Bear Viewing Areas
The Tongass National Forest has the highest density of black bears in the world and one of the highest densities of brown bears. To provide visitors a safe place to view and photograph these iconic creatures in their natural habitats, the Tongass has five designated Bear Viewing Areas: Anan Creek, Dog Salmon Creek, Fish Creek, Margaret Creek, and Pack Creek. These are sites where bears congregate naturally when there are fish in the streams, and facilities have been built to make viewing the bears easier and safer, with minimum disturbance to the animals. In addition to black and brown bears, Bear Viewing Areas also can offer the opportunity to see salmon, bald eagles, sea lions, and other wildlife.
The Tongass National Forest is home to both black bears (Ursus americanus) and brown bears (Ursus arctos). Brown bears (akin to "grizzlies" in the interior) are easily distinguished by a large hump of muscle over their shoulders as well as a dish-shaped face. Color is not a reliable way to determine species, as bears come in countless shades of brown, blonde, black, and cinnamon.
A typical bear's year begins in the spring when it emerges from hibernation. Adult males are the first to leave their den, sometimes as early as March. Females with cubs spend the most time hibernating, some not leaving until May.
While bears live throughout the Tongass and often gather around fish streams, the Forest Service maintains bear viewing facilities at Dog Salmon Creek (Prince of Wales Island), Fish Creek (Hyder), Margaret Creek (Ketchikan), Anan Creek (Wrangell), Pack Creek (Juneau), and Steep Creep (Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center). You need a permit to go to Anan or Pack Creek.