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EXPLORE AMERICA: Katmai National Park and Preserve

In June 1912, the Novarupta volcano violently exploded, bringing the Katmai area to the world’s attention. Located along Alaska’s southern coast and the Pacific Ring of Fire, the area is no stranger to volcanic activity, with 15 active volcanoes peppering the landscape. After Robert Griggs of the National Geographic Society explored the area in 1916 to investigate the aftermath of the explosion, whose effects were felt throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the area immediately surrounding Novarupta and Mt. Katmai was declared a national monument in 1918. Griggs and his team were especially amazed by the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where ground water percolated through still-hot layers of ash and turned into plumes of steam. Even though originally set aside because of the spectacular results of this volcanic cataclysm, Katmai is now treasured for its rich natural resources. Gradually expanded to In June 1912, the Novarupta volcano violently exploded, bringing the Katmai area to the world’s attention. Located along Alaska’s southern coast and the Pacific Ring of Fire, the area is no stranger to volcanic activity, with 15 active volcanoes peppering the landscape. After Robert Griggs of the National Geographic Society explored the area in 1916 to investigate the aftermath of the explosion, whose effects were felt throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the area immediately surrounding Novarupta and Mt. Katmai was declared a national monument in 1918. Griggs and his team were especially amazed by the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where ground water percolated through still-hot layers of ash and turned into plumes of steam. Even though originally set aside because of the spectacular results of this volcanic cataclysm, Katmai is now treasured for its rich natural resources.


Gradually expanded to include a vast landscape of coastline, valleys, peaks, and waterways, Katmai was declared a national park and preserve in 1980 to keep intact the habitat of over 2,000 bears and their favorite food, spawning sockeye salmon. These tenacious fish migrate yearly to their home gravel beds far upstream from their winter ocean haunts. Attracting sport anglers and enormous bears alike, over a million salmon travel up the Naknek system of lakes and rivers and through Katmai Park by the end of July. You’ll also have a chance to see Novarupta and Mt. Katmai’s caldera, which was formed when the Novarupta explosion drained magma from beneath the volcano’s peak. Daily bus tours bring you 23 miles to the Griggs Visitor Center. You can stop here, take in the otherworldly landscape of ravines carved in 700 feet of volcanic deposit, and then climb down into the valley for a close-up look at the ash. The Three Forks Station overlook is the starting point for the Ukak Falls Trail. Along this trail, you can pursue a strenuous but rewarding hike through passes and over glaciers to Novarupta and the caldera, described by Robert Griggs as “weird, vitriolic robin’s-egg blue.”


Katmai National Park and Preserve is located on the Alaska Peninsula, across the Shelikof Strait from Kodiak Island. Telephone 907-246-3305. http://www.nps.gov/katm/index.htm


Photo credit: ©Rand McNally/Laurie Borman


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Comments
  1. Brady Stump

    Enjoyed the blog post!