By Evie Carrick
April 25, 2019
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Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to about 2,200 brown bears, a fact that draws visitors who come to watch bears – from a safe distance, of course — in their natural habitat. That human-to-bear connection is important, but it’s been unintentionally sabotaged by the infrastructure that provides visitors with access to the park.

The existing floating bridge that visitors use to enter Katmai National Park and Preserve is often blocked by bears who rest or play near the bridge and trail. The park’s protocol to stop and wait for the bear to move often results in delays for visitors who need to cross the river.

That’s all about to change this summer, as the park debuts a new elevated bridge and boardwalk.

Related: The 15 Least-visited National Parks Have All the Beauty, and None of the Crowds

The new infrastructure will secure more consistent public access and visitor safety while enhancing bear-viewing opportunities. Most importantly, the new construction will improve the ability for wildlife to move naturally and access the river.

Construction on the new bridge began in summer 2018 and should open to visitors this June, according to Travel Weekly.

“This is a great conservation story, and it's really what the park service does best,” said Pete Christian, National Park Service spokesman for the Alaska region, in an interview with Travel Weekly. “We're allowing for visitors to have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime wild experience with bears, while protecting the bears themselves.”

Due to its location, Katmai is one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S. If the trip is too far for you this summer, don't worry — you can also watch the bears on the park's live webcams.

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