The Bears at Haines, Alaska – August 2018

We left our campground on the water and headed a few miles away to find a campsite at the Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site. We found a couple that looked like they might be preparing to leave and asked them if they were. Turns out they were planning to switch to a beautiful site across the road that was on the water, just as soon as it became vacant, so we played musical campsites and occupied their old site as soon as they moved.

Our campsite. The sites across the road are on the water.

Despite not being on the water, our campsite was nice. It was close to the campground entrance, which made our walk down to the weir shorter. The price was also not bad for an Alaska state campground at $15/night. (Some of the SRAs were as high as $25/night for dry camping in campgrounds that were not as nice as this one.)

Once settled, we made our pets comfortable and walked down the road along the river in hopes to see a bear. We hung out for an hour or two at the weir, but no bears joined us.

Fishermen were as interested in the salmon as the bears were, although they would retreat to shore if a bear wandered into their vicinity.

We went back to our campsite, and after a short break, got the motorhome and parked it in a small pullout near the weir. The rangers preferred that we had a vehicle nearby to duck into if the bears got close. This time, before too long, bears started arriving.

My, what long claws you have …

Our first bear of the afternoon was Speedy’s older daughter, now on her own. (We met Speedy next.)

Speedy previously had two cubs survive into adulthood. When she kicked them out, her daughter stayed in the area but the male disappeared.

Our next bears of the day were Speedy and her three cubs. Speedy has apparently lived in this area for some years.

As we watched the bears through the later afternoon and early evening, it was very interesting to see Speedy interacting with her cubs.

One of the cubs tried fishing, but the other two were just happy to have mom do the work.

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We could have watched them all day if they had stayed at the river.

Note: Check out the end of the post for more of Speedy and her cubs.

It was also interesting to watch how the man counting salmon interacted with the bears. With Speedy, he basically discouraged her from coming too close to him. With the cubs (and some other bears he did not know as well), he kept his distance and made way for the bears when necessary.

I’m not sure how I would feel about having a job counting fish, but I suppose the boredom of fish counting gets offset by the challenge of staying safe near the bears. Although he never seemed all that concerned.

There was also a no stopping zone on the road near the weir, although cars would either crawl by or stop anyway if the bears were around.

The reason for the zone was that the bears often crossed that area when moving from the mountains to the weir. You were also not allowed to stand in that area, which sometimes was a bit frustrating for photography.

We spent the whole rest of the day and the next morning watching for and photographing bears. We recognized nine different bears. I was in heaven! This was high on my bucket list to see bears catching salmon in a river in their natural habitat. It was amazing!

Our ninth bear was new to the area this year. It was a beautiful sunny morning, but unfortunately he was backlit so it was challenging light for photography. He also didn’t seem to have the techniques for fishing about the weir down yet.

If we didn’t have reservations, I would have stayed there much longer. When I get my chance to return to Alaska, I will stay in the Chilkoot Lake Recreation Site campground near the river for a week. And I’ll be happy to stay a few days at Oceanside as well, to catch up on laundry and maybe even check out some museums and shops, and enjoy that spectacular scenery. But I’m coming back for the bears.

Day 89 (Day 53 in Alaska)

Miles: 12
Driving time: 0:20
Overnight: Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site, Haines, AK
Weather: Mostly sunny (42/64)
Total miles since crossing Canadian border: 5,601
Total miles: 7,169


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