Renowned for exceptional brown bear viewing, 95% of visitors see at least one bear at this sanctuary
Flowing down from the high mountains on Admiralty Island's east side, Pack Creek spills into Seymour Canal at an area of extensive tide flats 30 miles south of Juneau. Pack Creek's healthy salmon runs during the summer attract a large number of brown bears that congregate at the mouth to feed on the fish, making the spot one of the best known in Southeast Alaska for bear viewing.
Within this area is Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary, named for an Alaskan woodsman who lived on a float house here for almost 40 years. The sanctuary includes an area that has been closed to hunting since the mid-1930s, and bears are most abundant from mid-July to mid-August, when the pink and chum salmon are running.
Amazingly more than 95% of the visitors to Pack Creek are successful in seeing at least one bear, usually a sow or sow and her cubs. During peak viewing periods, visitors may enjoy close-up views of five or more bears during the day or even several bears at one time.
Tourists 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 otter, mink, marten 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 and are commonly seen feeding on spawning salmon at Pack Creek. Raven, crows and gulls also take advantage of the abundant fish.
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.