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Floatplane Trip and Bear Encounter in Alaska

Updated on April 20, 2019
Scott P Davis profile image

Scott is an award-winning professional educator with almost 25 years of experience.

De Havilland Otter
De Havilland Otter

The De Havilland Otter Bush Plane

Flying in an Otter, was a dream come true. Even though this plane is 60 years old, nothing built today can compare, and this is still a million dollar airplane. This beautiful example had just been recently re-powered with a 1250 horsepower turbocharged engine. Take-offs and landings on the water were smooth and gentle. The landing speed was super slow, and the plane just calmly settled onto the water whenever we landed. The plane was equipped with observation bubble style windows and the views were incredible.

Towards the end of the flight, the pilot took us into the top of a glacier, at the top of a mountain and flew us in a loop, in and out of the glacier. It was quite an experience to see that broken, massive pieces of ice, so cold and under so much pressure that they emanated a bright blue, almost translucent coloring. I could not be sure about our altitude, when we were in that glacier, but if I had to guess, I would say it was less than 100 feet. It was quite the experience. I have included the video here of that ride into the glacier. The blue colors are evident in the video, but were much brighter in person. In the long hauls the plane cruised at about 2,000 feet, over flat areas and the ocean, and cruised at about 120 miles per hour.

Big River Alaska, Flying over a Glacier

Grizzly Bears

We went to a place referred to as Big River in Alaska. It was more like a lake that you would expect a swamp monster to live in than any river I am familiar with. The water was ice cold and very murky and blue. It was partially covered with bogs that a person could walk on top of. These bogs are living mats of plants that are so thick, that they can support a person walking on top of them. It was kind of like being a kid and walking on top of your parents water bed. I really enjoyed this experience and we saw bears in the wild, and even in Alaska, this is not always normal.

The lake had a stream entering it in the form of a stepped waterfall. This waterfall led to a lake which nobody had ever hiked to, according to our guide, because it is where lots of grizzly bears call home. Salmon attempt to climb this waterfall, and it is somewhat of a buffet line for bears. It is about one mile to the upper lake, and it is too small to land a floatplane on. After having been to this place, I cannot imagine how any human being would get to that upper lake, and I am sure they may not want to either. The bears were beautiful and seemed tame at a distance, but in reality, they could be deadly, especially as there were bear cubs around as well.

Big River Alaska Creek with salmon swimming upstream
Big River Alaska Creek with salmon swimming upstream

Bears Seemed Cute

We were comfortably sitting about 60 feet offshore in a pontoon boat. We had our cameras and got to take many pictures of bears and saw how swift they can move. I once read that bears could not run straight down a hill, and to escape from them, all one needs to do, is run straight down a slope, and they would stop. This was nonsense, as I saw a bear run full speed down a 50 degree slope, and then like Ty Cobb slide into the water and come out with a huge salmon. I am convinced that there is no human on Earth who could have evaded that bear if it was determined to get them. It was quicker than any professional athlete, by far.

When the bears got done chewing on their salmon, they left parts all over the shoreline. Never fear though, nothing went to waste, a little known bird called the Bald Eagle was all over the venue, eating the remnants of the salmon, discarded by the bears. There were bald eagles everywhere and they were majestic in flight, and along the shorelines they had many massive nests perched up high in pine trees. It was surreal to see this much nature, all happening in one location and it made me think that the rest of the USA once probably resembled this as abundance of nature as well.

Young Grizzly Bear coming to say hello.
Young Grizzly Bear coming to say hello.

We Should Have Chosen Fishing

When we went on this trip, we really wanted to see the bears. We did not realize that a free option we could have had, would have included fishing from the pontoon boat. We were doing a lot of fishing in Alaska, but this was different. This was remote and this was a King Salmon run. We did not know that we could see the bears and also go fishing. If you do this trip, and like fishing opt for it too. You can come away with a couple of massive salmon if you have the licenses, gear and tags for the Kings, also known as Chinook. You can get all of those at any sporting good store in Anchorage. If you are going to fish, make sure that everyone 16 and over has a drivers license, or state issued ID and knows their social security number. You will need this for your fishing licenses.

Our plane took off from the Kenai Peninsula, and we crossed Anchorage Bay and flew inland towards Mt. Redoubt. This is an active volcano that has eruptions every decade or so. It is massive, and can be clearly seen across the bay, all along the Kenai Peninsula. The views and experience were amazing and this trip is highly recommended for any family wanting to experience something you will not get on an Alaskan cruise.

Two bears meandering down a bear trail.
Two bears meandering down a bear trail.

© 2019 Scott P Davis


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