People visiting Alaska for the first time are often surprised at just how wild the state truly is. The vast majority of Alaska’s sprawling land is wilderness, and when you head out into the backcountry, you’re right there with all of its inhabitants, including various bear species. Grizzly bears are quite common, and you’ll find black bears in the forests of Alaska. Even polar bears are occasional visitors to the extreme north and west.

Bears generally try to avoid people as much as possible, but they are both curious and intelligent, meaning you may occasionally come across them. Keep in mind that they are wild animals, and though they like to keep to themselves, they can be quite dangerous in certain circumstances.

To avoid issues, it’s best to understand how to avoid attracting bears to your campsite, and what you should do if you ever encounter a bear. Here are some tips for smart bear awareness in Alaska.

Don’t approach or surprise bears

Give the bear plenty of space—get too close and the bear will start to feel threatened and could get aggressive. This is especially true with female bears, and even more so when they have cubs nearby. This means you should use your zoom for photos rather than trying to get as close as possible.

Bears use trails just like people do, so make sure you avoid setting up your camp close to a trail they might try to use. In addition, avoid camping near areas where you see carcasses of animals like fish or other small critters, or where there are scavengers around—these are areas where bears are likely to be hanging out.

Never, ever surprise a bear. Make noise while you’re out on the trails so bears know you’re there. Talk loudly or sing—you don’t want to take a bear by surprise, because it will lash out. Groups are far easier for bears to detect. If possible, hike with the wind at your back to make it easier to smell you.

Never feed bears

Bears can occasionally be scavengers in campsites, so you should never leave food or garbage in places that are easy to access. Hang food out of reach, and store food in airtight containers. Always keep a clean camp and wash your dishes, and avoid making particularly greasy or smelly foods. Burn food waste in your fire, and pack out everything else with you.

Know how to deal with a bear encounter

If you do come across a bear while out in the wilderness, make sure to avoid it and allow it to avoid you. If the bear does not appear to have seen you, move away quietly, keeping your eyes on the bear to track its behavior. If the bear does notice you, face the bear, stand your ground and speak calmly so the bear knows you’re a human. Use a normal voice. It may help to stand with others in your group and wave your arms above your head slowly. You can try to back away slowly, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. If the bear stands up, it is more likely

Spend any amount of time along coastal Alaskan trails at low tide, and you’ll see a landscape covered with a dark gray mud. These are the Alaskan mudflats—the remnants of mountains that were brought down to the earth by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. The rivers that feed into the Inlet bring massive amounts of sediment—tens of millions of tons per year.

There is no doubt that these mudflats are gorgeous, but they’re also quite unsafe. Here’s some information you should know before your visit to the dangerous mudflats in Alaska.

Safety Around the Mudflats

It’s very tempting when you see the miles and miles of mudflats that appear at low tide to spend some time walking along them, enjoying the isolation and solitude of the Alaskan shore. This is an especially common temptation near Anchorage’s Kincaid Beach, a large sandy beach where people often have bonfires and picnics. The beach is located right next to miles’ worth of smooth mudflats.

However, you should avoid this temptation at all costs. These mudflats are highly dangerous, and have claimed many lives. Mudflats essentially act as quicksand—there are many stories of people being caught in the mud, unable to save themselves when the ice-cold tides come rushing back into the area.

Yes, there are some people who cross the mudflats safely. People like to hunt on the mud or walk along the mud to Fire Island in the Cook Inlet. There are some people who will cross at low tide and still come back safely. Any excursion involving the mud flats, however, should be extremely well planned with the tide schedule, and should not deviate at all from that plan.

How to Handle Dangerous Mudflats

The biggest problem with the mudflats is that most people are thoroughly unprepared for how to handle themselves if they get stuck. As with quicksand, the natural reaction is to scramble to try to free yourself. Also as with quicksand, the more you move around, the deeper you’re going to sink in.

The issue only becomes worse when you consider the fog that frequently engulfs the area, as well as the potential for icy tide waters to come rushing back in.

Local rescuers are prepared near the mudflats with a water pump, but every second counts when someone is stuck in the mudflats, so these rescues can turn into a race against the clock.

When the tide does come in, the waves can be up to 10 feet tall, depending on the winds and the moon cycle. People love to sit from a safe distance and watch the tide come in, but it’s not a particularly welcome sight if you’re still out on the mudflats. If you are stuck when the tides arrive, you have an extremely small chance of survival.
If you want to see the mudflats, it’s important you speak with an experienced guide about doing so rather than attempting to venture off yourself. For more information about the dangerous mudflats in Alaska, we encourage you to contact us today.

When you come up to Alaska for an adventure, chances are good that you’re going to at least get close to the water, if not on it. Chances are also good that water’s going to be pretty cold—it’s Alaska after all! If you come from an area where you don’t have to deal with extremely cold water, it’s important you understand cold water safety in Alaska and how you can make your trip a safe experience.

Information About Cold Water Safety

About 20 percent of people who fall into cold water die in the first minute of immersion because of cold water shock. Even strong swimmers can lose muscle control in about 10 minutes. This is because body heat gets lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. You have a much better chance of survival if you’re wearing a life jacket, but it is still highly dangerous.

With cold water, you should keep in mind the 1-10-1 principle. This being you have one minute to control your breathing, 10 minutes of muscle control and one hour until hypothermia sets in. This means time is of the essence. Most cold-water deaths will occur long before hypothermia sets in—for the most part, only people wearing a life jacket survive longer than 10 minutes in water that close to freezing.

It’s also important to keep in mind that just because air temperatures are getting warmer does not mean water temperatures are as well. It takes much longer for water to warm up for the season than it does air. Therefore, when the water is still cold, you should kayak, canoe, raft, paddleboard or boat at your own risk.

Safety Equipment

What can you do to prepare for time spend out on cold water? Aside from using common sense and being aware of your surroundings, the best approach to cold water safety in Alaska is having good gear on-hand:

  • Life jacket: Always wear a life jacket when out on water, especially when the water is so cold. Wearing a life jacket is the single-best way to increase your chances of survival if you fall into cold water.
  • Gear: Wear cold water protection gear that’s designed for the water temperature, not the air temperature. These include wet/dry suits, immersion suits, survival suits and exposure coveralls.
  • Radio: Carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or other radio signaling device with you any time you go out onto the water when it’s still extremely cold. This is especially important in more remote areas, but a good idea no matter where you go.

Have a Plan and Know the Conditions

Plan out your trip in advance, and make sure other people know where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be hitting certain markers on your trip. Leave details about the boat, passengers, towing or trailer vehicles, communication equipment and emergency contacts.

Always check the weather conditions before you go out, and get a reading on the water temperature. Consider waiting until the water is warmer if possible. For more tips and information about cold water safety in Alaska, contact us today.