Katmai National Park And Preserve

Katmai National Park and Preserve is located in southern Alaska and holds 4,093,077 acres of protected land, of which 3,473,000 acres of land is comprised of designated wilderness. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that made the area into a national monument. This was done in order to protect the area around Novarupta, a new volcano at the time that erupted and formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Despite the areas designation as a national monument, there were not many visitors and the area remained underdeveloped until the 1950s.

The Katmai area was eventually recognized for its beauty, its abundance of sockeye salmon and the brown bears that feed on the species, as well as a large variety of other Alaskan wildlife. The national monument underwent a few expansions, including the 1,370,000-acre expansion that occurred under the Antiquities Act in 1978, and was established as a national park in 1980, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which was signed into action by President Jimmy Carter.

Katmai National Park and Preserve is located along the Pacific Ocean on the Alaska Peninsula, across from Kodiak Island. It contains a chain of fifteen volcanoes that occur along the Aleutian Range. Other popular features of the park include its coastline and the many large lakes in western areas of the park. The park is bordered by Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in the south and McNeil River State Game Sanctuary along Kamishak Bay. Glacial movements have altered much of the park’s landscape, creating lakes in lowland areas and shaping mountains in highland areas.

There are six active volcanoes located in Katmai National Park and Preserve including Novarupta, Mount Katmai, Mount Martin, Mount Mageik, Fourpeaked Volcano, and Trident Volcano. Mount Mageik and Mount Martin can be seen emitting steam and Trident Volcano’s last eruption occurred in 1968. In June of 1912, the most significant volcanic eruption in the park’s history occurred. Novatupta and Mount Katmai erupted together, with Novarupta creating a pyroclastic flow throughout a neighboring valley and Mount Katmai collapsing into its own center.  Once the lava in the valley began to cool, fissures were created that released steam and the valley was dubbed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

The climate within Katmai national Park and Preserve can vary, but is typically drizzly or rainy. During the summer, temperatures average around 63 °F, while in the winter season temperatures can vary between −4 °F and 40 °F. There are 137 species of birds that reside in the park, including the bald eagle, and 24 species of freshwater fish, most notably the sockeye salmon. The park is home to 29 mammal species including brown bears, caribou, moose, martins, sea lions, sea otters, and gray wolves. Marine animals that can be found in the waters of the park include gray whales, orcas, and beluga whales.

Katmai National Park and Preserve can be accessed by boat in Naknek Lake or by a paved road that leads to Three Forks, an overlook of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The park offers many activities including camping, backpacking, boat tours, hiking, kayaking, and fishing. Fishing is highly popular, due to the abundance of sockeye salmon, but the salmon also attract brown bears. Most visitors visit Brooks Camp, a developed area of the park that offers bear viewing. Visitors can lodge at Brooks Camp and in other areas of the park.

Image Caption: Katmai Crater – Mount Katmai, Alaska. Credit: Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps/Wikipedia