Frazer Lake is recognized as one of the premier bear viewing destinations on Kodiak Island. The river system is home to the second largest returning sockeye salmon run on Kodiak, although it has not always been the case. In 1963, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game engineered a fish ladder to assist the salmon in their ascent up the impassable Frazer Falls. The salmon tend to get backed up at the entrance of the ladder, and the bears take advantage of situation and feast on silver bright sockeye salmon! Frazer Lake is located 70 miles southwest of the city of Kodiak, about a 50-minute flight in one of Kingfisher’s Bush Hawk floatplanes.
The Eaton’s have long history with Frazer – Glen & Kyle's parents, Marty & Linda Eaton, worked the Frazer Fish Pass Facility for Alaska Department of Fish & Game in 1965 & 1966, which was near the beginning of the salmon run. After retiring from ADF&G, the family continued to visit Frazer Lake and River since 1993 – taking clients from Zachar Bay Lodge for the fishing & bear viewing experience. In 1998, Glen branched off with Kingfisher Aviation and began taking clients on a half-day bear viewing tour from Kodiak city to the Frazer.
The tour starts off in Kodiak city, where you will board one of Kingfisher’s Bush Hawk Floatplanes. Depending on the weather conditions, you might be able to wear normal hiking shoes, otherwise you will be outfitted with a pair of hip boots. The flight will take you down the east side of Kodiak Island, flying over the village of Old Harbor, where it is possible to see whales in Sitkalidik Straits and mountain goats along the mountain tops. After about 50 minutes, your pilot will splash the plane down in Frazer Lake and taxi to the shoreline where you will disembark the floatplane.
Your pilot/guide will then lead you down a ¾ mile path from Frazer Lake to the Fish Pass and Falls. There are wildflowers blooming along the edges of the pathway – including Fireweed, Lupin, Jacob’s Ladder and many others. This hike typically takes about 15-20 minutes and has a few ups and downs along the way. As you near the bear viewing area, you can hear the roar of rushing water down the waterfall. The bear viewing area overlooks the fish pass, weir, waterfall and a large pool area where the bears tend to fish. The viewing area is natural and undeveloped other than a few white rocks marking the path and a small sign designating the area (which has bears usually have chewed up). This is the bear’s home and we are just visitors in it!
Typically, the brown bears are at a distance of 40-60 yards away, but at times can get much closer when walking, napping, or even nursing their cubs! Often, there are 5-10 bears in view at anytime. Most of the bears in this area tend to be Sows (females) & cubs and sub-adult bears. They become accustomed to the “bear viewers” and like to fish in this area because it is fairly easy. It is not uncommon to see bears catching and eating several salmon during the period of an hour. Occasionally, a bigger Boar (male) bear will come through the area and fish, but it is not nearly as consistent as sows & cubs. The large boars are solitary and extremely territorial and fish the locations that are not easily accessible by people.
After about an hour and a half, guide will typically give you a brief tour of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Facility and Fish Pass before hiking back to the floatplane. Once back to the lake, there is a small outhouse facility (if needed), and we have a snack before the flight back to Kodiak. Last season the snack was a local product that was developed in Kodiak – Salmon Jerky Sticks. The flight back to Kodiak (if weather permits it) will take you back via the Westside of the Island, where you might fly over a retired salmon/herring cannery, a native villages and have the opportunity to see blacktail deer, mountain goat, bears and whales from the air. The end of the tour brings your floatplane right to the front door of Kingfisher’s office on Lily Lake.
If you are planning your Alaska visit around seeing Kodiak Bears, this is the time period we would recommend!