Location: Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Best viewing hours: 6:30am - 11:30pm -- Alaska Standard Time
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Brooks Falls is a waterfall located within Katmai National Park and Preserve. Located on the Brooks River a mile and a half (2.4 km) from Brooks Lake and an equal distance from Naknek Lake, the falls are famous for watching salmon leap over the 6 foot falls to get to their Brooks Lake spawning grounds. Consequently, large populations of brown bears are attracted as a result, to feed on the spawning salmon. Brown bears usually congregate at the falls in July and early September, and many well-known photos of bears have been taken there. Bears in July are the greatest concentrations seen at any year at the falls; up to 25 bears have been seen at one time at Brooks Falls in that month. In September, a smaller number of bears (maximum about 18 at one time) can be seen at the falls to feast on the later salmon runs. July and September are by far the best months for viewing Grizzly Bears in the Brooks Camp area.
Before the 1950s, when Brooks Camp was opened, there were fewer bears at the falls than there are today, and no more than 6-7 bears could be observed at one time. Now, with hunting banned and viewing controlled, bear numbers have boomed to quadruple their former number. In the early days, since hunting was allowed, bear numbers were lower and salmon and sport fishing was the primary attraction to the falls.
The site's archaeological human remnants date back some 9,000 years, some of the oldest human remains in North America. Since the site is not far from the Bering Land Bridge, is is quite possible that some of the first humans from Russia made villages here. Native Americans still continue to harvest food caches and live their own ways of life at a site not far from the falls known as the Old Savonoski Site.
Brown bear in Katmai National Park with salmon. Salmon make up the majority of the brown bear's diet during spring. Despite all the old artifacts near the falls, most attention continues to focus on the bears and salmon; is is regular to find up to ten bears at the falls at one time. As many as 43 bears have been sighted at the falls in a single day!