Anan Creek is an ancient native Tlingit fishing site that hosts the densest, largest pink salmon run in Southeast Alaska. The word Anan in Tlingit means place you wait. By waiting out a tide cycle or two at the creek estuary, a Tlingit clan could harvest sufficient salmon from the pools and eddies to feed themselves throughout the winter. Given such abundance, several tribes might come together here without conflict over the resource.
This place uniquely draws both brown and black bears feeding in close proximity, along with bald and golden eagles, seals, ducks and manifold other scavengers who feast on the bears’ leavings. Early in the season, bears are sufficiently ravenous to eat the entire fish, but now, closer to hibernation they are already full, plump, and seek concentrated fat found in the skin, brains and eggs of the salmon they harvest, leaving muckle to nourish scavengers and the watershed.
Anan is closely controlled by the Forest Service during summer months, limiting visitors to sixty per day. Many travelers arrive each summer to observe these impressive creatures in their natural habitat thanks to a clever arrangement of blinds and observation decks.
Reaching the falls via boardwalks through a forest of spruce and hemlock mandates an armed escort, although our guide, Butch, assured us that in forty years he has never discharged his weapon, preferring to “talk the bears down” should they try to interact with his charges. “The bears that feed here are habituated to humans and see us as neither threat nor asset (food).”
Arriving at this singular spot late in the season, we had the place nearly to ourselves, and spent several uninterrupted hours marveling at these majestic beasts.
A Tlingit Primer
S’eek: Black Bear
Xóots: Brown Bear
Cháas’: Pink Salmon (Humpies)
Gunalchéesh: Thank you