Tongass National Forest
Wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful throughout the Tongass National Forest. Three places are particularly popular for bear viewing— Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, Anan Creek south of Wrangell, and Hyder on the Canadian border, near Ketchikan. Permits are required for bear viewing at Pack Creek. Currently, permits are not required for bear viewing in other areas, but limited visitor group size and other restrictions apply at Anan Creek. Contact a Forest Service office for the latest information about permits and restrictions.
From the ferries that travel the Inside Passage, a traveler can often see mountain goats, whales, deer, a variety of marine birds, sea lions, otters, and other animals. The Stikine River Delta is a good place to view birds during the spring migration. At Blind Slough, on Mitkof Island, trumpeter swans live year-round. Streams on the forest provide interesting opportunities to view salmon during spawning season. Fish ladders at Dog Salmon Fishpass and Margaret Lake Fish Ladder provide an excellent opportunity to watch pink, coho, chum, sockeye and steelhead salmon negotiate the pass.
Hyder is located at Misty Fjords National Monument.
Viewing Opportunities and Seasons: Hyder offers a unique opportunity to view and photograph brown and black bears in July, August, and September. The area from the Fish Creek bridge to the Riverside Mine has been closed to hunting since 1988. The U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are jointly studying the area to develop a plan to provide a safe environment for bears and people. The chum and pink salmon runs provide an extensive food supply from July until September for the bears, gulls and bald eagles. Canada geese, ducks, and songbirds can be seen on Moose Pond in summer and other birds can be seen during seasonal migrations. Porcupines and red squirrels are frequently found in wooded areas along the roadside, while marmots are common in the higher elevations near the Salmon Glacier. Beaver can be seen near Blue Lagoon and evidence of beaver can be observed at Moose Pond.
Habitat: Habitat at Marx and Fish Creeks is typical of Southeast Alaska glacier drainages. The substrate is a mix of fine sand, cobble and rounded boulders. The forest is made up of old growth spruce and cottonwood, with an understory of alder, salmonberry, and devil's club. Bears are known to use the large spruce trees as refuges for sleep between feeding periods. They supplement their fish diet with berries and vegetation. The dense forest close to the streams also affords them a measure of privacy after their many photo sessions.
Advice and Cautions: There is a parking area 200 feet north of the wildlife observatory that is recommended for use when viewing and photographing bears. Bears frequently cross the road, coming down from the steep slope of the hill to fish for salmon in the creek. To reduce disturbance to the bears, please do not park or leave your car unattended on the side of the road throughout the entire area. Photograph and view the bears from a distance, using binoculars and telephoto lenses. Bears are wild and unpredictable so please keep your distance and respect the bears' need for space.
Location and Access: Hyder is a small community in the northeast corner of the Tongass National Forest. It is connected to the Canadian highway system, and thus the U.S.-Canadian ferry system, via Prince Rupert. The Alaska Marine Highway System provides summer service to Hyder from Ketchikan with five departures a month. The service runs May through September.
Hyder is the only community in southern Southeast Alaska that is accessible by road from the continental road system. The Cassiar Highway connects nearby Stewart, British Columbia, via the Alaska Highway north to the Yukon and Alaska. The Hyder road system provides several miles of roaded access from the ferry terminal along Fish and Marx Creeks to the Salmon Glacier. The road is also used extensively by the Canadian mining industry.
There is a small boat harbor in Hyder that has open moorage, a launching ramp and a seaplane float. There are restaurants and hotels in the Hyder vicinity.
Dog Salmon Fishpass
Dog Salmon Fishpass is located in the Craig Ranger District.
Description: This fishpass was built as a partnership with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Gildersleeve Logging, Ketchikan Pulp Inc., South Coast Inc., and the Forest Service. This is an Alaskan steeppass type fish ladder. It was opened in 1989, and all the construction finally completed in 1982. Pink, coho, chum, sockeye and steelhead salmon all use this fishpass. There is a viewing platform here that provides an excellent opportunity to watch the fish negotiate the pass. The best time to see the fish in the stream and using the ladders is between July and September. There are informative signs here explaining the fish ladder, how it works and all who will benefit. Here at the viewing platform is also an opportunity to look and listen for songbirds and watch for black bears.
Directions: From the ferry terminal in Hollis it is ten miles west on the paved Craig-Klawock-Hollis highway to the unpaved Hydaburg road. Craig is 21 miles west of the Hydaburg road on this same highway. There is a sign here identifying the Hydaburg road turn-off. Approximately 8.8 miles down this road there will be an unpaved, one lane road on the left, directly after a large gravel turnout. This is the Polk or #21 road. The fishpass is another 16.7 miles on this road and will be on the right. There is a sign here as well. It is a short drive through a clearcut to a large parking area. The fishpass is a short walk from the parking area down an old gravel road.
Look for all the different kinds of fish that use this ladder: coho, steelhead, chum, sockeye and pinks. February through May are the best months to see steelhead in the stream system. Sockeyes run from mid to late July, pinks and chums are in the creeks from August to September and cohos can be seen from August through October. Black bears and often be seen at the fishpass taking advantage of the variety of salmon in the stream. Since the different species spawn at different times of the year, there is a good chance of seeing a bear here almost anytime in the summer or fall.
Bald eagles also frequent the area to feed on the salmon. Some songbirds can be heard here as well. Listen and look for the chestnut-backed chickadee, varied thrush, dark-eyed junco, and Steller's jay. In the stream look for the American dipper, a little gray bird that feeds by diving into the creek and walking upstream underwater looking for aquatic insects. Sitka black-tailed deer are frequently sighted along the road on the drive out. The deer enjoy feeding on all the grass that has been planted along the roadside.
Anan is located some 27 air miles southeast of Wrangell and 60 air miles northeast of Ketchikan on mainland Alaska's Cleveland Peninsula. Several air and boat charter services order trips to Anan from local communities.
Be prepared for your visit; rubber boots and rain gear can make your trip more comfortable, even in the middle of summer.
Beginning in July, Anan Creek hosts a major run of pink salmon. By the end of the month, the creek is generally alive with thousands of fish. The average observed escapement (the number of fish that make it back to the creek) is 150,000 pink salmon!
The Anan-bound fish that don't make it back contribute heavily to both sport and commercial fisheries. Although pink salmon are the most plentiful, the stream also contains chum, chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon, Dolly Varden, steelhead, and cutthroat trout.
The abundance of salmon attracts high concentrations of black bears, bald eagles, harbor seals and a number of brown bears that gather to feed on the migrating and spawning salmon. All this activity makes for exciting viewing and picture taking. People from around the world have come to enjoy the unique experience Anan offers.
The presence of such a vast fishery has a history of attracting people to Anan. The Tlingit people and, later, those of European descent awaited the arrival of the fish runs with much the same anticipation as the bears and their avian partners.
At Anan you'll find a Forest Service public recreation cabin, bear observatory, and a partially surfaced mile-long trail connecting the two.
Anan Bay Public Recreation Cabin, situated at the head of a small cove in Anan Bay, is the District's most popular cabin. Reservations must be made well in advance.
The Observatory may be reached by a trail from either the Anan Bay cabin or the mouth of Anan Lagoon; hiking distance is about 1 mile from the cabin and 1/2 mile from the lagoon over an easy to moderately difficult trail. The Observatory, an open-sided shelter with a spacious wooden deck, sits on a rock bluff above a set of cascading falls. The falls provide ideal fishing sites for the bears, making the Observatory an exceptional spot to watch and photograph the wildlife.
Because the falls pose a partial barrier to the migrating salmon, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the USDA forest Service built a fishpass tunnel to help the salmon in their journey upstream. The fishpass opens only during times of extremely high or low creek levels, when the fish are unable to navigate the rails.
Margaret Lake Fish Ladder
Located 26 miles north of Ketchikan in Margarita Bay/Traitors Cove. From July through October, numerous steelhead, coho, sockeye, and pink salmon gain access to extensive upstream habitat through this fish ladder. During this time, black bear viewing is outstanding from the observation platform at the top of the ladder. A great place to watch a bear fish. In 1995, approximately 28,000 salmon passed through the Margaret fish ladder. In August, during the peak of the pink run, as many as 10 bears were seen above and below the fish ladder feeding on the adult salmon. The trailhead that leads to the viewing platform is located on the existing road system, approximately 1 mile from saltwater at Margarita Bay. When walking the trail please use extreme caution. Black bears also use this trail to access the creek where the fish ladder is located.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication