While most Alaskan itineraries include the Interior and Southcentral regions, a visit to Alaska's Southwest region is off the beaten path. The remoteness, world-class wildlife viewing, and the desire to see the remarkable landscape are what draw people to this region.

Southwest Alaska is a unique region best suited to guests who have previously visited Alaska on a more customary tour. The primary draw for guests to this remote area is wildlife. Katmai National Park and Kodiak are world-renowned for their bear viewing opportunities. And the Pribilof Islands are paradise for bird enthusiasts. St. Paul Island is also home to a large fur seal population.

All three of these destinations offer visitors a unique opportunity to see world-class wildlife and bird viewing. Whether as part of a private itinerary or an optional excursion, these experiences are well worth the extra cost. The Southwest is a great addition for those guests that wish to include that extra 'something' to their trips, or for visitors with a special interest in nature.

Katmai National Park/King Salmon

Katmai National Park and Preserve may be one of the best places to see the effects of volcanic activity in Alaska. The 4.1 million acre park is just across the Shelikof Strait from Kodiak Island where a 1912 eruption wiped out all life in a 40-square-mile area. The eruption zone, now known as the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, remains a popular destination for volcano watchers.

Today Katmai National Park and Preserve is better known for bears and salmon. Brooks Camp, a lodge and campground in the park, is a great place to spot bears. For much of the summer, clients can relax and watch 900-pound brown bears amble by on their way to Brooks River Falls for a meal of migrating salmon. Peak bear viewing occurs when the salmon are spawning in the Brooks River. To view the most activity a visit to Brooks Falls from late June through July, and again from late August until mid September is recommended. Special viewing platforms located at Brooks Falls and the mouth of the river offer unobstructed and up close bear viewing.

Perhaps one of the most photographed areas of bears in Alaska can be found in Katmai. If you want to see bears catching fish as they jump up a waterfall, this is it!

Accessibility

Because of its remote location all guests will use float planes to access Katmai National Park. Located inland on the northwestern edge of Katmai National Park and Preserve, the city of King Salmon is the most important gateway to the park. There is scheduled flight service from Anchorage to King Salmon and onward to Brooks Camp during the summer.

Activities & Attractions

  • Bear Viewing - On arrival at Brooks Camp, guests are shown a short video and given information about bear viewing safety. Bear viewing and hiking are unguided but Park Rangers are available at all times to answer questions.
  • Fishing - All fishing gear can be rented from the lodge for independent fishing. For those who need a bit of assistance, fishing instruction, boat and guide service, and fly-out fishing can be arranged.
  • Valley of 10,000 Smokes - At Brooks Lodge you are just 22 miles from the volcanic "Valley of 10,000 Smokes". The Novarupta Volcano exploded in 1912 with blasts of hot winds and gas that spewed hot glowing pumice and ash. The volcano destroyed all living things, and buried more than 40 square miles of lush green valley under ash deposits to depths of 700 feet. Tours of "The Valley of 10,000 Smokes" depart from Brooks Lodge daily.

Accommodation

There are accommodations at Brooks Lodge or at Katmai Wilderness Lodge, the only private establishment on the coast of Katmai's 3.6 million acre wilderness.

Brooks Lodge offers simple but clean accommodations. To accommodate the greatest number of visitors, each of the rooms is furnished with two sets of bunk beds. Up to four guests can share each room. Rooms at Brooks Lodge book up a year or more in advance, so careful planning is essential.

Katmai Wilderness Lodge offers an all-inclusive experience with guided bear viewing, photography, bird watching, hiking, sea kayaking, or perhaps a visit to archaeological sites. Maximum capacity at the lodge is 12 guests.

Dining

Gourmet meals are available at the wilderness lodge. Great food is also available at Brooks Camp, but note there are strict foods regulations so please inquire before bringing anything.

Kodiak

Kodiak is both the largest town and the largest island in the Kodiak Island Archipelago. Just southeast of Katmai National Park and Preserve, the archipelago is home to America's largest fishing fleet and six Alutiiq Native villages.

The town of Kodiak was the capital of Russian Alaska from 1792 to 1799. Visual reminders of that period include the Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church and the Baranov Museum, the oldest wooden building in Alaska. Most of Kodiak was destroyed during the 1964 earthquake and the subsequent 30 foot high tsunami.

Today Kodiak is still an important fishing port, but for visitors Kodiak is best known as the home of the world-famous Kodiak Brown Bear. Because of the limited road system on Kodiak Island, visitors gain access to these magnificent creatures via float plane from the city of Kodiak. The most reliable time for seeing Kodiak brown bears on Kodiak Island is during the annual salmon runs, typically end of June through the end of July. For the remainder of the summer season pilots will take guests to the nearby Katmai Coast where bears feed on berries and sightings are more reliable.

Accessibility

Daily flight departures to Kodiak are most commonly found from Anchorage with either Alaska Airlines or smaller local carriers.

Allow for at least two overnights when traveling to Kodiak as inclement weather can delay some travel plans.

Attractions & Activities

  • Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository - Explore 7,500 years of Kodiak's history. The museum preserves and shares the cultural traditions of the Alutiiq people through exhibits, programs, publications, research, and the care of Native Alaskan objects.
  • Baranov Museum - Kodiak's rich history, from the Koniag and Russians to World War II, can be explored in the Erskine House. The Russian American Magazin is one of the only four Russian structures remaining in the US and is a National Historic Landmark.
  • Bear Viewing - Though Kodiak is world famous for its brown bear population, most bear viewing excursions are flight safaris that take guests to the Alaska Peninsula. These are typically half-day excursions by float plane that land near coastal bear areas.
  • Fort Abercrombie State Park - This state park is host to historic ruins of World War II as part of the United States' coastal defense system. It is located on the edge of steep coastal cliffs and offers an extensive trail system through deep spruce forests, meadows, and around a lake. Old military instillations still mark the history of this area and the Kodiak Military History Museum is onsite for visitors.

Accommodation

There are two primary chain hotels in the city of Kodiak. One is located downtown overlooking the harbor while the other is located near the airport.

For visitors looking for a first-class bear viewing experience the Kodiak Brown Bear Center is located in the heart of the 1.9-million-acre Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on Karluk Lake. This area is home to one of the highest densities of bears in the world and offers maximum opportunities to see the famous Kodiak Brown Bear. This all-inclusive lodge hosts a maximum of 10 guests in deluxe cabins. In addition to daily guided bear watching programs, daily activities can also include independent hiking or kayaking, trout or salmon fishing, and interpretive programs.

The Kodiak Brown Bear Center 3/4/7 night programs with specific arrival/departure days of week. Please contact us for more details.

Dining

A wide variety of dining options can be found in Kodiak. Dining on fresh caught seafood along the waterfront, the local Subway, or local pubs can all be found in downtown Kodiak. For a special treat enjoy tastings at the Kodiak Island Winery or the Kodiak Brewery.

St. Paul Island, Pribilofs

The Pribilof Islands are located approximately 500 miles west of the Alaska mainland, in the North Pacific. The islands are famous for their rugged natural beauty, large seal populations, and migrating birds. St. Paul Island (14 miles long) is home to the world's largest fur seal rookeries, with an estimated population of 600,000 animals. From observation blinds, visitors can observe one of the most sophisticated social networks in the mammal kingdom. Seal pup sightings are a favorite among animal lovers and photographers.

Bird watchers will find the island fascinating. It is host to over two million nesting sea birds annually. Common sightings include red-legged kittiwakes, thick-billed murres, fulmars, harlequin ducks, least and crested auklets, rock sandpipers, red-faced cormorants, and puffins.

Accessibility

The best way to see all that St. Paul has to offer is through a group tour package that includes roundtrip airfare from Anchorage, accommodations, and guided sightseeing. Flights to and from St. Paul are offered three days a week on a local carrier. Smaller groups can incorporate an island visit into their itinerary or groups may offer an optional overnight add-on from Anchorage.

Attractions & Activities

  • Bird Watching - Nearly 250 different bird species have been recorded on the island, including some very rare species. This is truly an ornithologist's dream, and visitors are sure to mark a few species off of their 'must-see' list.
  • Fur Seals - Northern Fur Seals breed by the hundreds of thousands on the islands. The first big males, known as "Beachmasters," start to arrive in the latter half of May. By mid-June there are both Beachmasters and younger bachelor males covering the Island's rocky shoreline and battling for territory. The first females arrive in late June and give birth to pups immediately before mating again. July is chaos, with Beachmasters battling for females and territory, the females giving birth, nursing their young, and mating. There can be as many as one million seals on the Pribilofs, and most of them will stay there until October.

Accommodation

There are limited rustic accommodations and the small hotel offers only shared bathrooms. Rooms are clean but very rustic by urban standards.

Dining

Packages to St. Paul include 3 meals per day, depending on flight times.


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