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Canoeing and Bear Viewing in Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park's Premiere Canoe Trip: Savonoski Canoe with the Katmai Bears

Canoeing with the bears of Katmai National Park is the ulimate wilderness experience. Join Arctic Wild for a week of canoeing on the big lakes of Katmai's interior, photographing bears, fishing for rainbow trout and camping in one of Alaska's most beautiful National Parks.

• Dates: August 26th through September 2nd, 2015.
• Region:
Katmai National Park. Katmai is on the Alaska Peninsula, in southwest Alaska.
• Cost:
$4,000 per person, from Anchorage.


Sketch of the Katmai Bears (Savonoski) Canoe trip…

Katmai National Park is among the richest ecosystems on earth.  Katmai Park is on the Alaska Peninsula, a long, volcano-studded finger pointing to a 2,000-mile archipelago arcing across the north Pacific to Siberia.  Constant tectonic activity, volcanism, and retreating glaciers have left behind deep jagged peaks, rounded hills, and deep blue lakes.  We’ll paddle along these glacial lakes and among the peaks-- roughly 80 miles-- on the Savonoski Loop Canoe trip.  Fifty of our miles will be on lakes; thirty miles on rivers. 


Jutting as it does into the cold ocean, the Alaska Peninsula has a maritime climate and lush vegetation. The Peninsula is a storm catcher. Great winds buffet the land. Large but gnarled birch and spruce thrive at lakeside, yet they cannot grow on the exposed hill and mountain slopes.  Here, alpine conditions prevail, and we can enjoy excellent hiking and blueberry picking as we cast our eyes over the vast, lake-bejeweled landscape.


Autumn on the Alaska Peninsula means cool weather, ripening blueberries, bright colors, and a chance to see the Aurora Borealis.  Fall also means fattening-up time for the huge brown bears that live in Katmai National Park.  We may see moose, black bears, wolves, and foxes in Katmai, but we will certainly see great big brown bears, passing their time eating salmon. Though they treat humans as something to walk around, they are themselves formidable creatures. We will have close, but safe, encounters with them. There are unparalleled opportunities for observing and photographing bears at play, while feeding, and just being bears. We will also see bald eagles and a variety of waterfowl. Fishing for rainbow trout, and pike is excellent especially in the Savonoski River. 


This trip is a moderately difficult route. Experience with canoe travel is recommended. The lake paddling is not difficult, but because the lakes are susceptible to big winds, we will paddle in light chop or swells some days. We will paddle close to shore, and while we need not undertake open water crossings, there is one such crossing we can elect to do, if conditions permit. The river paddling is all Class I with swift, braided channels.

Bear in Katmai National Park
Canoeing in Katmai National Park
Bear in katmai, savanoski loop

Katmai Canoe Itinerary

What follows is a general flow of events.

Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.


Aug 25: Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Anchorage


Aug 26: This is a long day.  We fly from Anchorage to King Salmon.  After a visit to the excellent visitor center we board a float plane and fly to Colville Lake.  Once the plane is unloaded we will assemble the canoes and paddle several miles to make a nice, secluded camp on a pebbly beach.  We’ll spend the rest of the evening settling into our surroundings.


Aug 27- 31: We have 80 miles to go and time to enjoy it.  We’ll be paddling up to six hours a day, stopping several times to stretch, snack, hike, and explore. We’ll paddle across Colville Lake and into Grosvenor Lake, a long finger of a lake curving beneath tall mountains, a hidden jewel with secret creeks full of salmon. Snow capped volcanoes loom in the distance. At the very tip of the lake, we will descend a creek that empties into the Savonoski River. From here, we’re paddling swift water in a vast open plain of river gravels. The views are stunning as we enter Naknek Lake, gray with glacial silt and dotted with floating rocks (pumice). We will spend time fishing the lakes and rivers, swapping stories around beach fires, and watching bears feed, swim and interact with each other.


Sep 1: Paddle the last few miles to Brooks Camp and unload our gear. We spend our last night of the trip in Brooks Camp, the Katmai National Park campground and will have the afternoon to watch bears from the platforms overlooking the world famous Brooks Falls.


Sep 2: After a last walk up to Brooks Falls, we meet our plane and depart Brooks Camp. We fly back to King Salmon, and then catch a jet back to Anchorage arriving late in the evening.  Change socks!


Katmai National Park Canoe Trip
Katmai National Park photo

Savonoski Bears Canoe Trip Details

Included in the price of the trip: Transportation beyond Anchorage, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.


Not included in the price of the trip: Non-camp lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.


Weather & Bugs: Temperatures vary from the 60's to the low 40's.  Rain is almost assured.  We should be well past the peak of bugs, but some gnats may persist.  For this reason, you should pack a headnet and DEET bug repellent.

Suggested Reading:
Grizzly Maze, Nick Jans; The Bears of Katmai, Matthais Breiter; Path of the Paddle, Bill Mason. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.


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