When You Seek the WildBy Rachel Muehlenberg | Bluewater Adventures Crew & Logistics Coordinator
I push the throttle into neutral as we drift toward the shore. Someone behind me lifts binoculars to her face and scans the tree line. There’s an unparalleled stillness in an estuary. Beyond the breathtaking natural beauty of this juncture, where the waters of the Pacific have flooded the fjords of British Columbia to meet the glacial run-off from the Coast Mountain range, there’s an added level of anticipation. We are searching for grizzlies in the wild. It’s as if the bears have intentionally chosen the most picturesque locations on the coast to reside, but we know it’s more complicated than that. Grizzly bears are attracted to the unique biodiversity of coastal estuaries because of their complex diet.
A range of coastal plants—sedge grass, skunk cabbage, rice root, and crabapple trees—take root in coastal estuaries, where nutrient-rich glacial deposits promote growth. These fertile grounds are also the natal spawning rivers for the various species of wild Pacific salmon. These factors make coastal estuaries a one-stop-all-nutritional shop for bears.
The bears are plentiful in the area, but a single visit does not guarantee a sighting. The unpredictability of the endeavor makes these excursions a complex challenge. While our guests may not understand how much work and planning goes into our efforts to locate grizzly bears—timing our visits around the tides, navigating turbulent river water after a heavy rainfall, working around the schedules of other operators—we can spend hours motoring in our skiffs or beached on a riverbank in silence, always flirting with the possibility of leaving empty handed.
Then it happens. One moment, we are mystified by the low-lying fog drifting through the lichen-covered treetops, admiring the waterfalls that emerged overnight, and as our eyes travel down the granite slopes to meet the riverbank, out of the mist appears a grizzly.
I signal the group to quiet and use a series of hand motions to help them spot the animal. A tangible moment of awe envelopes the group. In these moments, inside the stillness, I am reminded that there remain wild places on this crowded earth. On an individual level, I know each guest is experiencing something profound in the presence of this wild. It’s these moments that put us in touch with what it means to be alive—to observe forces greater than ourselves with no motive beyond a desire to experience the beauty and glory of the natural world.
Join Us on these Grizzly Trips!
Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary