Neets Bay has some of the best bear-watching in Southeast Alaska.
If bear-watching is on your bucket list, you couldn’t find a more enjoyable way to view bears catching salmon.
Here’s how your trip will go.
Climb aboard a DeHavilland Beaver or Otter floatplane and take off for a panoramic view of Ketchikan, the Inside Passage, and its surrounding wilderness. You’re on your way to Neets Bay and some serious black bear watching. Our bush pilots make your flights to and from Neets Bay an experience you’ll long remember. You’ll be tuned to a Digital CD audio system through your individual headset, looking out through extra-large windows at the wilderness, lakes and mountains below.
You’ll be flown to Neets Bay, where you’ll disembark and meet one of our friendly and experienced bear guides who will lead your group on a short hike along a quarter-of-a-mile wilderness trail through the old growth Tongass National Rainforest. Your hike will end at the Neets Bay Salmon Hatchery. This facility is owned and operated by SSRAA (Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association) SSRAA’s (pronounced ‘Sarah’) mission is to enhance the number of salmon available to commercial and sport harvesters in the area and to ensure minimal impacts to naturally reproducing salmon stocks. SSRAA operates four hatcheries in the region.
Every year the salmon run is at its most spectacular from mid-July through September.
Spawning salmon enter the bay, swim up the stream and start to jump up the cascading water and hatchery fish ladders. This is big time feeding for black bears! You’ll be able to see one of the most spectacular sites on earth, from a secure, covered bear viewing area. You’ll have a closeup of the bears feeding in their natural habitat. Photographers take note! Be on the lookout for other wildlife, too. Eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer, mink, marten, and seals all populate this area.
And after generous time on the platform, our floatplanes will take you back to Ketchikan.
This is bear-watching in Alaska at its best.
Please Note: The rainforest walk is over uneven and sometimes difficult terrain with a few steps and narrow passageways. This tour is not recommended for guests with physical limitations.
Passenger names and weights are required by the FAA for weight and balance calculations and flight manifesting. To ensure aircraft weight and balance is within operating parameters, guests weighing 250 lbs. (clothed weight) or more may be required pay an additional surcharge of $150 over the published fare direct to the tour operator. A no-bag policy applies; however, if you have medical needs that require a carry-on bag, please see the Shore Excursion office on board. All other bags brought to our terminal will be stored until you return from your flight.
If the weather is not suitable for a flight you will have an option to join Herring Cove’s Black Bear & Wildlife Exploration and your onboard folio will be credited the difference in the flight portion.
Need to Know
Comfortable hiking footwear, layered clothing and rain gear are recommended
Aircraft weight/balance may require guests 250 lbs or more to pay surcharge
This experience involves an increased amount of physical activity including walking over uneven terrain and extended periods of standing. Comfortable, sturdy shoes are recommended.
Neets Bay Bear Watching by Float Plane
We took this excursion to see bears in the wild. We were not disappointed. The bear watching at Neet's Bay was great. However, the flight to and from Ketchikan was amazing. We had a clear day and the scenery was spectacular. Our pilot, Adam, took us to the bay by one route and then back to Ketchikan by a more scenic route - spectacular views. Highly recommend this excursion.
Neets Bay Bear Watch & Flightseeing – Incredible experience!
The Neets Bay Bear Watch & Flightseeing tour was one of the highlights of our cruise on the Star Princess. The entire experience was well-organized and well-executed.
My wife and I started the tour by meeting a representative from Alaska Shore Tours (Taqan Air Tours) on the pier just a few steps from our cruise ship. She was holding a sign with the excursion code clearly visible so we knew without a doubt that we were in the right place.
We were directed to a waiting bus, which was a very short walk from where we met the first representative. Once everyone attending the tour was loaded, we were driven to the marina where the planes were docked.
They presented a safety video and then directed us down a ramp onto the dock where the plane was waiting. Our pilot helped us onto the plane, checked to make sure everyone was properly buckled in and showed us how to use the headsets. He started the plane, taxied into open water, and then we took off.
This was our first time flying in a float plane. Takeoff and landing were quite smooth compared to typical wheeled planes. Seeing such a beautiful area from a relatively low altitude (compared to commercial jets) was amazing! The area around Ketchikan is so beautiful.
After a 20 minute flight, we arrived at Neets Bay. Our guide met us on the dock and gave us a short safety talk about how to behave around bears - what to do and what not to do. Then he led us up a ramp to a woodsy area. We were immediately able to see a marshy area with at least 2 dozen eagles.
The guide took us down a short trail and pointed out many signs of bear activity - scat (feces), claw markings on trees, and several plants that the bears had eaten. At the end of the trail (about 1/4 mile) was an open area with the fish hatchery.
Just as our group arrived at the fish hatchery, we heard muted "oos" and "ahhs" from another two groups that had arrived before us - bears! There were 2 bears within 50 yards, one was climbing into a spillway next to a waterfall and the other was a bit further downstream. We quickly grabbed our cameras and started making photos and videos. Just a few minutes later, we saw another adult bear and two cubs a bit further down. The bears picked several salmon out of the spillway and stream. (I'm sure people who see this every day may laugh at my amazement, but for someone who has never seen a bear outside of a zoo this was quite breathtaking!)
After quite a while of watching the bears and some nearby eagles, we (sadly) made our way back down the trail to the dock for our flight back the marina and bus ride back to the pier.
I'm sure you can tell from my description - we REALLY enjoyed our experience and would gladly do it again! Highly recommended!!
Neets Bay Bear Tours – great flight and we did see a couple of bears
We were sailing Carnival and next to last port of call was Ketchikan. We opted for the Neets Bay Bear Watch or tour...
When we arrived to the float plane port, Taquan airlines was our carrier.
Great pre-brief. If you have a camera back pack.. they might ask you to leave it there.. locked up. It will depend on type of airplane, amount and weight of passengers and ultimately the pilot. I had been briefed prior to and didn't take mine but mounted the large lens on the camera and had the smaller lens in my coat.
Pilot was great and described the flight and scenery the entire time we flew out and back.
It was a very hot day.. and low tide.. .the group before us told us they didn't see any bears.. Our guide told us it was iffy. We did see a few bear caves and marks where they climbed the trees. When we arrived at the fish hatchery... there were no bears and we waited and waited.. I did get a few good shots of eagles looking for a free lunch. Someone told our guide that there was a mother bear and cub on the way back down the trail. (short hike out and back by the way)... We found the bears and the guide made sure we stopped at 3 - 4 places to get good shots.
No one can control the: weather, tide, and bears... so be prepared for anything or nothing. Flight out and back was phenomenal. The pilot even offered to take pictures of us beside the airplane.. Great time.. thank you..
Floatplane from Ketchikan to Neets Bay Bearwatching
Professional warm friendly set-up in a beautiful 1960 Classic De Havilland Otter aircraft.
A friend didn't join us because of a fear of small aircraft. This aircraft was super smooth with an expert pilot Ron. Smoother than Commercial aircraft!
Video briefing on the coach so when you arrive at the Floatplane no time is wasted. Plenty of room in plane and a seat for everyone with a window! Great music by Steve Millar Band and Dire Straits and beautiful scenery.
Then getting close up to plenty of brown bears feasting on salmon! What a trip...