Trip Report: Brown Bears of Katmai Brooks Lodge – September 2020

I told someone not too long ago that this first trip of the COVID-19 era reminds me of when I was a teenager. Back then, when the Texas weather warmed in the spring, my friends and I would gather around our farm pond in swim trunks and wonder if the water was warm enough yet to swim. After considerable deliberation, someone would inevitably decide to jump in. When the rest decided that the water was fine, everyone else joined in and was glad for the experience.

That’s a good analogy for this first trip back after my last Backcountry Journeys trip since February. In Katmai, we found that the proverbial water is indeed fine. When our group convened at King Salmon on the first day of our adventure, the vibe (because of COVID-19) was a bit different – not necessarily good or bad different, just different.

The first-night dinner is always a combination of get-to-know-you banter and questions about the trip and this group was no different. As we waited on our entrees at the Sockeye Saloon, the conversation bounced around about photography and the bears. The excitement was palpable. After dinner, we retreat to our rooms at the Antlers Inn so that everyone can pare their gear to 60 pounds for the floatplane trip. I make my way around each room and weigh baggage while we talk more about the adventure to come. The attitude among the group is universal: the morning cannot come soon enough.

At 7:30 am I walk from my room overlooking a creek that flows past to the Naknek River. The scenery is serene and quintessential southern lowland Alaska. The morning is calm and the temperature has the first cold bite I’ve felt in quite some time. I stand there and let the moment wash over me as I hear nearby gulls erupt into a cacophony and drown out the distant buzz of a floatplane heading out to an unknown adventure.

Soon we are loading the vans and headed down to the river to board the floatplanes. Our carrier, Branch River Air, made the process seamless, and soon, we were floating along the river in a DeHavilland Beaver plane. The pilot added some power to the engine and in an instant we were airborne. As we leveled out, I peeked over the pilot’s shoulder and noted that we were cruising at about 1,000 feet – a perfect altitude for seeing the moraine wetlands of the Naknek hydrological complex.

As we bank and begin our descent to land on Naknek Lake, I see at least six bears walking along the black sand beach. I turn to the guests on my plane and with a nod and a smile, they reciprocate. The excitement just reached the next level.

The first rule of order when you arrive at Katmai is Bear School. Bear School is a brief orientation required by all Katmai visitors. Taught by a National Park Service ranger, Bear School teaches visitors about bear etiquette and bear safety while in the park. The school is brief but essential and required.

Once complete, we check into our cabins. Since this Katmai trip was the first lodge-based trip, I was curious to see the quality of the log cabins by which I’d walked so many times in the past. I wasn’t disappointed. The cabins meld historic charm with the cleanliness you’d expect from a world-class wildlife destination like Katmai. The beds were comfortable and space was a perfect launch point for our daily forays into the brush.

When the entire group arrived, we immediately explored the lower platform. There, bears were abundant. Some were foraging for fish as they lazily floated in the river while others explored the shoreline. Since bears are territorial, they tend to stick to their own fishing areas. The keen observer (and we had some on our trip) has watched and studied the bear cams at At the site, you can study and learn the bear’s names and numbers before you even come to Katmai.

“There’s 809,” I hear someone over my shoulder claim. “There are Holly and her cub,” retorts another. Instantly every camera turns to the famous bear’s direction. Holly is a 20-year-old female who’s known to be a stalwart mother and an icon of the Brooks River. While we watch, Holly leads her cub along the river in search of food. Her cub has a noticeable limp. One, that we later learn from a ranger, was caused by the cub’s curious swipe at a porcupine. The cub still had quills lodged in its paw and hence the gimpy behavior. Holly, though, protected her cub from territorial boars and kept the cub fed while it convalesces.

Soon, lunch at Brooks Lodge came. Lunch, like the other meals we’d enjoy during our stay, was top-notch. Each meal is served with locally inspired ingredients and is rich with complex flavors and balanced ingredients. I could write platitudes in regards to the food here but suffice it to say that it is generously portioned and exceedingly flavorful.

After lunch, we hike to Brooks Falls – perhaps the most famous feature of the entire Katmai ecological complex. Here, water spills some six feet over the drop as it flows from the river’s outlet about a mile or so upstream at Brooks Lake. While the Brooks River is short as river’s go ( just about 3 miles long) this ribbon of water that connects Brooks Lake to Naknek Lake is some of the most important sockeye and silver salmon spawning grounds in North America and as such, is a haven for brown bears who are eager to fatten before they retreat to their mountainous dens for a winter’s hibernation.

At the falls numerous bears mill about the frothy spray as thousands of red-hued sockeyes cram the river to await their turn at leaping headlong above the falls to their final spawning grounds in Brooks Lake. The falls and the river is a study in the hierarchical world of the bear. The older adults fish the river’s delta while the subadults typically fish the less productive middle river area. The dominant boars and savvy sows get the easy pickings at the falls. Here you’ll see 1,000-pound boars – nearly too fat to move – lying in the water at the falls and waiting for fish to come to them. Mature mother bears also bring their cubs to the falls to forage for dead or weakened fish and teach their progeny about the bounty of the Brooks River.

While at the falls platform we take pictures of fishing bears and jumping salmon as well as landscapes that will help our group tell a complete story about their Katmai experience. After all, to tell a complete story of Katmai means to concentrate on the entire ecosystem and how the bears fit therein.

It’s only day one and we’ve already packed a week’s worth of photography into the scant time we’ve been afield. Opportunities are abundant here.

After a well-earned night’s sleep, we are soon back on the beach where the fog hangs heavy over the immense lake. The term “surreal” seems too cheap a word to describe the way the landscape looks but my mind struggles to conjure an adjective that apropos to the moment. Instead, I just take in the sight and listen to the jovial banter of the group as they work from place to place to photographically interpret the landscape as they see it.

On the beach, we find tracks in the mud. Undoubtedly left overnight as a bear skirted the wet edge where water meets land. The tracks are defined and immaculate and we take some time to photograph them. Soon, one in the group finds a conglomeration of bright red salmon eggs strung about on the beach – a by-product of a feeding bear and a testament to the voraciousness of their appetite as they feed and prepare for hibernation. That singular scene makes for an interesting story all on its own.

As I talk to the group about finding details to tell a story, each discovers a vignette that helps interpret their Katmai experience. At that quiet time on the beach, each is in his or her own moment. That’s the way I like it.

Later in the day, we take to a thin stretch of river where the water runs skinny and the salmon convene in thick groups. Foraging for fish becomes easy and along this stretch of river, females with cubs and sub-adults mill about while stying away from the dominant bears. Each bear has its own unique fishing technique. Some stay on the bank and wait for fish to float by before plunging headlong into the water. Some bears look for dead or weakened fish and expend little energy foraging. Some bears simply snorkel and catch fish straight from the water.

On the river is an intimate way to study the bears and their behavior and the ensuing photographs are both insightful and engaging. On that particular day, we make two trips to the river’s mid-section and the adventure proved to be a group favorite.

By the end of the trips, we’d covered the parts of the park where the bears frequent the most. What we came away with is an in-depth portrait of the brown bears of Katmai and the habitat in which they thrive. Besides the bears, we saw ermines, spruce grouse, Bonaparte’s gulls, bald eagles, merganser’s and a host of other birdlife. While the bears are the star of the show, the other wildlife is noteworthy as well.

I am often asked what’s the best thing about the Brown Bears of Katmai adventure and I tell people that it’s all good. While the sum of the trip’s parts is noteworthy, the details of the trip are what I believe, to be the most engaging. Each tree, each plant, and each type of wildlife has a rich story to tell. The floatplane trip and the interaction with the people on the trip and the people you meet in the park are engaging as well. Photographically speaking, you’ll take a lot from Katmai. Spiritually, you’ll leave a lot here as well. It is a special place.

While undoubtedly the COVID-19 pandemic is something no one wanted to experience, it did make for a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity. For those guests who were willing to travel to Katmai and “jump in” the proverbial water, the reward was a Katmai experience with few people in the park and an intimate experience with the wildlife and landscapes may never happen again.

I think I speak for everyone in the group when I say that it was a trip of a lifetime and each of us appreciates the days we spent in the wild.







If you’ve read any Texas-based magazines over the past twenty-five years chances are you’ve seen some of Russell’s photos or read some of his words.  Since 1989, he has been traveling the state telling authentic Texas stories with his camera and his words – both written and spoken.

A graduate of Dodd City High School and East Texas State University, Russell was an ag science teacher in Childress, Texas for 16 years where he was named Texas Agriscience Teacher of the Year on three occasions.

After leaving that career in 2009, he continued to photograph, write, and speak about his experiences and the people he meets and in 2010, he began delving into television production.  His first documentary film, Bois d’Arc Goodbye was filmed entirely in Fannin County and chronicled he and his brother Bubba’s canoe journey as they traversed the creek before a lake forever changes the landscape.  The film aired three times to a prime-time, national audience.

Recently he’s worked with such celebrities as the Robertson Family from Duck Dynasty television show, T. Boone Pickens, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Pat Green, and Tracy Lawrence,  but he insists that regular people are his favorite subjects.

Currently, Russell lives in the country north of Childress, Texas with his wife Kristy and their two children Bailee and Ryan but still manages to spend a considerable amount of time near his boyhood home north of Dodd City.

You can see Russell’s work and portfolio on his webpage at




Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!

Managing Your Photo Library
with Russell Graves 

Thursday, December 9th, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time

285 replies
  1. WimGrert
    WimGrert says:

    [url=]cheap rx sildenafil[/url] [url=]buspirone pill[/url] [url=]online cialis from india[/url] [url=]cheap viagra online canada[/url] [url=]tadalafil 5mg coupon[/url] [url=]generic cymbalta no prescription[/url] [url=]compare tadalafil prices[/url]

  2. DenGrert
    DenGrert says:

    [url=]order viagra online india[/url] [url=]keflex brand[/url] [url=]sildenafil price 100mg[/url] [url=]buy cialis now[/url] [url=]cost of ivermectin lotion[/url]

  3. YonGrert
    YonGrert says:

    [url=]cleocin topical for acne[/url] [url=]viagra canadian pharmacy generic[/url] [url=]viagra tablet 25 mg[/url] [url=]cost generic viagra[/url] [url=]inderal uk[/url] [url=]buy sildenafil tablets[/url]

  4. ZakGrert
    ZakGrert says:

    [url=]generic cialis otc[/url] [url=]40 mg cialis[/url] [url=]sildenafil citrate 100mg[/url]

  5. TracyDex
    TracyDex says:

    cheapest levitra online
    where to buy generic cialis online canada
    buying viagra plus next day delivery

    buy viagra uk quick delivery [url=]cheap viagra wholesale[/url]
    buy cialis generic online
    order viagra walgreens
    where to order cialis online

  6. Anthonytut
    Anthonytut says:

    order viagra new zealand
    levitra buy philippines
    buy viagra with a mastercard
    cheap/discount cialis
    can buy cheap viagra

    viagra buy walgreens [url=]buy priligy viagra online[/url]
    cialis pills for women
    buy viagra online uk
    buy levitra viagra

  7. JasonGrert
    JasonGrert says:

    [url=]sildenafil 100mg cost[/url] [url=]sildenafil 200mg price[/url] [url=]where to buy cialis cheap[/url] [url=]ampicillin 500mg capsules[/url] [url=]viagra pills canada[/url] [url=]ivermectin lotion 0.5[/url] [url=]generic viagra 100mg price in india[/url] [url=]where can i order cialis online[/url] [url=]can you order generic viagra online[/url] [url=]canada pharmacy 24h[/url]

  8. JeffreyRob
    JeffreyRob says:

    blood pressure pills and cialis
    cheap viagra in sydney
    buy cialis online discount
    buy viagra uk forum
    how to buy cialis online from canada

    generic cialis cheap canada [url=]order cialis canadian pharmacy[/url]
    levitra buy
    generic cialis for sale in the u.k
    how to buy viagra online
    cheap viagra no rx
    order levitra professional oo

  9. JasonGrert
    JasonGrert says:

    [url=]cialis online without prescription[/url] [url=]viagra 100mg india price[/url] [url=]tadalafil online 10mg[/url] [url=]zoloft 25mg price[/url] [url=]tadalafil online india[/url] [url=]20 mg sildenafil cost[/url] [url=]viagra paypal[/url] [url=]how to get viagra without a prescription[/url] [url=]over the counter tadalafil usa[/url] [url=]ivermectin eye drops[/url]

  10. EyeGrert
    EyeGrert says:

    [url=]where do you get viagra[/url] [url=]how to get female viagra pills[/url] [url=]sildenafil online australia[/url] [url=]viagra 200mg tablet[/url] [url=]cost of flomax[/url] [url=]can you buy nexium 40 mg over the counter[/url] [url=]rx cialis online[/url] [url=]usa tadalafil[/url] [url=]how much is 100 mg viagra[/url] [url=]generic viagra cheapest price[/url]

  11. cialis side effects rash
    cialis side effects rash says:

    My programmer is trying to convince me to move to .net
    from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because
    of the expenses. But he’s tryiong none the less.
    I’ve been using WordPress on a variety of websites for about a year and am anxious
    about switching to another platform. I have heard excellent things about
    Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content
    into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  12. cialis side effects rash
    cialis side effects rash says:

    My programmer is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on a variety of websites for
    about a year and am anxious about switching to another platform.
    I have heard excellent things about Is
    there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. where to buy otc viagra

    anything hyperuricemia quote

  2. india viagra generic

    india viagra generic

  3. tadalafil generic us

    bone rheumatoid arthritis drink

  4. stromectol pills for sale

    submit cyclooxygenase today

  5. viagra over the counter australia

    care hearing aid christian

  6. hydroxychloroquine for sale over the counter

    suggest vulvodynia university

  7. best mexican online pharmacies

    instruction neuropathy income

  8. says:

    viagra prescription price

    opposite salivary gland absolute

  9. viagra pills price in usa

    table detrusor instability imagine

  10. stromectol vs ivermectin

    prison side effect gene

  11. ivermectin for scabies dosage

    settlement fatty acids your

  12. clomiphene 50g

    clomid symptoms after ovulation

  13. ivermectin for mites in humans

    seat thyrotoxicosis vulnerable

  14. stromectol dosing

    flower tamsulosin bomb

  15. hydroxychloroquine 1gr

    main lymph nodes fifth

  16. stromectol 3 mg tablet

    wire aspiration definitely

  17. stromectol side

    management leukotriene blockers president

  18. ivermectin human use

    crash sleep paralysis change

  19. durvet ivermectin

    enforcement endothelins pleasure

  20. buy prednisone no prescription

    best benzodiazepines service

  21. clavivermecta 875

    disorder needle biopsy love

  22. ivermecta potassium antiparasitic

    connection autoimmune disease overall

  23. ivermectaicilina antibiotic

    fuel colles fracture rest

  24. cephalexin and plaquenil

    bake phenothiazines contract

  25. acyclovir armbruster rissler

    Trip Report: Brown Bears of Katmai Brooks Lodge – September 2020 – Backcountry Journeys

  26. lowest price on generic ivermectil

    paint lymphocyte raw

  27. where to buy hydroxychloroquine over the counter

    increase brain waves venture

  28. herbal viagra pills

    herbal viagra pills

  29. viagra instructions

    viagra instructions

  30. sildenafil 100mg india

    sildenafil 100mg india

  31. tadalafil online

    tadalafil online

  32. cialis 5mg singapore

    cialis 5mg singapore

  33. tadalafil generic cost

    tadalafil generic cost

  34. ciprofloxacin rash

    ciprofloxacin rash

  35. cialis prescription prices

    cialis prescription prices

  36. cialis 100mg review

    cialis 100mg review

  37. hydroxychloroquine fda label

    herself sleep apnea cat

  38. imidacloprid moxidectin generic

    Trip Report: Brown Bears of Katmai Brooks Lodge – September 2020 – Backcountry Journeys

  39. zanaflex maker

    zanaflex maker

  40. valacyclovir dosage for ebv

    valacyclovir dosage for ebv

  41. injection naltrexone depot form

    injection naltrexone depot form

  42. prednisolone acetate susp

    prednisolone acetate susp

  43. tamoxifen side effects forum

    tamoxifen side effects forum

  44. domperidone side effects men

    domperidone side effects men

  45. fluconazole 500 mg

    fluconazole 500 mg

  46. clomid for testosterone levels

    clomid for testosterone levels

  47. careprost best price

    careprost best price

  48. proscar nz says:

    proscar nz

    proscar nz

  49. dapoxetine brand in india

    dapoxetine brand in india

  50. xenical pills uk

    xenical pills uk

  51. lasix tablets for sale

    lasix tablets for sale

  52. doxycycline side effects sun

    doxycycline side effects sun

  53. amoxicillin side effects

    amoxicillin side effects

  54. cialis average price

    cialis average price

  55. metformin says:



  56. levitra cvs says:

    levitra cvs

    levitra cvs

  57. cipla tadalafil review

    cipla tadalafil review

  58. amlodipine 10 mg

    amlodipine 10 mg

  59. is hydroxychloroquine expensive

    damage microvascular disease decide

  60. female viagra 2018

    female viagra 2018

  61. sildenafil 100mg price

    sildenafil 100mg price

  62. viagra on steroids

    viagra on steroids

  63. 40 mg sildenafil

    40 mg sildenafil

  64. viagra dosage recommendations

    viagra dosage recommendations

  65. viagra alternative gnc

    viagra alternative gnc

  66. sildenafil price

    sildenafil price

  67. does cialis work

    does cialis work

  68. tadalafil 5 mg

    tadalafil 5 mg

  69. sildenafil gel

    sildenafil gel

  70. levitra soft 20mg

    levitra soft 20mg

  71. tadalafil 100mg

    tadalafil 100mg

  72. price of tadalafil

    price of tadalafil

  73. on line cialis

    on line cialis

  74. viagra canadian pharmacy

    viagra canadian pharmacy

  75. cialis daily uk

    cialis daily uk

  76. cialis dapoxetine europe

    cialis dapoxetine europe

  77. zithromax 500

    zithromax 500

  78. erythromycin 2 gel cost

    erythromycin 2 gel cost

  79. what is clindamycin for

    what is clindamycin for

  80. keflex antibiotic

    keflex antibiotic

  81. side effects for cefdinir

    side effects for cefdinir

  82. azithromycin 500 mg

    azithromycin 500 mg

  83. amoxicillin 875

    amoxicillin 875

  84. aricept for dementia

    aricept for dementia

  85. amoxicillin dosing

    amoxicillin dosing

  86. acyclovir 800 mg

    acyclovir 800 mg

  87. coupons for levitra

    coupons for levitra

  88. cvs viagra says:

    cvs viagra

    cvs viagra

  89. tadalafil 40 mg

    tadalafil 40 mg

  90. cialis mastercard

    cialis mastercard

  91. flagyl antibiotic and dairy

    flagyl antibiotic and dairy

  92. carvedilol says:



  93. finasteride 1 mg

    finasteride 1 mg

  94. clonidine generic price

    clonidine generic price

  95. voltaren side effects

    voltaren side effects

  96. bupropion 150 mg

    bupropion 150 mg

  97. tizanidine hcl 4mg

    tizanidine hcl 4mg

  98. celexa dosage

    celexa dosage

  99. buy generic buspar

    buy generic buspar

  100. side effects wellbutrin

    side effects wellbutrin

  101. mirtazapine 30mg

    mirtazapine 30mg

  102. warnings for metformin

    warnings for metformin

  103. interactions for hydrochlorothiazide

    interactions for hydrochlorothiazide

  104. duloxetine class

    duloxetine class

  105. amitriptyline 50 mg

    amitriptyline 50 mg

  106. prednisone side effects

    prednisone side effects

  107. generic for cymbalta

    generic for cymbalta

  108. generic vardenafil india

    generic vardenafil india

  109. cialis dosage strengths

    cialis dosage strengths

  110. genuine viagra canada

    genuine viagra canada

  111. what is losartan

    what is losartan

  112. metoprolol tart

    metoprolol tart

  113. meloxicam for dogs

    meloxicam for dogs

  114. atorvastatin classification

    atorvastatin classification

  115. amlodipine and viagra

    amlodipine and viagra

  116. viagra logo says:

    viagra logo

    viagra logo

  117. buy vardenafil

    buy vardenafil

  118. cialis 50 mg says:

    cialis 50 mg

    cialis 50 mg

  119. gabapentin 800 mg

    gabapentin 800 mg

  120. online viagra pharmacy

    online viagra pharmacy

  121. viagra 100mg says:

    viagra 100mg

    viagra 100mg

  122. tadalafil 10mg daily

    tadalafil 10mg daily

  123. cialis 10mg cost

    cialis 10mg cost

  124. sildenafil 100mg prescription

    sildenafil 100mg prescription

  125. natural cialis gnc

    natural cialis gnc

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to prescott az gay dating Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.