A brown bear fishes along Kodiak Island. // © 2010 Kodiak Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
Next summer, a new program will place Kodiak Island visitors in the middle of one of the thickest concentrations of brown bears in the world. The O’Malley Bear Viewing Program will open an area of the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge on the island’s southwest side that has not been open to the public for 17 years.
Travelers and wildlife photographers are no strangers to McNeil River and Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve — these areas are known for boasting some of the best bear viewing in North America. The new O’Malley River area promises similar popularity. However, unlike the McNeil and Brooks areas, there are no waterfalls at O’Malley, so the bears tend to spread out along the stream.
At a minimum of a four-night stay, small guided groups of eight or less will be able to view the bears on a 12-foot-by-20-foot viewing platform to be built this summer.
The 2-million-acre Kodiak Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect brown bears and other wildlife. It encompasses about two-thirds of Kodiak Island and is home to around 3,000 brown bears.