Katmai National Park is known for its brown bears, but the origins of the park are centered around something entirely different, an event you’ve probably never heard of even though it was one of the most significant geological occurrences of last century.
I’m referring to the volcano Novarupta, which erupted in 1912. As part of our visit to Brooks Camp, we took a tour to the site of the devastation, a place now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. We also learned a great deal about the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 2oth century.
It was September 9, and we were on the Brooks Falls Platform, where two Katmai Park Rangers, Dave and Becca, were broadcasting a “Play-by-Play” streaming video for the Bear Cams audience, with Becca narrating the activity. Dale and I were listening as well, hoping to learn a little more about Brooks Falls bears.
The brown bears of Katmai National Park like their fish fresh, juicy, and in large volumes. The biggest males eat between 80-90 pounds of food every day, and much of it is in the form of salmon.
So obviously these bears are experts at what they do—catching fish. They start young, learning fishing techniques from mom, and then branch out from there. Some bears have successfully learned a variety of methods, while others employ one or two that work for them. Here’s a look the fishing styles that we observed at Brooks Camp.
Alaska’s Katmai National Park is an immense, wild place, and there is much to see here, but most of it is undeveloped and challenging to get to. That’s why the destination for most people is Brooks Camp, a little bit of infrastructure and comfort in all that wilderness. The camp, which consists of a lodge, campground, and other facilities, is the most accessible part of Katmai, but “accessible” is a relative term. Even a place as established as Brooks Camp takes effort to reach, and here’s some of what we learned as we planned our trip.
While staying at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park, Alaska, we ate breakfast every morning in the lodge, and it was here, just outside of the dining room, that we had one of our more memorable bear encounters. Perhaps my favorite story from our trip, it precisely captures the wonderful chaos that is a visit to Brooks Camp.
The first leg of our trip to Utqiaġvik was a 100-minute flight to the oil town of Deadhorse. Barely a dot on the map, Deadhorse is one of three cities above the Arctic Circle to which Alaska Airlines flies, the other two being Kotzebue and Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow).
We celebrated when we landed; we’d left Anchorage at 7:39 that Saturday morning, and now, not even 2 hours later, we were above the Arctic Circle! The plane sat on the runway for a few minutes, allowing us time to revel in this knowledge. A few people disembarked the plane and others got on; then the pilot made his usual pre-flight announcements, saying that we were “number one for take off.” This made us laugh—we were the only commercial plane in the airport. It wasn’t long before we were back in the air, and Utqiaġvik was just a short flight northwest along the coastline.