McNeil River Info


The McNeil River State Game Sanctuary is unique. Nowhere else in the world can a person reasonably expect to photograph a group of 20 or more wild brown bears and see perhaps 60 individual bears come and go. Brown bears congregate here because the river has an abundant supply of spawning salmon each summer from about early July to mid-August.

McNeil River is located approximately 200 air miles (320 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage and 100 air miles (160 kilometers) west of Homer. The river drains into Kamishak Bay in the shadow of an active volcano, Augustine Island. This is a roadless area that has remained undisturbed by human development.

Access to the sanctuary is primarily by light aircraft or small commercial fishing boat. Most visitors utilize one of the many air charter services located on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Peninsula, or Anchorage. Most visitors arrive by floatplane with the arrivals timed to coincide with high tide.

A permit system and user fees are required at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to provide an opportunity to view and photograph bears and still maintain a conception of undisturbed animals. The system is designed to limit the number of people who may be present at the McNeil River falls at one time. During the period July 1-August 25, no more than 10 permits per day my be issued to visit the falls. Permittees are selected by random lottery from the applications mailed by March 1.

For more information on McNeil River Game Sanctuary, visit the Alaska Fish & Game home page. This is the latest McNeil site info as of 3/20/2004.

page updated by mark hardgrave 3/20/2004