Providing services and accessibility unavailable in the rest of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Brooks Camp offers a genuine bear watching experience with the convenience of nearby facilities and an ability to pace the day however you’d like. Here are three compelling reasons why Brooks Falls is incredible bear viewing that you should experience.
Three Preliminary Notes
1. First, part of how we’ll highlight Brooks Falls being worth your time involves comparing it to the guided expedition that we at Emerald Air Service offer, which entails an expeditionary journey with others guided by one of our experienced naturalists in the untouched wilderness of Alaska within Katmai. So, for example, one of the best reasons Brooks Falls is worth your time is because it offers two specific things that the Katmai Guided Expedition doesn’t offer (though both trips see plenty of the splendid Coastal Brown Bear): (1) Brooks offers viewing platforms and (2) a move-at-your-own-pace atmosphere. Sure, our guides don’t run our groups ragged during the guided expeditions, however, the guided expedition moves at the pace of the group rather than the individual.
2. “Brooks Falls” and “Brooks Camp” are the same place. Brooks Falls refers to the falls specifically, whereas Brooks Camp more broadly includes all of the ranger-led facilities and programs. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use these words interchangeably, which reflects common usage of the terms.
3. Third, during peak season, Brooks Camp can have up to 600 people there during the day. With crowds these size, it can make things feel less like an Alaskan bush bear viewing experience and more like a theme park. If that deters you, either avoid visiting Brooks Falls during peak season or try our guided expedition into Katmai.
Brooks Falls Provides World Class Bear Watching
1. Brooks Falls offers excellent viewing from platforms
Besides being able to encounter bears at any point during your adventure at Brooks Camp, the two bear viewing platforms offer excellent, unimpeded (for both you and the bears) bear watching at one the finest brown bear viewing locations in the world. One platform overlooks, as the picture above shows, the world-famous Brooks Falls. The other platform sits further down the river, called the Riffles Platform (see map below). Additionally, there is a third platform, which also serves as a bridge across the river, called the “Lower River Platform.” It offers serene panoramas of Brooks River near the mouth of Naknek Lake and excellent vantage points of any bears that may be fishing in the river.
The platforms themselves are gated off, preventing bears from climbing aboard. However, after you venture beyond the protected viewing platforms, the trails that connect the platforms and the other facilities of the camp are simple trails that travel through bear country. You’re as likely to find a bear wandering along the path or the woods here as you are throughout the rest of Katmai. It’s exciting!
Examples of some of the gates securing the viewing platforms.
A Note on the Platforms (A Heads-Up for Visitors):
First, it’s worth mentioning that during peak season, the Brooks Falls platform is limited to a 40-person capacity and each person can view for one hour at a time (if there are others waiting, which is usually the case during peak season).
Secondly, during peak season, the Brooks Falls viewing platform can be crowded. Due to limited space, the use of tripods and rail-mounted fixtures is prohibited on the platform from June 15 to August 15. However, collapsed tripods and monopods are still permitted. This is per National Park Service regulations.
2. Brooks Falls Moves at Your Own Pace.
Perhaps even more significant than the first reason, Brooks Falls is ideal because it allows you to move around at your own pace. Want to take a lunch break earlier than usual? No problem. Want to spend all your time at just one platform in particular? Go for it! Brooks Camp offers flexibility since you are your own guide. See what you want for the time that you’d like. Brooks Falls is worth your visit because it affords world class bear viewing with flexibility that allows you to schedule your time as you’d like.
Although the platforms limit you to one viewing hour at a time (depending on whether or not others are waiting), the platforms themselves offer excellent views of Katmai and the falls specifically, whether you’d like to capture the perfect picture of a bear catching salmon mid-jump or whether you’d like to just sit and soak in the majesty of the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear.
3. Brooks Falls Provides Accommodations Unique to Katmai.
Brooks Falls provides facilities and accommodations that are unavailable throughout the rest of Katmai National Park and Preserve. For one, Brooks Camp has bathrooms, which are a nice convenience. First thing when you arrive, the rangers guide you through a short safety briefing on bear safety and what to expect while you’re at Brooks Camp. The Visitor’s Center also has resources available to purchase to learn and read more, or keepsakes to take home as a remembrance of your adventures in Katmai.
Additionally, Brooks Falls has a designated, outdoor lunch area protected by an electric fence to deter bears from sharing your lunch. Even better, Brooks Camp has a lodge that serves meals during lunch and dinner time, so for a fee you are able to grab a hot meal inside, which is a great shelter to have available on cold and rainy days.
A Note on Camping and Bus Tours at Brooks
Brooks Camp Campground provides one of the most unique camping experiences in the national park system. However, as you might guess, our day trip schedule does not allow you to participate in camping while at Brooks. You can see more about camping at Brooks here and here.
Brooks Camp provides access to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes through daily bus tours, site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. However, our day trip schedule does not allow you to participate in these bus tours.
Come See the World Famous Brooks Falls
We hope this article gives you a better sense for what Brooks Falls is like, and three compelling reasons why Brooks Falls offers incredible bear viewing you should experience. Come see Alaska's Coastal Brown Bear at your own pace and enjoy some incredible bear watching atop the viewing platforms at Brooks Camp.