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Sunset over Naknek River

How to get the most out of Naknek River Cam

By Katmai NP Ranger Mike Fitz

We’re quickly approaching prime time on the Naknek River Cam. Here’s what to look for over the next month.

Migratory Birds
The Alaska Peninsula is an important staging area for migratory birds. In early spring, waterfowl descend on Naknek River for several weeks as they wait for ice to thaw on the area’s ponds and lakes. You have the chance to watch dozens of species of ducks, geese, and swans on the Naknek River Cam. Tundra swans, white-fronted geese, and ducks like pintails, mallards, common goldeneyes, and common mergansers are especially conspicuous and abundant. Waterfowl are most abundant from April to early May. Watch the mudflats at low tide for the best chance to see migratory waterfowl.


Waterfowl over the mudflats

Harbor Seals
Seals commonly swim up Naknek River beyond the webcam in Katmai Salmon to hunt fish. Harbor seals appear dark in the water and you’ll likely only see their head as they drift slowly on the river’s surface.

Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal

Beluga Whales
Beginning in April, pods of beluga whales often swim upriver into Naknek River to feed on runs of smelt. Beluga whales are more frequently seen during the highest incoming tides, which typically happens in the morning.

Beluga whales swim Naknek River

Beluga whales swim Naknek River

What do you need to do to see the whales?
1. Check the tide predictions for King Salmon and note the time of the high tide.
2. Start watching the cam about 2 hours before high tide. The whales usually arrive before the peak of high tide. Large flocks of glaucous-winged gulls often accompany the whales.
3. Look downstream (to the camera’s right) for spouts and listen for the sound of the whales exhaling.

Help Track Beluga Whales in Naknek River:
Join Katmai’s beluga whale tracking project on iNaturalist. If you see beluga whales on the webcam, then record your observations to help us predict when they enter the river. Limited observations of whale sightings from 2014 and 2015, suggest that whales are most likely to be seen from early morning to early afternoon and on incoming tides higher than 2.42 feet (.74 m) from mid April to early May.

Spring in Alaska is an exciting time when winter’s dormancy is broken and life begins to burst on the scene. Watch the Naknek River Cam for whales, waterfowl, and other signs of Alaska’s springtime rejuvenation.
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