Among the Bears and Salmon Return – Lake Clark National Park, Alaska 

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Among the Bears and Salmon Return – Lake Clark National Park, Alaska 

Salmon fishing and bear viewing at Lake Clark National Park

Lake Clark National Park in Alaska is still a bit of a mystery to me although I’ve visited a couple of times. Like many places in Alaska, the only way to get there is by a small plane or a boat, although the sea is often rough. I was at Crescent Lake within the park a few years ago for bear viewing, which is still one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in Alaska. And that’s saying a lot. 

Lake Clark National Park is big. It’s also one of the most remote national parks in the country, comprising 4 million acres. What does a 4-million-acre national park look like? Vast. That’s all I can say. 

Recently I visited a small part of Lake Clark National Park called Silver Salmon Creek. It’s an area along the Cook Inlet coast, well known for outstanding bear viewing and fishing. August is a great month for bear viewing. This year I have gotten more into salmon fishing and this would’ve been an outstanding opportunity to catch wild salmon in a wild place! Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was I was going to see bears, catch some fish, and spend time in the wilderness. I packed all my camera gear, rubber boots, fishing license and hopped on a small plane to fly across Cook Inlet. 

 

Flightseeing 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

A small plane landed on the beach at Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

 

I love flying over the area southwest of Anchorage. A small plane is necessary transportation but the views we saw on the way are stunning. The coastline of Cook Inlet, patterns and colors of wetlands, wildlife tracks, beluga whales, valleys and peaks, the 90-minute flight to Silver Salmon Creek was a treat. In a small bush plane, everyone gets a window seat. Our plane was a 4-seater with a small space in the back for luggage. 

 

Honey isn’t the only thing bears like  

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Momma and three little bear cubs

 

Oh, the bears. As we were approaching the beach for the landing, we already spotted a handful of bears on the beach. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that this is bear habitat and we’re just visitors. Bears live here because there are many food sources, including a long salmon run season, grass, and clams from the mudflats. Yes, clams! That’s something new I learned in Alaska; bears eat lots of different foods, including berries, salmon, and clams. 

 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Chillin’ on the beach

 

Our group was here for a few days for fishing and education. Bear viewing was certainly on the agenda but it wasn’t the focus of the trip. We just knew it would happen during whatever activity we would do. We were told to stick together with our group and don’t wander off alone. If bears appear nearby, don’t move suddenly and just step away from the path. In the peak summer season, bears are generally not interested in humans unless we bother them. There are plenty of food sources around, so the only thing they are interested in are fish that we catch. 

 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Photographers and the bear

 

We geared up for salmon fishing and headed to the nearby stream. The silver salmon run here is long and plentiful and it’s a popular place for fishing. There were several other small groups we saw passing by. I’ve never actually caught salmon using a rod and reel before; dip netting was the only way I’ve done it. But I was in the right place at the right time, so I had high hopes.

Some 10 minutes had passed and our guide Tim said there was a momma bear and three cubs coming this way. I quickly grabbed my camera gear and went to the lookout. There they were, a sow and three little cubs walking on the beach. The momma bear hustled the youngsters to swim across the stream, away from the group of people watching. And that was just the start of our bear viewing journey.

 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

A bear in the evening light

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Fishing for salmon!

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

A bear in Silver Salmon Creek

 

For the next two days, we drove by a sleeping bear on a 4-wheeler, stepped away from a bear that was charging our fish on the fishing pole, watched bears trying to catch salmon in the stream, a sow and cub digging for clams, and bears walking around in the golden evening sun. I’ve never been this close to wild bears before. Several times I saw bears, all three times in Lake Clark National Park, but we were much further away because we were there for bear viewing. This time, because we were engaged in other activities, the ‘bear viewing’ felt more natural. It was like a reminder that we were visitors to their place. 

 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Swimming across the creek

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

This bear tried to steal our fish!

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Co-existing with bear at Silver Salmon Creek

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

The scenery is spectacular here

 

 

How did I do with salmon fishing? 

I caught silver salmon! Thanks to our amazing fishing guide Tim. Photo: Scott McMurren

For the first time, I caught salmon using a rod and reel! It felt so good. I certainly wasn’t the first one to catch fish in this experienced group, but with their guidance, it finally happened for me. The first one was a pretty good size and I caught another one from the next cast. Now I understand why people go fishing! 

 

 

How can I visit Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park?

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Fishing for sliver salmon

 

There are many lodges that arrange all the necessary gear and transportation including the flight. Camping isn’t recommended if you’re not experienced camping in bear habitat. There are also bear viewing tours departing from Anchorage if you’re not interested in fishing or staying multiple nights. 

 

What to pack 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Silver salmon!

 

If you’re staying at a fishing lodge, all fishing gear are included. The packing list is different depending on the weather and season but here are some essentials.

  • Layers (wool or synthetic): even in summer, Alaska’s wilderness brings many different weathers.
  • Warm layers
  • Rain gear (raincoat and rain pants) 
  • Sturdy walking shoes 
  • Sun protection: sunglasses, hat, sunscreen 
  • Bug spray and head net
  • Headlamp 
  • Camera + the longest zoom lens you have 

 

Lake Clark National Park is a beautiful place. So much is still unknown to me but I’m learning little by little every visit. It’s not an easy or cheap place to go because it’s far and remote, but certainly, a worthwhile place to explore. I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity when I can dive more into the wilderness of Lake Clark National Park. 

 

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Scott and his fish!

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

A young bear walking on the beach

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Bears fit right in the landscape

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

We were right across the creek from this bear

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Bears looking for clams on the beach

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

A young bear on the beach

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Fishing!

Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park

Hustling three youngsters

 

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Juno set off for the wider world to pursue her passion for travel and storytelling. She traveled the world as an award-winning travel blogger and photographer, witnessing the everyday life of different cultures. Currently based in Anchorage, Alaska and exploring this amazing Last Frontier. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Instagram .

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