by the tail:

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He took his catch up the hill into a little hidey hole to eat in peace:


Meanwhile, we spotted the brown bear again as she made her way up stream along the far shore. (She never showed up at the top of the hill apparently.)


She was walking along the rocks on the far shore of the stream and all of a sudden, spotted a fish and just went right in after it.


The ranger said she does that all the time, but never catches any fish doing it. Pretty funny!

Bear number two, in his highly sought after spot:


The ranger told us that bear number two has always loved this little spot, and that earlier in the season he fit into it much better (before he gained 200 pounds). He still works his way slowly, butt-first, into the cave, and eventually gets most of the way in there. He can’t really fish from this spot, but he likes it anyway. (This bear seems a little shy and insecure.)

Bear number one finished his first fish and headed back down to the water for more:

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Here’s the observation area:


There’s a photo blind down some stairs and closer to the river (all covered in camouflage tarp…you can just see the top of the stairway on the right, with tarp). People can sign up to use the blind for an hour at a time…which could be pretty cool. More people were arriving now that it was just after noon, so after watching the black bears a little longer we headed back down the trail with four others from the kayaking group. We spotted the brown bear out in the shallow area (not near the trail):

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This was SUCH a cool thing to do and we’re so glad we were able to get a permit and go (and that there were bears!) Last year we called when we were in Wrangell and the ranger said there hadn’t been any bears there for a bit…there was one that occasionally showed up, and that the season was kind of “over” so we didn’t go. Anan Creek gives out permits for 60 people per day from July 5 through August 25, and they have 4 last minute permits per day. During the height of the season, the ranger said there can be a dozen bears there at the river fishing. It’s fantastic to get to watch them do their thing from such a great vantage point. If you don’t want to take your own boat and anchor out in a marginal anchorage, you can take a tour from Wrangell via Alaska Vistas or Breakaway Adventures. (We did a Stikine River tour with Breakaway last year and it was fantastic…even though the weather was seriously crappy!) Also, regarding the Anan Creek anchorage, conditions were super calm when we were there and we felt good about our anchor set and holding, and therefore didn’t feel the need to leave someone on board as a watch like a lot of the guidebooks say you should do.

Anyway, super fun day at Anan Creek! We highly recommend stopping here if you’re in the area (and it’s during the bear-eating-fish season).

One Comment

  1. Janna Clark Janna Clark

    What a great place! Now on my bucket list–we’ve been to the viewing platform at Hyder, Alaska but only saw one bear.

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