The awe-inspiring Katmai National Park is located in Southern Alaska. Covering an area of 40,931 km2 (~15,803 sq mi), a vast majority of the park is a designated Wilderness Area; a natural region of land relatively unchanged by human activity.
Katmai National Park is perhaps best known for its volcanoes. The park’s namesake, Mount Katmai is just one of 15 volcanoes within the park boundaries. Seven of the park’s volcanoes have been active since 1900.
In 1912, an enormous eruption from Novarupta resulted in the park’s most prominent feature: the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a 40 square mile pyroclastic ash flow. The valley was named by Robert Briggs after he led an expedition to the site and witnessed “tens of thousands” of fumaroles emitting great gasps of steam. The smoke in the valley no longer rises, but the awesome force of steam vents may be witnessed elsewhere in the park.
Forests, coastline, alpine tundra, glassy lakes, waterfalls and volcanic manifestations form the landscape of Katmai National Park. Wildlife and vegetation is vast and varied.
The park’s most popular attraction is its large population of brown bears – the park contains the world’s highest protected brown bear population, thought to exceed 2,000. Many visitors congregate at Brooks Waterfall to watch the bears catch the plentiful salmon in their natural habitat. Viewing platforms have been set up at Brooks Camp to enhance the experience whilst protecting the bears from human interference.
Other wildlife includes moose, gray wolves, caribou and beavers; while off the coast, there’s an opportunity to spot beluga whales, gray whales and orcas.
Activities at the park include many outdoor pursuits: hiking, wildlife watching, fishing, skiing, kayaking and boat tours. The rugged and wild authenticity of the landscape is fantastic for exploring.