This is the perfect Katmai Canoe Trip. Katmai National Park is among the richest ecosystems on earth. Millions of salmon swim inland to feed the world’s largest bears and Alaska’s largest lakes sprawl between volcanic peaks. Enjoy Katmai’s Savonoski Loop with Arctic Wild.
Katmai National Park is on the Alaska Peninsula, a long, volcano-studded finger pointing to a 2,000-mile archipelago arching across the north Pacific to Siberia. Constant tectonic activity, volcanism, and retreating glaciers have left behind jagged peaks, rounded hills, and deep blue lakes. We’ll paddle along these glacial lakes and on the Savonoski River, roughly 80 miles, on our Katmai Canoe trip. Fifty of our miles will be on lakes and thirty miles on rivers. Camping on the beaches, fishing the creeks and watching bears in the autumn light, we enjoy the best of Katmai’s interior on this wilderness canoe trip.
Autumn on the Alaska Peninsula means cool weather, ripening blueberries, bright fall colors, and a chance to see the Aurora Borealis. Fall also means fattening-up time for the huge brown bears that live in Katmai National Park. We may see moose, black bears, wolves, and foxes in Katmai. We will certainly see great big brown bears, passing their time eating salmon. Though they treat humans as something to walk around, they are themselves staggeringly powerful creatures. We will have close, but safe, encounters with them. There are unparalleled opportunities for observing and photographing bears at play, while feeding, and just being bears. We will also see Bald Eagles and a variety of waterfowl.
Fishing for Rainbow Trout and Northern Pike is excellent throughout the trip and especially in the Grovenor River. In a few locations we can hike into the alpine where we enjoy excellent hiking and blueberry picking as we cast our eyes over the vast, lake-bejeweled landscape.
This trip is a moderately difficult route. Experience with canoe travel is recommended. The lake paddling is not difficult, but because the lakes are susceptible to big winds, we will paddle in light chop or swells some days. We will paddle close to shore, and while we need not undertake open water crossings, there is one such crossing we can elect to do, if conditions permit. The Savonoski River paddling is all Class I with swift, braided channels.
After a week in the remote backcountry of Katmai National Park we spend the final night and day of the trip at world-famous Brooks Falls. We won’t have the area entirely to ourselves, but humans are still likely outnumbered by bruins.
Last updated: January 24, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in Anchorage.
This is a long day. We fly from Anchorage to King Salmon. After a visit to the excellent visitor center we board a float plane and fly to Colville Lake. Once the plane is unloaded we will assemble the canoes and paddle several miles to make a nice, secluded camp on a pebbly beach. We’ll spend the rest of the evening settling into our surroundings.
We have 80 miles to go and time to enjoy it. We’ll be paddling up to six hours a day, stopping several times to stretch, snack, hike, and explore.
We’ll paddle across Colville Lake and into Grosvenor Lake, a long finger of a lake curving beneath tall mountains, a hidden jewel with secret creeks full of salmon. Snow capped volcanoes loom in the distance. At the very tip of the lake, we will descend a creek that empties into the Savonoski River. From here, we’re paddling swift water in a vast open plain of river gravels. The views are stunning as we enter Naknek Lake, gray with glacial silt and dotted with floating rocks (pumice).
We will spend time fishing the lakes and rivers, swapping stories around beach fires, and watching bears feed, swim and interact with each other.
Paddle the last few miles to Brooks Camp and unload our gear. We spend our last night of the trip in Brooks Camp, the Katmai National Park campground and will have the afternoon to watch bears from the platforms overlooking the world famous Brooks Falls.
After a last walk up to Brooks Falls, we meet our plane and depart Brooks Camp. We fly back to King Salmon, and then catch a jet back to Anchorage arriving late in the evening. Change socks!
The great food throughout the trip shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was a delight. As I review the meals, it sounds more like an immobile glamping excursion than an Arctic expedition — French toast and pancakes (with maple syrup!) and bacon and oatmeal and Mexican egg scramble, hummus and couscous and cheese and eggplant and jerky and smoked oysters and nuts and chocolate, Mexican feasts of pork quesadillas and enchiladas and a weenie roast and fusilli with salmon al fredo (with sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary) and Thai chicken stew and the Thanksgiving feast (I mean, really, turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes in the wilderness?)
Transportation beyond King Salmon
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Temperatures vary from the 60’s to the low 40’s. Rain is almost assured. We should be well past the peak of bugs, but some flies may persist. For this reason, you should pack a headnet and DEET bug repellent.