Please check out the italicized writing below the campground
section for firsthand
information from me... not just on the campground, but on Brooks Camp
all together. Since this is the wilderness, it is important to be prepared.
Also If you have looked into the prices of this excursion, you have probably
freaked out on how expensive it is... 700 bucks or more for less than
3 days per person. I am not affiliated with the lodge or anything else,
but I can tell you that if you dont want to camp (more like 400 bucks
for a week) it is completely worth it. There is northing more impressive
than seeing these bears up close and personal.
Katmai National Park is one of my favorite places of all
time. I spent 8 days there in 2000, and it was one of the most enjoyable
8 days of my life. The park is set on the Southwestern Peninsula of Alaska,
about 300 air miles from
Anchorage. There are no roads to get to the park, just scheduled air service to King Salmon, and then a 20 minute float plane ride to Brooks Camp. Probably 90% of the bear pictures that you see of a bear catching a salmon in the mouth while standing on a falls is taken here at Katmai.
Katmai is famous for volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness and is also the site of the Brooks River National Historic Landmark with North America's highest concentration of prehistoric human dwellings (about 900).
Katmai National Monument was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano.
There are at least fourteen volcanoes in Katmai considered "active", none of which are currently erupting.
Brown bear and salmon are very active in Katmai. The number of brown bears has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world's largest sockeye salmon run each July, and during return of the "spawned out" salmon in September, forty to sixty bears congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines. Brown bears along the 480 mile Katmai Coast also enjoy clams, crabs, and an occasional whale carcass.
A rich variety of other wildlife is found in the Park as well.
There is plenty room for great diversity of wildlife in Katmai which encompasses millions of acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake.
on Katmai National Park
Operating Hours and Operating Season for Katmai National Park
The park is open year around. NPS and concessionaire services are offered at Brooks Camp from June 1 through September 17. Backcountry activities are also best during this time. Prime bear viewing months at Brooks Camp are July and September, although a few bears may be in the area at any time between late May and December.
How to Get to Katmai National Park
How to Fly to Katmai National Park by Plane - Katmai
National Park Preserve is located on the Alaska Peninsula, across from
Kodiak Island. Park Headquarters is in King Salmon, about 290 air miles
southwest of Anchorage. Several commercial airlines provide daily flights
into King Salmon as there is no road access. Brooks Camp, along the Brooks
River approximately 30 air miles from King Salmon, is a common destination
for visitors to the Park. Brooks Camp can only be reached via small float
plane or boat.
How to Drive to Katmai National Park- Unless your
car can swim, you cant take it here.
Weather & Climate
Summers in Katmai are cool with frequent high winds and rain. Insects can be intense and headnets are recommended.
Most of the public buildings in Brooks Camp, including the restroom facilities, are accessible, via ramps, to those with limited mobility; however, the narrow dirt paths in Brooks Camp are rough and can become very muddy and slippery during the frequent rainy days.
The lower bear viewing platform, which is over 1/4 mile from the Visitor Center across a floating bridge, is also accessible, but we caution those with physical difficulties that inadvertent very close encounters with brown bears are possible and may require visitors to move quickly. The trail to Brooks Falls and the Falls bear viewing platform are not accessible to those with physical disabilities. This area is also not appropriate for any visitor unable to move quickly off the trail and into the woods, especially during high bear density in July.
Camping at Katmai National Park
Brooks Camp Campground
Open Summers Only
Brooks Camp is the only Federal Fee Area within Katmai National Park & Preserve. There is a $10 per person/per day User Fee (not entrance fee) for all persons, plus an additional $5 per person/per night fee for those camping at the Brooks Camp Campground. Advance campground reservations and fee payment are required for Brooks Camp. For those coming to Brooks Camp as part of a lodging, touring, or fishing package provided by the many commercial operators to Katmai, reservations may have already been made through your provider. Please check with your provider at least three weeks prior to your arrival.
This is the only place to camp around Brooks Camp, you can hike out 5 miles from Brooks Camp and camp anywhere, but personally there are an aweful lot of bears around that I would not suggest doing that unless you know what you are doing. I spent 7 nights in this campground, and there wasn't one night that I don't remember hearing a bear walk RIGHT NEXT to the tent... if that freaks you out in the slightest do not stay here, you will not have a fun time. The campground can accomadate 60 people, you pitch your tent anywhere around the area... there are only "16 sites" but the rule of the campground is to put it up anywhere you want. They had a problem 2 days before I got there that a Sub-Adult (teenage) beer came waltzing through the campground in the middle of the day, and destroyed 4 tents for the heck of it, not because there was any food inside them. It is a rare occurence, but it did happen, and the NPS was suggesting taking down tents during the day (atleast collapsing them). I didnt do this, and had no problems.
It gets DARK here late at night, unlike everywhere else in Alaska... this is important because the Bar & Lodge is open until 1 am, and every night I would be in there relaxing and having a good time (I dont drink, just talking), and it is a 1/4 mile walk along a beach or a pathway through the woods back to the campground. At 1am, there are no lights, its DARK. I ran into 2 bears along the walk back along the beach... 1 was a large male (1100 lbs+) sleeping right before the campground, so I had to double back all the way to the Lodge. Also on 2 different nights bears like to sleep right at the entrance to the campground next to the beach. There is nothing like walking back at night (I had a flashlight) and seeing a pair of green glowing eyes open up 20 feet from you, only to have 2 smaller sets of green glowing eyes open up right next to them... oh crap, I woke up the kids. They then spent the next hour screaming and yelling at each other right infront of the campground, keeping everyone awake. Needless to say, I would avoid encounters like that. Also, I would not suggest walking around alone at night (yeah i did this everynight, but the first time, I almost peed my pants at every sound I heard).
The campground has a food storage hut and gear storage hut inside of an electrified fence. You HAVE TO KEEP ALL FOOD AND OBJECTS INSIDE THE CACHE... DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING IN YOUR TENT THAT HAS A SMELL TO IT (besides you of course). There are NO places to buy food in brooks camp, no matter what the brochures say, the only stuff they sell are soda's and candy bars. Bring everything you need for the duration of the stay, there is no way to purchase it there. A good deal is the lunch and dinners at the lodge, they are All You Can Eat (and trust me, after boring campfood for a few days, you can eat alot). Lunches were 12 bucks last year, dinners 20. Trust me on this, it is worth every penny, especially if you can eat lunch there and have smaller snacks for breakfast and dinner... saves alot of space in luggage, since you can only carry so much on the flights.
The seaplane flight from King Salmon allows you only 75 pounds of luggage, and beyond that is charged for, although I was 40 pounds over both directions and wasn't charged. If you have a good attitude and are nice to the employees during your stay, you are alot less likely to be charged. These floatplanes are small, so most times you cannot take all you're equipment on it at once, especially leaving the camp. You need to have camp broken by 8 am, so that you can make a luggage and cargo flight back to King Salmon, so you can have your luggage for your flight back to Anchorage. Also, it is best to have a smaller carry-on bag with the essentials so that you can atleast have something if you cant get your luggage with you to the camp from King Salmon (they will usually let you bring your camping stuff, so you can set up camp... just be flexible and pleasant, and they will try to accomadate you.).
There is talk that the campground will be completely electrified next year, who knows how accurate that is. It would cut back on alot of the fun I think, because I went there to have experiences like I had. I have stories to tell people for the rest of my life.
If you are a photographer, bring absolutely everything you
could imagine you might need, but in all reality, you dont need a lens
bigger than a 400 or 500mm, the people who brought 600's didn't break
them out much. A 80-200 or 300 at the falls is the best bet, since most
action doesnt happen more than 40 feet. Also, make sure you bring a backup,
and maybe a backup for the backup (I had a camera and lens fall with the
tripod while there, luckily nothing broke, only a few scratches and a
dented 400mm lens hood). If you are a amatuer photographer, dont be intimidated
by all the professionals around, if you have a question, just ask someone,
or if you want you're chance for a great shot, you have just as much right
to be on the lower tier of the falls platform. Film is another interesting
quandry, you can easily go through 200 rolls in a week, or 20 rolls...
its a matter of how many similar shots you want, and if you want that
absolutely perfect shot. I shot only 40 rolls... half 6x7 half 35mm.
Activities and More Information
Viewing brown bears in their natural habitat and fishing are very popular activities in Katmai. Safety and preparation for varying conditions are the most important considerations when visiting a wilderness area like Katmai National Park & Preserve.
Although a bear may be encountered anywhere in Katmai from late May into December, the best times for bear viewing at Brooks Camp are late-June through July and September. There are few, if any, bears around Brooks in June and August, though they are seen occasionally during these times.
July and September are crowded with both bears and people. Delays in getting to and from the bear viewing platforms are common and can occur at any time, although such delays offer opportunities for viewing other wildlife and the spectacular scenery all-around Brooks Camp.
Katmai is bear habitat, and they always have the right-of-way. Weather and bears are always a factor at Katmai, so plan extra time to work around delays. There are occasions, especially in July, when visitors are unable to get to the Falls Platform due to time constraints and flight schedules.
Extenuating circumstances may necessitate closure of any
portion of Brooks Camp, including trails and bear viewing platforms for
safety reasons without advance notice. (*They closed down the trail my
2nd to last day I was there. I was stuck out on the falls platform for
5 hours because of 5 or 6 bears sleeping right on the trail. I ended up
going back by myself, and detouring into the woods to avoid bears. The
Park Superintendant along with 2 other rangers came out with shotguns
to escort the others back from the platform. They had many problem bears
during my stay, many more so than in past seasons)
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