Katmai National Park: Travel Information
Katmai is the most famous of Alaska's remote parks for two simple reasons: bears and volcanoes. Although Katmai sees only a fraction of the number of visitors to Denali National Park, its name echoes with just as much mythical force. Remote and expensive - even by Alaska travel standards - to get to, Katmai is true wilderness Alaska, with limited visitor facilities - except for a few nice wilderness lodges - but that's reason enough to go and have Alaska to yourself. These 4 million acres offer up plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing and an extraordinary perspective on the awesome power of volcanoes, still active throughout the park, echoes of the 1912 eruption sequence that was one of the most powerful ever recorded, covering more than 46,000 square mi with ash.
Today in this wild, remote area at the northern end of the Alaska Peninsula, moose and almost 30 other species of mammals, including foxes, lynx, and wolves, share the landscape with bears fishing for salmon from stream banks and rivers and along the coast. At the immensely popular Brooks Falls and Camp, you can see brown bears when the salmon are running in July and September. No special permits are required, though there is a $10 day-use fee at Brooks. Bears are common along the park's outer coast, where they graze on sedge flats, dig clams and sculpin on the beach at low tide (quite a sight!), and fish for salmon. But even on slow bear days, it's a beautiful place to be. Ducks fill the park's rivers, lakes, and outer coast, arguing over nesting space with huge whistling swans, loons, grebes, gulls, and shorebirds. Bald eagles perch on rocky pinnacles by the sea. More than 40 species of songbirds call the region home during the short spring and summer, and if you fall back into big mammal mood, Steller sea lions and a couple of species of seals hang out on rock outcroppings.
The Katmai area is one of Alaska's premier sportfishing regions. You can fish for rainbow trout and salmon at the Brooks River, though seasonal closures have been put in place to prevent conflicts with bears, and only fly-fishing is permitted; check locally for the latest information. For those who would like to venture farther into the park, seek out the two other backcountry lodges, Grosvenor and Kulik, or contact fishing-guide services based in King Salmon. A short walk up the Brooks River brings you to Brooks Falls. Viewing platforms here overlook a 6-foot-high cascade where salmon leap to try and make it upstream, past the bears, to spawn. One platform is right at the falls; the other is a short way below it (an access trail and boardwalk are separated from the river to avoid confrontations with bears).