Katmai National Park

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Katmai National Park is more Alaskan pageantry situated between two lakes, Kukaklek and Nonvianuk, not too far northwest of Kodiak Island and at the base of the Aleutian Archipelago.

Today this park is renowned for its repository of brown bears and is considered one of the world's prime locations for observing them. The brown bear population in the park, at 2200, actually outnumbers the human population.

Like Alaska's other national parks Katmai National Park was established to preserve the wildlife and ecology of the area. This occurred in 1918, after the monumental volcanic eruption in 1912 at Novarupta.

This cataclysmic event is worth noting. On a global scale, it was the largest episode of volcanic activity of the twentieth century--ten times the magnitude of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Miraculously enough, it is believed there were no casualties from this eruption. If it had occurred in a heavily populated area millions might have died. Effects such as acid rain and ash were felt in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and the volcanic deposit from the event filled a valley which has now become known as The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. 

The ash-filled valley is about 40 square miles and the name comes from the thousands of steam vents created in the valley from the escape of hot gases through the cooling deposit. Robert Griggs was captivated by the phenomena when he explored the previously uncharted area in 1916. He noted in his memoirs some of the geysers reached a height of 300 meters (1000 feet).

Today, not long after it's 100 year anniversary, the valley is a solid rock monument several hundred feet deep to which visitors are attracted from all over the world.

Brown Bears of Katmai National Park

As we mentioned probably the most compelling attraction of Katmai is its bears. And the place to view them is Brooks Falls. During the summer months as many as 25 brown bears at once have been observed feeding at the falls.

There are a number of tours to Brooks Falls, ranging from one day excursions to multi-night stays at one of the area lodges. They involve a seaplane trip from Anchorage, expert guide information from National Parks officers, and can also include a tour to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Meals are not usually included. Prices per person fall in the $700 to $3000 range, depending on length of stay.

View some brown bear tours in Katmai National Park.


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