Established in 1918, Katmai aims to protect the volcano-devastated region surrounding Novarupta and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. At present, Katmai National Park and Preserve continues to guard a 900-year old human history and important home for salmon and thousands of brown bears.
What makes Katmai National Park and Preserve a particular place and worthy of extra attention are the hundreds to thousands of archaeological sites and historical places. The National Historic Landmark, Cultural Landscape, or National Register site are some of the designations given to Katmai’s unique sites.
Out of the 50 landmarks in Alaska, two of these – Brooks River National Historic Landmark and Amalik Bay National Historic Landmark are located in Katmai National Park and Reserve. The Brooks River is a rich archaeological marvel of 5,000 years of human history. Amalik Bay holds both the National Historic Landmark and Archaeological District, one of only five places in the state of Alaska, to have such designations.
People who lived in the remote yet beautiful coastline of Amalik has nurtured human communities for thousands of years. The oldest sites are more than 7,000-year-old settlement, two thousand years older than the first bolder of Stonehenge and three thousand years older than Giza’s largest pyramids.
If you visit the park, you’ll be following the footsteps hundreds, even thousands of Euro-American trappers, native Alaskan Alutiq people, Russian explorers, and American entrepreneurs who have once walked and lived in Katmai.
- Bear Watching at Brooks Camp
All visitors who wished to stay at Brooks Camp are required to attend a brief bear safety talk or “Bear Etiquette,” outlining the park regulations and proper behavior at the camp.
Brooks Camp is located at the mouth of the Brooks River and the shore of Naknek Lake. If you want to see more bears during your visit to the camp, it would be best to schedule your July trip. Salmon migration is a peak this month, so bears are usually concentrated at Brooks River to fish for their food.
As most people prefer to visit Brooks Camp in July than any other month, you can anticipate crowded conditions the Brooks Falls Platform.
- Backcountry Hiking and Camping
Katmai is a wilderness park with less than five miles of maintained trails. If you’re into outdoor adventure, Katmai is the gateway to nearly limitless possibilities for challenge, exploration, as well as solitude. You can roam around by foot, kayak, canoe, boat, raft, or airplane.
The following are the must-visit backcountry destinations:
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes: This is the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, where you can see an impressive landscape that continues to inspire volcanologists and contemporary adventure seekers.
American Creek: Despite being remote, this 40-mile long river gives visitors an excellent fishing and beautiful scenery. The creek has earned a spot in the pantheon of Alaska trophy fishing waters.
Halo Bay: Here, you can watch bears feast on sedges, clams, and salmon against the backdrop of towering volcanoes.
Katmai’s Pacific Coast: With over 400 miles of beaches to explore, rocky shores, and jagged headlands sitting in the shadow of Katmai’s volcanoes, the Pacific Coast is one of the most amazing coastlines in the world.
- Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking, and Rafting
Katmai has hundreds of miles of waterways – rivers, streams, lakes, ponds that are open to boating. These waterways used by early Alaskans remain beautiful and attractive corridors that allow explorers to have easy access to Katmai’s wilderness.
Naknek Lake, at more than 60,702 hectares, is Katmai’s largest and most accessible lake. This can be accessed by road from King Salmon (also known as Lake Camp) offers a boat ramp, parking area, picnic space, and vault toiletries. Famous destinations on Naknek Lake include Brooks Camp, Bay of Islands, Fure’s Cabin, Iliuk Arm, and Savonoski Loop access.
The Savonoski Loop is an 80-mile canoe and kayak route that offers a chance to explore two large lakes and challenge your skills on a glacially-fed river. This is the perfect destination for a long paddle or exciting running whitewater.
- Flightseeing Tour
One of the best ways to appreciate Katmai National Park is from the window of a small airplane. While soaring in the air, you can view the enormous and diverse landscape, freshwater lakes, lowland tundra, the rugged Pacific coast, and the Aleutian Range with steaming volcanoes.
In addition to the stunning sceneries, you can often catch glimpses of roaming bears and moose and of large schools of salmon in rivers, birds, and marine mammals thriving in the area.
- Sport Hunting and Trapping
These activities are permitted in Katmai National Preserve but not in Katmai National Park. The moose and brown bear are the common species hunted in the preserve. To engage in hunting and trapping in the preserve, you must secure all required licenses and permits required by the state. An Alaskan State hunting license is required for ages 16 or older.