In 1912, the Novarupta Volcano erupted, forming a, somewhat lunar, 100 to 700 foot deep ash flow, now called the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. This is what Katmai National Park was originally created to protect and there are about 15 volcanoes here, some still wildly steaming. It is now the premier destination for viewing brown bears and there is a huge average of about 60,000 visitors per year. Despite the vastness of this remote park, there is a main hub for visitors, namely Brooks Camp. The focus here is the Brooks River which connects the Naknek River to Brooks Lake. In the summer months the Naknek River is alive with spawning salmon, attracting bears and indeed humans, as well as other wildlife. Outside of Brooks Camp, it is possible to visit Hallo Bay, the Sheitof Strait, Geographic Harbour, Moraine Creek, Funnel Creek and Swikshak Lagoon.
There are boardwalks and viewpoints from which to view the bears in Brooks Camp and the most famous, for good reason, is Brooks Falls. Sometimes the bears, of which there are around 2,000 here, even dive into the water to fish. Katmai National Park also protects populations of moose, caribou, red fox, wolf, mink, river otter and red squirrel, as well as marine mammals such as sea lions, sea otters and hair seals. Off the coast, there are also pods of beluga, killer and grey whales. The habitats attract lots of bird species too, from sea birds, including grouse and ptarmigan to song birds, of which there are around 40 in the summer months. The lake edges and marshes also provide nesting sites for tundra swans, grebes and the long commuter, Arctic tern, which makes its way all the way from Antarctica to the Arctic. You may also spot bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.
It is during the summer months that the salmon spawn and the bears fatten up for the winter, so between June and September is the best time if you are interested in wildlife. You can tour the coast on our Grizzly Cruiser or stay in Brooks Falls Lodge, which is in the perfect spot for some summer bear viewing.
There are endless hiking routes throughout Katmai as well as fishing, rafting, ranger-led walks and programmes and archaeological sites.