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New Photos: Alaska 2018

In mid-September I made a quick trip north to Alaska to visit the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge at Lake Clark National Park. A number of my clients have had good experiences at Lake Clark, so I felt I was overdue for a visit, but scheduling a short trip late in the season was the only way I’d be able to get a taste of what the place has to offer.

My visit was only three days long, but that was enough to scout the lodge and the area to see if it might work as a future photo tour destination. My timing was not the best due to a premature salmon run and weather that was primarily cloudy and wet… and yet, it was still a lot of fun and quite fruitful from a photographic perspective! The main goal during visits to Lake Clark is bears. The Alaska Peninsula brown bear (also known as coastal brown bears… and technically the same species as interior grizzlies) are abundant in this area. They emerge in the spring to feed on grass and dig for clams before turning their attention to spawning salmon.

By the time I arrived, the salmon (which had started early this year) had wrapped up the spawn, so there was little fishing action to be seen, but that did not prevent me from having close bear sightings during every outing. About eight to ten individual brown bears made regular appearances in the meadows or on the beach not far from the lodge, so there was always something to photograph. There were bonus encounters with other species as well, including red fox, gray wolf, Trumpeter swan and Bald eagle, with a few other bird sightings mixed in.

Make no mistake though, this show is all about the bears. I’ve published a new gallery featuring my bear photos from this trip, with a few other animals thrown in. A short preview is below.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

Some of the bears we saw became very familiar. The family that provided some of the best action was this sow and her yearling cub.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

They spent a fair amount of time down by beach, searching for lingering salmon, and even grazing on beach peas (yes, that’s a thing).

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

By their second year, bear cubs aren’t nearly as energetic and playful as they are in year one, but there were still a couple fun moments between sow and cub.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear

The salmon had come and gone early this summer, so the only moment of fishing activity occurred when the sow sprinted into the water on my first morning. She failed to catch anything.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear

The yearling cub stands at attention in one of the colorful autumn meadows on the edge of the national park.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

Another bear family that made several appearances was this sow with her silver and brown yearling cubs.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

They spent a fair bit of time grazing in the meadows nestled between the mountains and the beach.

Brown Bear Cubs

Again, the cubs weren’t very playful in their second year, but on our final day they did wrestle around a bit.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear

There were some other bears wandering in and out of the area, including a pair of subadult siblings. I was fond of this bear with its distinctive frosty ears.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears

At one point, the frosty-eared subadult approached the sow with two cubs on the beach, where the family was feeding on cached food. Momma didn’t take too kindly to the other bear’s presence, and a tussle ensued. In the background, the other subadult sibling watches the action. It actually took advantage of the distraction to sneak in and snag some food from the cache.

Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear

In case you’re wondering how close one can safely get to the bears in Lake Clark, here’s a shot from my first morning. The guides at the lodge are well-trained and experienced in interpreting the bears’ temperaments and personalities, so close encounters like this remain respectful and safe at all times.


View the full Alaska 2018 gallery here. And remember that you can order prints directly from the photo archive.

Want to join me on a photo tour in Lake Clark? This scouting trip was a success, so I will be leading a short trip back in September 2020. Learn more about the Alaska Brown Bears photo tour!


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