Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
February 2021

McNeil River Bear Viewing

By Ed Weiss

Feeling those mid-winter pandemic blues? It’s a new year, and time to prepare for new adventures!

If you’ve ever wanted to view bears up close in their natural environment, then viewing brown bears at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary should be your next big adventure. The largest known gathering of brown bears in the world happens at McNeil River.

Each summer Alaskan Peninsula brown bears gather at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary to breed, feast on local sedges and salmon and raise their young. A bear viewing program at the sanctuary enables visitors to observe the spectacle, up close and personal, guided each day by Department wildlife guides.


McNeil 101 - Visiting McNeil River Bear Viewing Area

These short videos will take you on a trip to McNeil River and provide tips and answers to the most often ask questions about getting to McNeil, camping, and viewing from the main platform at the falls and other viewing options.

Part 1- Introduction

Part 2: History and Background

Part 3: How do I Get There?


Part 4: How do We Go See Bears?

Part 5: What to Bring, What to Leave at Home

Part 6: Facilities and Camp Life

Visitors are selected by lottery and, if drawn, Alaska residents pay a $225 permit fee and nonresidents $525. Applications for this summer viewing program must be submitted by midnight on March 1. Hard copy applications submitted by mail must be received by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by close of business on March 1. A nonrefundable application fee of $30 per person is required.


Online applications and printable application forms are available through the “Permits” tab and “Viewing Permits” link.

For more information contact Lands and Refuges Manager Ed Weiss at 267-2189 or

AFWN article on 2020 Covid-safety arrangements

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