The Denali Highway – Wildlife Watching and Birding

Denali-Highway-wildlifeThe alpine tundra and lake districts are home to a fabulous diversity of wildlife. Moose, black and grizzly bears, and caribou roam the open spaces and forests. Bald eagles, gyrfalcons and long-tailed jaegers circle overhead. Trumpeter swans, ptarmigan, loons and more birdlife are common.

The BLM, which administers the highway, recommends several spots for wildlife watching. Mud Lake just out of Paxson is a clear shallow lake frequented by trumpeter swans, bald eagles, and moose. Sockeye salmon can be seen in the waters. Fiftymile Lake is another good place for spotting swans, bald eagles and moose, along with grizzly, caribou and beaver. Caribou migrate through an area west of the Susitna River.


McNeil River Sanctuary


A Gathering of Bears

We have barely finished storing away food and setting up tents among tall meadow plants when a family of brown bears comes ambling down the narrow sand beach that fronts our camp. The bears are walking slowly, without menace, eating as they go. Still, they’re moving ever closer. In the lead is a large female with a beautiful milk chocolate-colored coat that has not yet begun to shed. And trailing her in single file are four tiny cubs. Darker than their mom, the cubs were born in January or February. Only a pound or so at birth, the largest of the four in late July weighs 25 to 30 pounds. The runt of the litter weighs half as much; incredibly small and fragile-looking, he has the cute appeal of a real live teddy bear.