Come for the bears, stay for a true wilderness adventure

History

Holy Smokes! In 1912 Novarupta Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula violently erupted and rocked the area now known as Katmai National Park and Preserve. The wilderness was turned into a dynamic landscape of smoking valleys, ash-covered mountains and small holes and cracks fuming with steam and gas, forcing the resettlement of traditional Alutiiq communities who called the area home for nearly 9,000 years. Four years later explorer Robert Grigg climbed Katmai Pass and became the first person to see the valley floor with its thousands of steam vents. He named it the Valley of 10,000 Smokes and led the effort that turned Katmai into a national monument in 1918.

In 1980 the monument was enlarged to 4.2 million acres and designated a national park and preserve. Today, Katmai National Park and Preserve remains a wilderness landscape with little development.

Ecosystem and Wildlife

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fattest bear of all? Home to wolves, lynx, and other wildlife, Katmai is best known for its iconic brown bears. And, while bear viewing season along the park’s famed Brooks River peaks in July as the salmon start running, fall is the time when bears really need to up their feeding game, To celebrate a successful summer, the Katmai Conservancy hosts #FatBearWeek. This fun contest – held in early October – offers Katmai bear fans a chance to weigh in on which of the park’s more than 2,000 bears was most successful packing on the pounds prior to the start of hibernation. By spring, these bears will have lost nearly one-third of their weight, starting the cycle all over again. Be sure to check out the action on the parks multiple bear cams

Bears aren’t the only ones fishing in the park! Katmai is also home to the Alagnak Wild River and Naknek Lake, the largest lake in the park, supports all five species of Pacific salmon as well as rainbow trout, Arctic char, Arctic grayling and northern pike, making the park a famed destination for sport anglers

Activities

Most people come to Katmai via floatplane. For many visitors, this is the first time in a small aircraft. Others arrive for the opportunity to raft, hike the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, camp in the backcountry, kayak the chain of lakes and rivers known as the Savonoski Loop, or explore the more remote coves and bays along the park’s coastline. The park’s visitor center at Brooks Camp is open seasonally from June 1 through mid-September and guests can sign up for ranger-led tours of the Valley of 10,000 Smokes or a walking tour to learn the human history of the Brooks River Archeological District.

Katmai National Park is approximately 260 miles southwest of Anchorage and is a true wilderness destination. Unconnected to any town by road, a trip to Katmai requires additional planning, costs and advance reservations for extended visits. Bear viewing tour packages to the park, even one-day tours, can be arranged from Kodiak, Homer and Anchorage.

Learn more about Katmai National Park

View the live cameras of bears fishing in Katmai

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