July 21 - Anan Wildlife Observatory
The weather is predicted to deteriorate over the next few days, so we investigated whether we could do a tour of Anan Wildlife Observatory. Two spaces were available through Alaska Charters and Adventures, so we took them, taking a chance the rain would hold off for a few days.
We were picked up at 0645 at Heritage Basin and boarded a jet boat for the slightly more than one hour trip down Eastern Channel between Wrangell Island and the mainland. After a brief stop to look at some faded petroglyphs we arrived at Anan Bay right at a negative 2.6 foot low tide. This required the boat to cross a shallow bar at high speed on a plane and then stop and beach the boat in the outfall from Anan Creek.
|Wet Landing at Anan Creek|
|Safety Briefing at Trailhead|
|Anan Lagoon Nearly Dry|
The USFS manages the site and after disembarking we were given the safety briefing at the lower trailhead. Our guides were armed with rifles and we had to stop once and wait for a brown bear to cross the trail.
With the extreme low tide, Anan Lagoon was nearly dry, with Bald Eagles fishing in the pools. Anan Creek is home to the largest Pink Salmon run in SE Alaska, both in numbers and in the size of the fish. By the time we arrived at the viewing platform and blind we understood why, since the waterfalls and speed of the current means only the largest and healthiest fish make it to the spawning grounds beyond the second waterfall. The viewing area is alongside the first waterfall.
|The Pik Salmon must be tasty|
|Early in the season the bears eat the entire fish|
|Looking for fish|
|Later in the seeason the bears only eat the roe and bellies|
|With lunch over the brown bear disappeared into the woods|
Shortly after we arrived the brown bear that crossed the trail appeared walking upstream in the middle of the creek. We watched him fish and after he left the black bears re-appeared, mostly one at a time. We observed five different black bears feeding, some better fishers than others.
|Black Bears begin to appear|
|Many went to eat away from the creek|
|The bears have worn the logs smooth from use|
|This black bear was really scruffy looking|
|The young black bear mostly just scared the fish away|
The view from the blind was great when there was a bear fishing since you were only a few feet above them as the splashed through the water. Not only did we watch the bears, but also many Bald Eagles and crows watched, waiting to feast on the scraps left by the bears.
|Waiting for scraps|
|There were at least a dozen bald eagles waiting|
The USFS has installed two pit toilets, one at the trailhead and one a short distance from the viewing platform. To use the upper one, you must have a guide check out the trails for bears, since three trails converge around the outhouse. When you are finished you put your fingers out the hole in the door and signal you are done, and if clear the guide gives you the OK to return to the viewing platform.
After about 4 hours of viewing, with very few people (we were the only group after the first two hours), rain arrived along with more and larger groups, since the USFS grants 60 permits per day.
|The second waterfall is around the corner|
|The famous outhouse with the fingers signalling for an all clear|
The group all decided it was time to return to the trailhead. The tide was now high and we boarded the jet boat right at the head of the trail. The rain settled in solid as we headed back up the channel after a great day at Anan.