One of the most breathtaking shows in Alaska opens every summer and extends into fall, when millions of sockeye salmon (known locally as reds) return from their saltwater habitat to spawn and die in rivers with names like Kvichak, Ugashik and Nushagak. Tourists gather to watch; bears, ignoring them, eat their fill. The Bristol Bay region is the largest sockeye spawning ground in the world, and the fish is the state’s most commercially important salmon species: last year’s catch was worth $296 million. ‘‘When the fish first come in, there’s an electricity in the air — you can see all the classic things you’ve heard about salmon,’’ like their leaping up waterfalls, says Robert Begich, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ‘‘And you can catch some yourself.’’
See the incredible interactive here on The New York Times.