McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge
The McNeil River State Game Sanctuary was established in 1967 by the State of Alaska to preserve the unique concentration of bears that seasonally gather at McNeil Falls. All other uses are secondary, including bear viewing. In short, it is a place where bears can be bears with no fear of human interference. The program works by tightly regulating human behavior in the Sanctuary in terms of numbers and uses. Minimizing the human presence and infrastructure gives the bears the space they need. The State of Alaska does operate a small, unobtrusive viewing program so lucky visitors can view and photograph bears as they go about their daily lives.
How do i get there?
The lands and viewing program are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Permits are awarded by lottery. Lottery winners can then access McNeil River via float plane from Homer, AK.
Is it safe?
The McNeil River viewing program has a perfect safety record for both humans and bears going back over 40 years. An excellent resource or more information about some of the concepts as to WHY they have a perfect safety record is the film River of Bears created by the University of Alaska Anchorage Planetarium together with Open Lens Productions.
What do we do when we get there?
To better prepare visitors for their bear viewing adventure, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Mr. Wayne Hall have produced a series of videos to help people know what to bring, what not to bring, and what to expect while there.