How to Have a Safe and Enjoyable Photography Workshop in Katmai

Looking over the moraine at the Iliuk Arm of Naknek Lake, Katmai National Park

You are about to enter the Kingdom of the Brown Bear on the Alaska Peninsula in Katmai National Park & Preserve.   You will be camping and hiking in the highest density of Brown Bears in the world! Bears travel hundreds of miles each year to fish for salmon here.

Katmai is the home of these bears.  We will be visitors in their home. As long as we are respectful of the bears and do not stress them out they will go about their business of acquiring calories from salmon, grass, and berries.

The bears of Katmai are busy acquiring calories from the day they end their hibernation in late spring (~May) until they return to their dens (~October).  During these five months, they usually double their weight in preparation for their long sleep.  During hibernation, they burn about 4,000 calories per day.  They need all the calories they can get to survive the long winter, and adapt to the fluctuations of when the salmon return in the spring.

We need to be very aware of their caloric intake and expenditure.  We must minimize our impact on their ability to catch salmon, eat berries, and consume grass. If our presence increases a bear’s energy expenditure, or we reduce its rate of caloric intake, then we are negatively affecting that bear.

Please be considerate of the bears’ wellbeing first and how your presence impacts them.

Brown Bear chasing salmon

In late June and early July, the bears actively chase down and pounce on salmon in the Brooks River.

Give the Bears Space

In Katmai, you are required by law not to approach a bear any closer than 50 yards.  If you see a bear and approach it any closer than 50 yards you will be stressing that bear, and putting yourself and the bear in danger.  This is especially true for a sow with cubs.   The closest distance for a sow with cubs was recently lowered from 100 yards to 50 yards.  Fifty yards is very close as compared to distance rules in other parks!  Brown bears (grizzly bears) can run very fast:

  • A grizzly bear can cover 50 yards in 3 seconds
  • A grizzly bear can run faster than any horse
  • A grizzly bear can outrun a black bear by almost 1.5 times

The reality in the Brooks River area of Katmai is that you will end up getting very close to bears, much closer than 50 yards. The key here is that you do not approach a bear with the intention of “getting closer”, and when a bear accidentally gets within 50 yards or closer to you, you calmly move away, more than 50 yards, from the bear(s).

In the backcountry and outside of Katmai even getting within 600 yards of grizzly bear can be dangerous.  This is especially true with interior grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis), as found in areas like Denali and Yellowstone.

A bear encounter on one of the trails in Katmai.  Encounters like this are common.  Bears use the same trails as you will be using.

Walking and Hiking Around Bears

Avoid surprising any bears.  The sooner a bear can see you, or hear you, and realize you are a human, and not another bear, or a threat, the better.

These brown bears are not looking at humans as a food source!  Attacks from brown bears (grizzly bears) are defensive attacks.

My mantra is “The bears are more afraid of us than we are of them”.  If you can remember this, and think things through so you put the bears at ease, the safer you will be.

Best practices while walking on the trails in Brooks Camp include:

  • When possible, travel with other people, in a group, on the trails.
  • If you are by yourself try to join other groups of hikers.
  • Do not lose your situational awareness when you are in a group with other people.
  • Manage others in your group who are overly dramatic or acting out in a paranoid way or hysterical way, or that are not following proper ethics or protocol.  One “bad apple” can ruin things for everyone.  Don’t be shy, if you see someone who needs some direction, give it.  A bear’s life or a person’s life could depend on it.
  • Talk so the bear knows you are a human and not another bear.  Bear bells and other alternatives, as compared talking or singing, is less efficient at letting the bear know you are a human.
  • Make yourself visible from far away.  During low light turn your headlamp on even if you do not need it to see.
  • Walk in the middle of the dirt roads, as opposed to hugging the sides (less visible).
  • Look behind you frequently, the bears are very quiet when they walk.
Bears Using You as a Shield

Bear mothers with cubs sometimes stay close to the lodge and campground since the presence of humans helps to deter other bears that may be a threat to their young.

In areas of SE Alaska I have watched mother black bears send their cubs up a tree next to a viewing platform, so the humans can “babysit” the cubs while the mothers fish for salmon nearby.

Walking with a group of friends one day on the Falls trail at Brooks Camp a bear was being chased by other bears on the trail, running towards us.  I predicted that the chased bear would seek shelter with us and for our group to just relax in the dense forest off the trail a few feet.  Sure enough, the adult being chased stood right next to us, within 10 feet for five minutes, while the pursuing bears slowly decided to move on and avoid us.  As the bear stood next to us, we calmly talked to it, letting it know everything was ok.  Soon enough, it moved on, giving us one last look of what seemed like gratitude.

Encountering a Bear on the Trail

Between June and September, it is highly likely, almost guaranteed, that you will have a close encounter with a bear on the trail in Brooks Camp.  Preparing for such an encounter is important for your safety and the wellbeing of the bears.

The narrow trail through the thick forest that leads to the Riffles and Upper Falls viewing platforms is frequently used by bears.   Bears walk the beach on Naknek Lake, the trail to the campground, and the trails around Brooks Lodge.

What do to when you encounter a bear

Do not freak out!  Remain Calm.

It is highly likely you will encounter a bear on a trail at Brooks Camp. This is no place for drama.  A screaming person will frighten a bear.

Instead, gently speak to the bear in a calm voice and move off the trail in a perpendicular direction to the bear. If you are in a group, then everyone in your group should move to the same side off the trail.

The forest is thick around Brooks Camp.  The likely reality is that you will only be able to move a few feet off the trail.  Do not turn your back on the bear, and do not stare it down either.  Stand, looking perpendicular to the bear’s direction and let it pass.  Keep speaking in a quiet and calm voice as the bear walks by.  Avoid looking it directly in the eye.

Sudden movements, screaming, crying, or other erratic behavior on your part will not help.  The bear just wants to move on by.  It is not out hunting humans. Do not run!  Do not throw things at the bear or act aggressively.  Do not raise your arms above your head and try to scare the bear away.  Mellow out and be chill.  Let the bear walk past and enjoy the moment in peace.

It is best to put your camera away (on your body, camera harness) and not barrage the close bear with a noisy shutter going off, or staring at it while you take photos.  When the bear is a few yards from you the photos will not be that good anyway, and most importantly your situational awareness can be comprised by you taking photos.

What Happens When You Over-React

On the trail to the Riffles and Falls Platform, a man got a bit over-excited when he and the group he was with encountered a bear walking on the same trail.  The group knew they should get off the trail and yield to the bear.  This man, however, did so in an overly excited manner, panicking as he pulled out a can of bear spray, pointing it at the bear while hurriedly walking backward into the dense forest.  When he tripped and fell over backwards he sprayed bear spray everywhere, including in his own face.  Luckily the bear continued on his merry way after stopping to watch all the commotion.  Unfortunately, the man had to be flown to the hospital in King Salmon and given first aid treatment from the bear spray.

Avoid Surprising Bears

Surprising a bear on the trail can be dangerous!  Remember, brown bears are not looking at us as a source of food, or hunting humans to eat.  They attack when they feel threatened. When surprised, they can feel threatened and may respond with aggression.  This is especially true for a mother with cubs.

No surprises!

To avoid surprising a bear,

  • Talk in a loud, but a calm and relaxed voice on the trails.
  • When you are next to moving water (river or waves on the beach) you need to make sure your voice can be heard over the water noise.  The same holds on windy days.  Your voice does not really carry that far in a thick forest.
  • Bears can hear about twice as well as humans can. Nonetheless, it is prudent to make your voice loud as you hike.
  • A common phrase hikers call out in the forest is “Hey Bear, Hey Bear…”.  I prefer instead to save the word “Bear” for when you actually see a bear.  This way your group knows to be at full attention.  Instead, “Hey Boo-Boo”, “Hey Yogi” is what I use when hiking.  Reserve the word “bear” for when there really is a bear.
  • Do not be shy.  The more experienced hikers and rangers speak the loudest when trying to notify their presence to bears.
  • Walk where you can be seen.  In the river versus in dense brush on the shore.
  • If it is dark, or getting dark, I like to turn my headlamp on, even though I may not need it to see.  It can warn bears of your presence.

Please watch this excellent video on how to hike in bear country.

Mother with cubs frequent the parts of the river where we will be wading.  We must respect their need for rest and avoid waking them.  When they take dirt naps like this on the bank of the river they can be hard to notice.

Expect bears everywhere in Katmai National Park!  This bear was in the deep shade and tall grass. 

Safety on the Brooks River and other Streams in Katmai

Extra care is needed when wading in the Brooks River.  Water and drowning risks exist as the Brooks River has deep channels in places.  The current can be strong and the water is cold.  Add lots of bears to the mix and you have to be very careful and aware at all times when in the river.

In the summer of 2022, a new Brooks River Pilot Permit system will be implemented.  In order to wade the river permits will be required.  This will help manage the numbers and behaviors of those who wade the river. Please stay with our photography group and follow the instructions of the guide while on the Brooks River and corridor.

Wading Safety

Chest waders are needed.  Hip waders will not work on the Brooks River.  Chest waders can be rented at the Brooks Lodge, although for my workshops I highly recommend that you bring your own chest waders instead of renting them.

  • Wear a tight waist belt on your waders at all times, even if you have a backpack on wear a separate wading belt.  If you fall into the river you do not want your waders to fill with water!  A tight belt that closes off your waders as high up on your waist as possible is required.
  • A wading staff (hiking pole) helps a great deal to stabilize yourself in the river.  Use a short leash with a carabiner from your wading staff to your belt so you can let go of the wading staff when fishing or photographing.
  • A waterproof (dry-bag) backpack that is fully waterproof when submerged is very smart to use.  I keep an extra dry bag with me ready to put my camera in at a moments notice, without having to take off my backpack.  The Sea-to-Summit Big River 65L dry bag works great for quickly stowing a camera with a big lens while you are on the river.

In many sections of the Brooks River, you will not be able to wade across it.  Be aware of your escape routes if a bear approaches.  How can you move to give the bear space and stay outside of its 50-yard personal space bubble?  Is there a shallow area in the middle of the river to go to?  Can you easily enter the forest along the bank, or is there a steep bank or dense brush that limits an exit?

When on the river, my first choice for a “safe zone” is to remain in the river on a shallow gravel bar out of the way of any approaching bears.  When you go to the shore you are now dealing with thick vegetation, sleeping sows and cubs, and poor situational awareness.

Some good rules of thumb I like to follow when wading the river.

  • Position yourself out in the river in a visible location.  I avoid walking on the river bank when possible and look for wadable sections of the river where I am out in the river and can be seen by bears.
  • Leave your tripod and huge lenses back at camp.  Bring a smaller zoom lens that you can quickly store in a dry bag.  My preferred river setup is a crop sensor camera with a 100-400 mm zoom.
  • Use a dry bag backpack that is 100% waterproof, one that you do not need to worry about when wading in deeper water.
  • Stay in a tight group.  Follow the directions of your guide.
  • Be ready to move.  Wading the Brooks River is a dynamic adventure.  You will be always adjusting your position relative to the bears.  Sometimes you have to be patient and wait until the bears move out and provide a safe path for you to go.
  • Always look around you, check all 360 degrees, all the time.  Bears are very quiet and they move faster than humans when walking since their stride is so much longer than ours.
  • When crossing fast current, face upstream into the current.  Put your wading staff or hiking pole upstream of you.  Only move one foot at a time.  Think of your self of a tripod, with the wading staff upstream and your two legs as the tripod.  Minimize the time you have only one leg on the river bottom.  Be able to reverse your direction if the current is too strong or deep, and do reverse your direction if needed.
  • Read the water before wading.  Is it too deep?  Are they slow moving pools that may be very deep?  In flowing water, the widest part of the river is usually the shallowest and has lower force from the current than narrower crossings.  Inexperienced river waders often try to find the narrowest part of the river to cross, instead of the safer widest part of the river.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to see the river bottom.  Use your wading staff to check the water depth and for obstacles before you step in that direction.
  • The deeper the water you wade in, the larger the submerged part of your body is and the more force you feel from the river.  When you get into the water above your waist the force from the current can overcome you — another reason to cross rivers at the widest and shallowest areas.
  • Unbuckle the waist belt on your backpack before wading so that you can jettison your pack if you do fall in.
  • Check and tighten your wading belt so that your waders do not fill with water if you slip or fall into the river.
  • If you do fall into the river quickly try to get your body up and out of the current.  The sooner you do this the better before the current starts to take you down the river.  Yell loudly so others know you fell and can offer assistance or rescue.  Do not be embarrassed, yell loudly as it is hard to hear when out in the river.
Whitewater Bear

Being in a fast moving river with bears adds another element of danger.  The bears in Katmai are very good swimmers.  I have seen them swim whitewater rapids with ease, and also watched them swim 10 or more miles across Naknek Lake.

On a remote kayak trip in Katmai, I was carefully paddling my kayak down the Savonoski River swollen with runoff and running fast.  We had already paddled down five miles of this river navigating around dangerous downed trees (strainers and sweepers), and about 30 or more bears fishing for salmon.   Up to this point, most of the bears ran when they saw our kayaks coming downriver as they fished.  In the wilderness, most bears are not used to humans and retreat in fear.

As I paddled my kayak down one braid of the wide and fast moving river I noticed a bear on a gravel bar to my right.  The bear started to run down the gravel bar in a downstream direction, parallel to me, and about 50 feet away.  I kept my eye on the haystack rapids I was in making sure my kayak did not turn sideways to the current and flip.  The bear left the gravel bar and swam directly towards me in the fast-moving rapids.  We were on a collision course for each other.  My paddling partner, Brian, was far behind me upstream.  My bear spray was under a bungee cord on the deck of my kayak and I could not let go of my paddle without losing control of the boat.

The bear and I were now going down the rapids together.  He was a few feet from the side of my kayak.  His eyes were bugged out and I could tell he too was panicking.  I actually began to think that this was the way I would die, in a muddy raging river with a bear.  He bobbed in the water next to me, with his huge head so close to me I could hear him breathing.  For a while, I was so close that I could not do a sweep turn away from him without the back of the kayak hitting him.

Finally, I was able to turn the kayak away from him.  I watched him swim hard to the shore through the rapids and then run away into the forest.  Although I am glad that it all worked out, I felt bad that my presence had scared him so much and put him into this situation, where he too was freaked out just as much as I was.  If we had made contact in the rapids I am convinced my kayak would have flipped, at best, and it is likely it would have been damaged, with me being days away in the wilderness.

The fast-moving river combined with a close bear encounter added up to a dangerous situation.

A close encounter with Bear 856, the dominant male bear in 2018 on the Brooks River.  This encounter occurred on the river as he quietly walked upstream in the tall grass.  At one point Bear 856 was about 10 meters from us. Tallgrass is a real challenge as it is hard to see even the biggest bears.  In this encounter, our group of three photographers calmy moved perpendicular out of the water and up on the bank.  We stayed in one tight group as we quickly, but calmly, gave him space.

How to Read a Bear

You can tell if a bear is stressed at your presence by looking closely at its ears, eyes, mouth and its behavior.

  • Ears back are a sign of stress and potential aggression.  Not good!
  • Eyes fixed upon you as the bear moves, not good! Use your lens or binoculars to see their eyes.
  • Drooling, yawning, jaw snapping. Not good!  The bear is really stressed by you (or something else)
  • Head swaying back and forth while hanging low.  Not good!
  • Woofing, barks, huffing.  Really not good!

If you see these indicators, calmly and purposely move from the away and “communicate” to the bear you mean no harm.

Displaced Aggression

When a bear loses a fight or is pushed out of an area by other bears, then it might take out its frustration as “displaced aggression” on you.  Be aware of this when you are near a bear fight.

Holly, Bear 435, with her adopted cub and natural cub

Bear 435 Holly runs with her two cubs (one adopted) through the Brooks River in search of salmon.  Take a careful look at the ears and eyes of these bears.  Even though I was across the river as they ran by, the bears were not comfortable with my presence.  It is often hard to read their eyes from afar.  Use your long lens to evaluate their emotional state.  Are they afraid (ears back, eyes on you, looking out of the corner of their eye at you, yawning, drooling, head swinging from side to side)?


When salmon are plentiful the bears fishing behavior changes from “dash and grab” to scavenging salmon carcasses later in the season.  Be well aware of where you wading in the river.  Are you close to lots of salmon carcasses?  Are you visible to the bears from a far distance?  Sometimes it is much safer to be in the middle of the river than on the sides of the river.

Bear Awareness and Safety on the Naknek Lake Beach

Mother bears with cubs love the beaches of Naknek Lake.  They sleep there during the day and night.  These beaches provide them with good situational awareness, they can see things coming from a further distance, there a trees close by in case they need to tree their cubs, and there are people close by.  Often mother bears stay close to Brooks Lodge, the beach, and the campground since the presence of people help to deter other bears.  This adds another level of safety for their cubs.

The trail between the Visitors Center and the campground parallels the beach.  Mother bears like to sleep with their cubs in the strip of vegetation that separates the trail from the beach.  This can result in close encounters when you walk the trail, especially at night.

Before walking campground trail pop out on the beach and look both ways down the beach.  Are there any bears on the beach?  If so, you can take an auxiliary trail through the forest to the campground.  This trail is called the “water pipeline” trail as it follows a water pipeline (that you will trip on).  This trail is obtained just across from the NPS Ranger Station and is marked with flagging.

“There’s a bear on the beach, there is a bear on the beach?”, shout the tourists filling the Brooks Lodge.  They all run outside down to the beach and form a line that blocks the beach.  Now the bear, usually a mother with cubs, looks down the beach and sees her path is blocked, by the people with their cameras.  Stressed out, she takes her cubs up onto the trails around the lodge and campground and things go downhill from there.  Please do not do this.  If you want to get photos of the bears on the beach, you still can do so without blocking the beach.  Let others know not to block the beach.


The beach at Naknek Lake is like a nursery, full of mother bears and cubs.  They sleep on the beach during the day, and almost every night they take their cubs down the beach by the campground to sleep away from the other bears.  The beach is like a bear highway.  When a bear is walking on the beach avoid blocking its path.  Even though the bear maybe 200 yards away, or more, if it sees a line of people standing across the beach (taking photos) it stresses the bear.  Do not block the beach.  If you are in a group of strangers who are blocking the beach, politely suggest to take the line of people and angle it so there is plenty of open beach that the bear sees ahead.

Sub-Adult Bears.  Those damn teenagers…

Sub-adult brown bears range in age from 2.5 years to 6 years.  These are bears that are no longer with their mother (they have been “emancipated”) and have not yet reached sexual maturity.  There are a lot of sub-adult bears at Brooks Camp.

Sub-adult bears like to play and to “push” you when they can.  They will often walk towards you, on the trails and in the river.  Stand your ground.  If you retreat then the game is on and they will follow you.  It is best, from a safety perspective, and a training perspective, to not let them do this.  Make some noise, if needed you can yell at it, stomp your feet, throw some gravel in front of it.  Try to change its behavior without being overly aggressive.  Usually, just letting it know you are not going to play with it, is all it takes.  They are curious and playful at this age, however, we obviously do not want to encourage any play between humans and bears!

A sub-adult brown bear looks at me while wading approaches me and wants to “play”.  This situation is very common, both in the river and on the trails.  Sub-adults are learning the ropes of what they can get away with.  They often will challenge you.  If one approaches you, stand your ground.  Wave your arms at it, make noise, go ahead and yell if needed, stomp the ground or the water. If it does not back way give it some bear spray.

Bear Cubs. Cute and the Biggest Risk

We all love to see bear cubs.  You will likely see lots of different bear cubs while at Brooks Camp.  Somewhere in the near vicinity of a bear cub is a mother bear.  This mother bear is on alert for any perceived threats to her cubs.  She will respond quickly and forcefully if she senses any risk to her cubs.

  • Never get between a cub and its mother.
  • If you see a cub, but do not see the mother, quickly and quietly move away from the cub.  If you see the mother, talk in a calm voice as you move away.  Do not pause and take photos while you are moving away.
  • Give lots of space to a mother and her cubs.  Fifty-yards is often not enough distance!
  • Learn which bears have cubs and how many. This will help you account for all the cubs when you encounter the family. Is one cub separated from the mother?

The majority of brown bear attacks on humans are from a defensive mother bear protecting her cubs.  Even though you mean no harm to the bear cubs, she does not know that.  She will respond aggressively if she senses any danger.

A cute spring cub looking for fun.  Where is Mom?; is your first question as you walk away from the cub!

Bear Spray

Bear spray is highly effective in stopping bear attacks.  It has over a 93% success record in stopping over 800 attacks.

Please watch this instructional video on how to use bear spray.

We will be carrying bear spray with us and your guide will teach you how to use it in the field.  You do not need to buy bear spray as I will have some at Brooks Camp.

Some important things to remember about bear spray are:

  • Carry it outside your pack in an easy to reach location on your body.  I prefer on my chest so I could spray it without removing it from its holster if needed.
  • When you see a bear in a close encounter, get the bear spray out and ready to go.
  • If you spray, aim a bit low as a charging bear will be running in a low and fast stance.
  • Create a cloud between you and the bear that the bear must pass through to reach you.
  • Do not be afraid to give a bear a warning short blast.  Often just the noise of the spray will deter the bear.
  • Put your bear spray away, in your pack or another container and do not bring it inside any buildings. Do not forget to remove it from your pack when you are back outside.
  • It is illegal to fly with bear spray. Do not try to sneak it on any flight.  On float planes please let the pilot know you have bear spray, well in advance of flying.  The float plane pilot will stow the bear spray in the floats of the aircraft.
  • Do not be afraid to use the bear spray, it can save your life!


Contrary to what you may hear from others, normally in what I refer to as “bar stool talk”, firearms are not effective at protecting you from a charging bear.  In fact, the risk of a bear attack to you and your party increases when a firearm is used.

Although I own a bear rifle, I rarely bring it along with me to Alaska, and when I do it is only in very unique situations.

Since bear spray is so effective, and firearms are not, I do not allow clients to bring firearms with them on my workshops.

On Margot Creek in Katmai photographing a mother bear and her cubs out of the right side of this photo’s frame.  We stuck together as a group on this trip since we were in a very small creek full of bears, and around bears that can be more aggressive than at Brooks Camp.

Human Social Dynamics and Safety

During the workshop, we need to work as a team to ensure the safety of the bears and ourselves.

  • This means we stick together and respect each other.
  • Drama, pouting, being non-communicative in a wilderness setting is often the main cause for accidents.  If you are upset about something, please speak up respectfully and let your guide know early on.
  • Brooks Camp can be a strange place socially. Visitors from many cultures will be there.  Daytrippers are often destination driven (rushed) and unaware as they rush to get their bear photos.  The different cultural norms often are perceived as rude or unfriendly.
  • Effective communication is the key, whether you need to talk with a friend, team member, or complete stranger.

When we venture as a group together in the Brooks River, on the trails to the viewing platforms, or in the backcountry the first rule is to stay with the group at all times.

If you want to venture somewhere on your own, you need to let the guide, and the group, know beforehand.  We all need to get into the mindset of doing it “our way” versus doing things “my way”.

If “mother nature calls”, or you have to adjust your gear, or if you forgot something, then please let the designated guide know.  As a team, we need to be patient and have empathy for each other.

If something does not feel comfortable to you, please speak up and let the guide know.

If you are not feeling well, getting hot spots or blisters on your feet, have a leak in your waders, forgot your camera batteries back at camp, have a medical condition, need to use the restroom, …, whatever, …, please let your guide know.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

When I guide mountaineering, fly-fishing, climbing, and nature photography trips the common thread to challenges and risks is a lack of open communication.

  • Not feeling comfortable about something and being afraid or embarrassed to speak up.
  • Not honestly communicating previous experience levels, so the trip could be planned accordingly.
  • Feeling like you are slowing down the group and not communicating that.
  • Getting upset about something, holding that in, and shutting down, instead of working together to resolve the issue.

When guiding, I strive to make the trip safe and enjoyable for all levels of ability.  What this looks like in the field is that when we are moving, we all ensure the slowest and least experienced person is comfortable and safe.

When we reach a place where we set up to photograph, then I will tailor the instruction and content for each specific team member based on their desires and ability.

In some cases, for example, when one team member is not comfortable wading the river, we will work as a team to situate that person at a viewing platform with an agreed upon plan for a rendezvous later.

It is good to be polite, however worrying too much about being polite in wilderness scenarios causes dangerous situations.

If you see something wrong, or someone doing something potentially dangerous, speak up.

Lessons Learned

Perhaps some real-world examples will help.

  • Setting up a bear fence around our tents at a backcountry camp, which took the team a long time to do, and then having a team member bring a fresh salmon he just caught and start to cook it inside the bear fence next to the tents. The social dynamics behind this involved a budding romance and the loss of situational awareness, trying to impress another and disregarding the rules of camping in bear country.
  • Waking up to the smells and sounds of chocolate being eaten by a team member in their tent, in bear country.
  • A team member wanting to impress a few other team members by sneaking off to show them an area he knew about, and not letting anyone know.  The team ended up having to look for them and changing the plans for the day.
  • An individual deciding he did not want to stop with the group for lunch, and that he would ski ahead and meet us on the summit of the mountain, on his way to the summit he then decided, on his own, that it was too stormy to continue. He then headed back a different route without informing us.  The rest of the team ended up searching for him all night long at 13,000 feet in a blizzard thinking he was injured or buried in an avalanche.  When we gave up the search and returned the next morning, he had called a search party out on us.
  • A team member noticing an unzipped pocket on another team member’s pack, not saying anything about it since they “did not want to be nosy”, and then the entire team having to backtrack and look for car keys that fell out of the pack.
  • A team member who was pushing other photographers on an icy morning.  Eventually, an elderly team member fell over, into a frozen marsh, after being pushed.  Once this happened many team members finally “spoke up” yelling at the pushy photographer.  Why did no anyone say anything earlier?  “We did not want to be a tattle-tell”, “If felt awkward”, etc.

The more open we can all be in communicating amongst each other the better.  If something does not feel right, or you have a concern, please bring it up.  The health and safety of the group could depend on knowing what is up.

Sobriety and Personal Safety

Brooks Lodge is a fun place to socialize, especially at the Bruin Bar after an awesome day in the park.  Some nights drinking can get out of hand, at least for some patrons.

If you decide to consume any acholol please do it responsibly.  Maintain sobriety as you are still in a remote area around potential predators (four-legged and two-legged…). You need to be responsible for your sobriety and awareness.  This is especially important as the trail between the lodge and the campground is where many bears sleep, especially mother’s with cubs!  You are endangering yourself. and others, if you are not aware, sober, and able to be safe during the workshop.  Please exercise responsible adult behavior.

You must maintain sobriety during all times of the workshop, including the evenings.  Your trip leader needs to know your whereabouts during the entire workshop.  Please act responsibly, for your own safety, and that of others.

Thank you!

Look out for each other, keep an open mind, communicate with each other, don’t take things too personally when others ask something of you, and realize your own actions affect the safety and enjoyment of the entire team.

Katmai is a special place.  Every year I see new friendships born and people from very different cultures and backgrounds come together as they experience a place where nature thrives.

Respect, Not Fear

These bears are beautiful and powerful animals that live in a stunning wilderness location.  Respecting them, versus fearing them, will make your trip more enjoyable, and actually make your trip safer!

When we act in “fear mode” we tend to make poor decisions and are not at our best.

Respect these bears and the wilderness they live in and you will soon learn how to safely enjoy them!

Learn More About Bears and Bear Safety

National Park Service, Katmai National Park resources

NPS Bear Safety in Katmai

Fishing Around Bears in Katmai

Bear Encounters in Katmai

Books to learn more about bears

Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, by Stephen Herrero

Bears Without Fear, by Kevin Van Tighem