Winter Bears


October 22, 2016 - October 29, 2016


Western Brooks Range





October 22, 2016 - October 29, 2016


Western Brooks Range



When rivers and creeks of the Northwest Arctic begin to freeze and snow drifts over the land, bears congregate at a remarkable spring-fed fishing hole on a lake near the Kelly River. Because they are the last places to freeze, these lakes attract thousands of spawning salmon and some years as many as 40 bears trying to catch a last meal before heading into the mountains for a winter’s sleep. We will pitch a warm and comfortable camp within walking distance of the lake; front row seats for the action!


Last updated: November 8, 2016


What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

October 22

Arrive in Kotzebue

October 23 -24

We have two days to explore Kotzebue and the surrounding area. With luck we can find subsistence activities to observe and photograph. If opportunities are not presenting themselves, we can elect to fly from Kotzebue early and camp at Cape Krusenstern or elsewhere.

October 25

Weather permitting, we fly north from Kotzebue, up the Noatak and then the Kelly. The plane, equipped with skis for snow landings, touches down on a nearby frozen pond and we pitch camp in the woods. After settling in, bear tracks lead us to the lake.

October 26- 28

Three full days to watch bears, hike the tundra and search for animals. A heated camp and hearty meals allow us to play hard in the cold, knowing we have a way to warm-up at days end.

October 29

Weather permitting our pilot returns for the flight back to Kotzebue.

Such a joy to spend days where time was meaningless.  A wonderful adventure and I would like to return next year for a longer, more challenging trip.

You mentioned to me in an email that you have terrific guides - you do indeed.  Dave is a superb guide. He is personable, knowledgeable about the Arctic, and has excellent group management skills. I appreciated the time he spent teaching me to read the map, which is not easy without trails.   He allowed Adrian and me to hike at our own pace and he encouraged all of us to explore the area surrounding our campsites. I know the others would concur in my praise.

- Sandra, California, USA



Transportation beyond Kotzebue. Outstanding guide service. Wholesome, delicious, and mostly-organic food while in the wilderness. Stoves, cooking & eating utensils. Repair and safety equipment. Wall tent and stove. Winter camping tools. Snowshoes. Winter Sleeping bag and pad.


Transportation to Kotzebue. Non-camp lodging. Non-camp meals. Personal clothing, and footwear.


We hope for cold in the autumn and with luck temperatures will be in the single digits at night warming into the teens during the day with clear skies for the aurora at night. “Bad” weather would be torrents of freezing rain ripping sideways on a gale. We will prepare for deep-cold, and sloppy wet conditions. We might get both but we won’t have any bugs bothering us.



The Bears of Katmai, Matthais Breiter; Snow Walkers Companion, Conover; Last Light Breaking Nick Jans; People of the Noatak Clair Fejes. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River