This pristine preserve is famous for true wilderness adventures, including exceptional bear viewing
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. Only one other eruption in historic times, on the Greek island of Santorini in 1500 BC, displaced more ash and pumice. 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 1980 the monument was enlarged to 4.2 million acres and designated a national park and preserve. Katmai National Monument was established in 1918, but so few people visited the remote area that no rangers were stationed here until 1950. Today, Katmai National Park and Preserve remains a wilderness landscape with little development.
Ecosystem and Wildlife
The fumaroles no longer smoke and hiss and today the park is best known for its brown bear population that tops more than 2,000. At the peak of the bear viewing season in July, throngs of visitors arrive at Brooks River to watch bears snagging salmon in mid-air just 30 yards away. Katmai is also home to the Alagnak Wild River and several large lakes. Naknek Lake is the largest and support 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.
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 or kayak the chain of lakes and rivers known as the Savonoski Loop. Unconnected to any town by roads, 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 camera of bears fishing