Are you a McNeil River Permit Winner?

If the answer is YES....Congratulations!   You are about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime! 

Access to McNeil River is by permit only distributed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on a lottery basis.  Destination Alaska has provided air transportation to the McNeil River Sanctuary for many years and we can say with confidence that this one of the most amazing exeriences that Alaska offers.  Do not delay....apply before the deadline to win this permit!


McNeil River Bear Viewing is known around the world to be an extraordinary experience!  Each Spring, individuals from all over apply for permits to visit the McNeil RIver Sanctuary. Those who are lucky enough to get drawn, rave about the adventures, beautiful scenery, stunning photography opportunities, and of course, living amongst brown bears for a few days! McNeil River holds a special place in the hearts of those who have gone! 

"The largest known gathering of brown bears in the world happens at McNeil River. Visitors get an unparalleled opportunity to watch the bears feeding, fighting, playing, and mating. In early July, as chum salmon return to the river to spawn, a series of cascading rapids and pools slows their migration making them easy prey for hungry bears. As many as 74 bruins have been observed in the area of the falls during the peak of the run in late July. Earlier in the season, red salmon returning to adjacent Mikfik Creek also draw bears, which plunge into the cold water in pursuit of the darting fish. Visitors may also see harbor seals, red fox, and a great diversity of birds, including cormorants, harlequin ducks, bald eagles, glaucous gulls, and songbirds." -Fish and Game 

2024 Pricing

Round-trip flight: 

  • Base cost $825.00 per person
  • $100 nonrefundable deposit due at the time of booking.  Remainder to be paid on the day of travel.
  • With 3% cc fee, 7.85% fuel surcharge and 7.5% excise tax - $955.82 

(we apologize for the fuel surcharge but as of 3/22/2024 aviation fuel in Alaska is still averaging $8.03 per gallon)


Permits are purchased separately from Fish and Game


  1. How do tide and weather affect my departure and pick-up times?

    • Travel to and from McNeil River Sanctuary is exclusively by floatplane during high tide. This means there is only one flight per day, scheduled to coincide with high tide and optimize viewing opportunities. Typically, drop-off occurs on the high tide the day before your permit starts, and pickup is on the last day of your viewing permit. Be aware that inclement weather may disrupt the scheduled travel, so it's advisable to include an extra day or two in your travel plans. Be prepared to wait for weather conditions on both the Homer and McNeil sides.
  2. Where can I park my vehicle?

    • Complimentary parking is available for McNeil River customers at Northwind Aviation's Beluga Lake Office. Refer to the Google map at the bottom of the page for directions to our dock.
  3. What types of bags should I bring?

    • Depending on conditions upon arrival, be prepared to carry your gear between 200 feet and a 1/4 mile to camp. It is recommended to bring dry bags and small soft or hardshell coolers. Typically, participants end up with 3-4 bags: one camera bag, 1-2 bags with camping gear and clothing, and 1 bag/cooler with food items. A backpack is essential for viewing days when you'll be away from camp for most of the day.
  4. Are there weight limits?

    • Yes, there is a weight limit of 270 lbs (combined weight of person and gear). Additional weight can be purchased at $1.50 per lb. Please provide accurate weight estimates during booking, and notify us if you anticipate needing extra weight so we can plan accordingly.
  5. What about preflight and check-in?

    • Upon booking, you will receive your check-in and departure times. Keep in mind that flights are tide-dependent, and specific departure times are set each day. These times allow for essential activities such as weighing you and your gear, parking your car, and completing payment. Northwind Aviation is located at 1184 Lakeshore Drive, Homer, AK.
  1. Payment Policy:

    • We accept payments through credit cards, cash, and checks.
    • A deposit of $100 per person is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due during check-in.
  2. Should I schedule my airline travel on the same day as my McNeil flight in and out of Homer?

    • It is not recommended. Allow for potential airline cancellations or lost bags.
    • Plan to arrive in Homer the day before your departure and consider adding an extra day or two to your departure schedule from Homer to accommodate possible delays in leaving McNeil due to weather.
    • Note: There are multiple airlines now servicing the Anchorage to Homer route.
  3. Where can I find MORE INFORMATION?

    • Refer to the handout provided in the mail or email from Fish and Game for details on food, water, clothing, and other logistical information.
    • Our knowledgeable staff, many of whom have visited McNeil, are available for phone discussions to address any additional questions you may have.