Alaska’s Farewell Bison Herd are an elusive and majestic group of animals. Unlike other herds across America, the Farewell herd is 400+ strong and is the only known herd to be 100% pure plains bison. Most herds have some cattle incursions in their genome.
Alaska is so vast and the herd’s roaming area is so remote that it can difficult to plan a trip to view this wildlife spectacle. Their movements are affected by snow depth, temperature, predators and wind direction to name just a few factors. It is almost impossible to predict where they will be tomorrow never mind next February, but it is not Mission: Impossible… it is Mission: Bison! We have a plan to get you into the herd. You’ll witness interesting animal behavior as the bulls compete for status and the newest calves are shielded from predators.
Before your arrival, we will be gathering information from pilots, biologists and others in the field. On the day that your trip begins, together with our bush pilot, we will decide on the best place to set up our base camp. Being near the herd also means we have an excellent chance of seeing large animals such as moose, caribou, wolves, bears and wolverines, and even Golden Eagles, soaring overhead.
The focus of this trip is to see large groups of bison, but you will also be in one of the most beautiful places on the planet! The majestic Alaska Range with it’s star, Denali, will be in full view most days.
As springtime approaches, many of Alaska’s wild animals will be moving around more and searching for food and companionship. It’s a wonderful time to be in the wild with or without the bison. With an increasing amount of daylight and nearly limitless wilderness all around, there is no end to the exploration we can do. Each day we will head off in a different direction seeking wildlife and vistas. How far you choose to hike each day is largely up to you, but the more you can hike, the more wildlife you are likely to see. We will have several snowmobiles available to get us around the area.
On this tour, you will be travelling far away from sources of light pollution, offering very good possibilities to see the Northern Lights. Displays are typically visible until around early April.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Depart Anchorage via Alaska Air Transit, a safe and comfortable bush Caravan. The flight will take you up and over the Alaska Range and the pilot will be happy to point out the Farewell area where the bison herd roam and where our camp will be. After a 75 minute flight, you’ll arrive in McGrath, a small village located along the Kuskokwim River and the historic Iditarod Sled Dog Trail. Here, you’ll stay at Hotel McGrath for the first evening where you’ll have the opportunity to explore the friendly village and culture. Your guide will host a pre-trip meeting and gear check in the afternoon, followed by dinner at the hotel.
The adventure continues! After a short safety briefing, we’ll load up in an Alaskan bush plane with skis which will fly us to our camp. The Arctic Oven tents will be warm and stocked with plenty of food. Spend some time getting familiar with the area and exploring near the camp. You’ll often witness animals scurrying across a frozen lake or an eagle circling overhead. Your guide will brief you on the latest intel gathered so the tracking of the mighty bison can begin. The snowmachines will get us near the bison, but a short and quiet hike will get you even closer. We’ll return to camp for a hearty dinner, a nightly bonfire and a good night’s rest.
DAYS 3 – 5
These days will be spent setting you up to take Nat Geo style photos! We’ll be exploring the area looking for bison and other wildlife. Your guide will lead hikes in hopes we can place ourselves in a hidden location in the path of the herd. There will be times when no bison are present, but there is no end to the beauty of the Alaska Range. With each starry night, we have excellent chances to see the Aurora dancing above the mountains while the toasty bonfire roars in the Alaskan twilight.
The last morning on the tour and time to bid farewell to the Farewell Bison Herd. Then it is back on the bush plane for your short flightseeing trip to McGrath. After dinner, you’ll settle back into your room at Hotel McGrath for the night.
You’ll catch the flight to what will feel like a big, ultra-urban metropolis, Anchorage. Catch a connecting flight home or spend a day or two exploring Alaska’s biggest city.