Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is a stark reminder of Alaska's location in the volcanically active "Ring of Fire." Located on the road less Alaska Peninsula, 150 miles southwest of King Salmon, this 586,000-acre monument is home to one of the world's largest calderas. Aniakchak Caldera is 6 miles wide, 2,500 feet deep and the result of a 7,000-foot volcano collapsing during a massive eruption. Inside the caldera are cinder cones, lave plugs, hot springs, Sunrise Lake and Vent Mountain, a 2,200-foot cone. If the weather is clear both the Pacific Ocean and the Bearing Sea can be seen from its rim.
The weather, however, is rarely clear. The coastal area of the park is often shrouded in fog and rain while in and around the caldera the weather is often long periods of cold, rainy and windy conditions. Due, no doubt, to its notoriously bad weather, making it difficult for bush planes to land, and remote location, Aniakchak is one of the least visited units of the National Park System, attracting less than 200 visitors a year.
The most common activities pursued in the park are hiking the caldera floor, sport fishing and floating the Aniakchak River. Designated a National Wild River, the Aniakchak begins gently at Surprise Lake and then speeds up as it flows through The Gates, a narrow, 1,500-foot-high canyon in the caldera wall. The river drops more than 1,000 feet in elevation within the first 15 miles leaving the caldera, swirling past boulders the size of small cars and makes it challenging to even veteran rafters. It flows through a treeless terrain of rolling grasslands, passing brown bears, moose and caribou, and after 32 miles empties into the Pacific Ocean at Aniakchak Bay, the home of seals, sea otters and sea birds.