Critter viewing opportunities (tame places)

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 12:25:44 02/15/15

In Reply to: Oh ok, will email too posted by Photobug


There are a number of fairly unique enclosure places around here, where you are guaranteed good critter viewing.

Chief among them is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, south of Girdwood, near the Portage Valley. This place is steadily growing, and has tremendous community support! They just completed their bear exhibit improvement project last year, and it is a WINNER. There are something like 5 or 10 acres of bear habitat, with an open air "sky bridge" that traverses a semi-open area, probably a good 50-75 yards long. You have brown bears on one side and black bears on the other. The photo opps are amazing, particularly for those who are patient, and invest some time. This place also features a large wood bison herd, caribou, deer, elk, fox, lynx, moose, and even a porcupine. It's a drive through park. They are going to be sending off a large group of the bison to a distant part of Alaska to establish a herd out there this late spring or early summer.

There are also several reindeer farms up near where Rob (Hiker) lives. We took our grandkids to one of them last June, and it was one of the biggest hits of their visit. You can literally get close enough to pet them, although I'm not sure it is a sound strategy. (These critters are semi-tame and exhibit all the behavioral traits of roadside panhandlers, when it comes to acquiring food from visitors.)

I would not advise wasting time visiting the Anchorage Zoo. It is OK for locals, who don't have many zoo options, but it is sure to disappoint anyone who has been to the Bronx Zoo or San Diego Zoo.

I should also mention the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. While not equivalent to the great aquarium in Seattle, it is somewhat unique, and worth a visit if you are interested in such places. This place is heavily engaged in "marine life rescue and rehabilitation", so that is part of the attraction. Right now, they have a blind juvenile seal they just recently took in. There have been several orphaned sets of sea otters reared there in recent years. They often have stellar sea lions. They also function as a full blown aquarium, with many of the exhibits one would expect to see. We may be somewhat jaded, because we have visited both the Monterey and Seattle Aquariums in recent years. For sea life fans, this place is worth the time.

If one were to go with some of my recommendations, and avoid Denali, the "two good places to call 'home' for two to three days" would likely be Homer and Seward.

There are roadside attractions between Anchorage and Homer worth checking out. First, keep your eyes vigilant for potential beluga whale pods in Turnagain Arm on the drive south of Anchorage. Second, make the quick side trip to the Portage Valley. There is a great Forest Service Visitor Center at Portage Glacier. There is a wonderful salmon-viewing area a few miles NW of there, but it would not likely have anything going on in June. If you do the drive to Homer, the Russian River area is on your left, after you leave the road to Seward, before you get to Soldotna. Erik Hendrickson, NPS employee, who used to hike with us in Yellowstone, and now works at Denali, visits Homer at least once, sometimes twice, annually, just for the outstanding birding. Geri and Oldtymr spent some time in Homer, and are much more knowledgeable on this area than I am.

Invest some quality web time researching some of the places I mentioned for more specific info, so you can make intelligent choices. Rob (Hiker) and Geri/Oldtyr might have additional suggestions. You should have plenty of options to choose from.


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