This wildlife sanctuary near Juneau is renowned for exceptional brown bear viewing at Pack Creek.
Flowing down from the high mountains on Admiralty Island's east side, Pack Creek spills into Seymour Canal at an area of extensive tidal flats 30 miles south of Juneau. Pack Creek's healthy salmon runs during the summer attract a large number of brown bears to the mouth of the creek, making the spot one of the best bear viewing areas in the Inside Passage.
Things to Do
Brown bears are the main attraction to the Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area in Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary. Visitors can only access the sanctuary on a guided trip or by applying for a permit, available between June 1 and September 10. The sanctuary is located on Admiralty Island and is only accessible by chartered flight or boat from Juneau. Upon arrival, visitors receive an orientation from a ranger and then can hike a mile-long trail to an observation tower or a take a shorter walk along the shore to the viewing spit where they can watch the bears feeding on clams or spawning salmon.
Amazingly, more than 95% of visitors to Pack Creek are successful in seeing at least one bear. The peak viewing time is from July to August, when the pink and chum salmon are running in Pack Creek. During this time, visitors may enjoy close-up views of five or more bears during the day and up to several bears at a time. The best times to view bears in the area are morning and evening.
In addition to brown bears, visitors might also spot Sitka black tailed deer that inhabit the old growth spruce and hemlock forests that surround Pack Creek. Other wildlife that may be spotted includes river otters, minks, martens, and harbor seals. Occasionally, orcas and humpback whales are spotted offshore. Admiralty Island also supports the highest concentration of nesting bald eagles in the world, which are commonly seen feeding on spawning salmon at Pack Creek.
Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary was named for an Alaskan woodsman who lived on a float house in the area for almost 40 years. The sanctuary includes an area that has been closed to hunting since the mid-1930s.
Facilities and Camping
There are no facilities or visitor services at Pack Creek or in the Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary. Camping is not allowed at Pack Creek, but a camping is allowed on nearby islands that are less than a mile away. Visitors who wish to camp must bring their own boats to travel back and forth between the islands and the bear viewing area.
The Stan Prince State Wildlife Sanctuary and Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area are accessible only by boat or plane. Most visitors arrive as part of a one-day guided floatplane tour departing from Juneau.
For more information, visit the Stan Price Wildlife Sanctuary and Pack Creek Bear Viewing Area websites.
Most visitors to Pack Creek arrive by floatplanes or boat from Juneau just for the day. Upon arrival, they are met by a ranger and then hike a mile-long trail to an observation tower from which they can watch brown bears feed on spawning salmon. No camping is allowed at Pack Creek but a camping area is maintained on nearby Windfall Island for kayakers visiting Pack Creek. There are no other facilities or concessionaires and camping near Pack Creek is not allowed.
The sanctuary is cooperatively managed by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Forest Service who operate a permit system to limit visitors from June to mid-September. There is a fee for one- to three-day permits that should be reserved in advance beginning March 1. Guiding and tour companies receive half the permits, leaving 12 for individuals who want to visit Pack Creek on their own.
Most visitors access the sanctuary by boat or plane from Juneau. Often it is a one-day tour with a guiding company with planes landing at South Sand Spit. For more information or a list of guide companies offering Pack Creek tours contact the Admiralty Island National Monument headquarters (907-586-880) in Juneau.