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The Best Grizzly Viewing in North America
North America

The Best Grizzly Viewing in North America


The Austin Collection’s Chilko Experience lodge is the place to spot congregations of brown bear

Imagine quietly boating along the pristine Chilko River, in remote British Columbia, through the crisp fall air. After the guide cuts the engine, the only sound becomes some light chop against the hull, the wind in the trees, and the occasional screech of an eagle. Then you see them on the river bank: Grizzlies.

Grizzlies flock to the Chilko Valley during the fall Sockeye Salmon run. It is some of the best bear viewings in North America as the bears feed on Sockeye salmon in the headwaters of the river. Over 100 grizzlies call the valley their home during the salmon spawn. Generally sightings on the river at peak season average 6 to 12, but in some years it’s been as high as 42! Each season (and each day) varies.

The bears are concentrated on a three-mile river segment beginning at the river’s mouth and extending downstream, an area where in some years the salmon numbers exceed one million. The result is that the Chilko River has some of the finest bear viewing anywhere in North America. This concentration of bears occurs because the river is located deep within the BC interior and is the only salmon-feeding option for bears within a 200-mile radius. While there may be more bears located along the coast, with the many feeding options that exist, they are more dispersed and harder to observe.

Chilko Lake grizzly bears are a large subspecies of the North American Brown Bear. Adult female grizzlies weigh around 290–400 lb., and adult males start at 400 lb. and can reach nearly 800!

An amazing way to experience these noble animals is via The Chilko Experience. This seven-home private luxury estate is located on a 5,000,000-acre wilderness tract in pristine British Columbia wilderness. It’s also part of the new Austin Collection, one of eight remote luxury wilderness lodges curated and hand-picked by Austin Adventures Founder & President Dan Austin.

Lodge owner Phil Huston says, “Of particular interests are the mother bears and cubs. Two cubs are common but families with three are sometimes spotted too. Photographers from around the world come to Chilko to snap the perfect brown bear photo.”

Huston ferries guests onto the river in boats positioned to witness the feeding frenzy, but from a safe distance. Viewing is accomplished by low-draft riverboats with experienced guides who know to stay at least 50 meters away from the bears in order not to stress them.

While the bears get to feast, fishing for salmon on the Chilko River is restricted to all but those of First Nations descent. “However, the salmon spawn draws large rainbow trout populations that challenge and reward both the novice and experienced angler,” Huston notes.

Before and after viewing bears and other wildlife, Chilko Experience guests will not exactly be ‘roughing it’. Quite the contrary actually, as guests stay in the well-appointed log or timber frame homes, all meals are chef-prepared, wine is served with dinner, there is an open bar for the duration, and ten guided activities included.

In addition to grizzly-viewing, other adventures available at the lodge include:

  • ATV tours
  • Ax throwing
  • Blacksmithing
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Fly fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Kayaking
  • Lake cruises (powerboat)
  • Photography
  • Not answering emails, attending meetings, dialing into conference calls, or otherwise stressing about work…

Our Suggestion

How can you top a fantastic, grizzly-watching experience in the pristine B.C. backcountry, surrounded by all-inclusive luxury? Well, how about if you could join Dan Austin and his wife Carol for an exclusive retreat there?

Dan and Carol invite you to join them on a very special September 21-25 trip to The Chilko Experience lodge, right at the height of bear viewing time and peak seasons for foliage, trout fishing, and the Sockeye Salmon run. This exclusive ‘retreat’ will celebrate the launch of the Austin Collection – and is limited to just eight other travelers.


Cost is $3,998.00 plus travel air, double occupancy. Austin Adventures can make travel arrangements (at additional cost) from Vancouver, BC.

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