Three 2-year-old black bear cubs look hunt spawning sockeye salmon in Steep Creek at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Three 2-year-old black bear cubs look hunt spawning sockeye salmon in Steep Creek at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Annual Steep Creek closure goes into effect

As of Friday, the non-elevated portions of the Steep Creek Trail are closed, the U.S. Forest Service announced.

The annual closure of parts of the trail located near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center minimizes bear-human interactions, allows bears to access their natural environment and enhances the viewing experience for guests on the elevated platforms, according to the Forest Service.

Hikers and cyclists will encounter signs at trailheads alerting them to the closure when they enter the Dredge Lakes area, according to the Forest Service. The closure boundary is marked by black plastic chain and signs.

The closure, first instituted 15 years ago, has significantly improved bear viewing opportunities, according to the Forest Service. Bears tend to remain in viewing distance when visitors move slowly and quietly on the elevated platforms, allowing people to observe natural bear behavior while having a minimal impact.

In the news release announcing the closure, the Forest Service reminded visitors that food and flavored beverages are only allowed in designated areas and dogs and bikes are strongly discouraged from using Steep Creek trail.

The visitor center recommends the following when on the raised Steep Creek platforms, for the safety and enjoyment of everyone:

— Maintain a calm demeanor and use slow movements.

— Be courteous and respectful of other visitors.

— Please notify staff when you see a bear.

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