Although Katmai National Park is critical to many salmon runs and thousands of brown bears, it was originally created to preserve the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes which emerged following one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. The Novarupta eruption of 1912 released 30 times the magma of the 1980 eruption of St. Helens and lasted nearly 60 hours. The eruption created a massive hiccup in local biodiversity, shutting down the salmon run for nearly 5 years. In the present day, Katmai is a great wilderness home to countless species and natural wonders. The sockeye salmon run, which occurs in most of July, is pivotal to the entire ecosystem. It is instrumental to the bears of the park. In order to prepare for their hibernation, they catch 20 to 30 salmon every single day and fatten up extremely fast. This fragile ecosystem is one of the greatest contributors to the diversity of Alaskan life.
The easiest way to get to Katmai National Park is by floatplanes from King Salmon. Every visitor must complete a bear orientation safety video in order to stay in the park. Both cabins and camping give one the access to one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles, Brooks Falls. A trail from the lodge runs to the lower river platform, the rifles platform and eventually, about one and a half miles in, the falls platform. there you can observe bears of all shapes and sizes fishing, playing, and fighting. Observing the natural behavior in this way is an astonishing experience. We spent many hours at these falls, watching these amazing creatures. Also, we were given the opportunity to walk in the river with these bears. There are very nonaggressive, due to the vast amounts of food, and they walk right past you in the river eyeing you as they go. Being able to walk in the same water as these animals give an insider view into their lives. They only way to do this is to be with an expert guide, with lots of experience in bear behavior.
The lodge was built right on the bear nursery of the park, so there are constant cases of bears in the camp. On our second day there, we were walking around camp looking for bears and eagles in the area. All of the sudden a ranger was yelling “Bear in the camp, bear in the camp!” We were in front of one of the back cabins so we could not see him or the bears, and out of nowhere, two teenage male bears come running right in front of us, heading for the brush. They were close enough to touch and made me realize just how powerful and amazing these animals are. This fragile ecosystem is in trouble. With climate change, the salmon running is shifting and causing some of the biggest changes they have ever seen. The bears are thriving and in this area present little dangers to responsible humans. However, a law has recently been passed allowing hibernating bears to be dragged out of their dens and shot. This is similar to shooting someone who is in a coma. With laws like this, the future of the bears and all Alaskan wildlife is unknown. If these animals are not protected, the affects on America and the economy could be disastrous. Help out today by learning more and spreading your message about wildlife conservation. You can also gain a better understanding of the beauty of Brooks Falls by watching its many live cameras.