History & Culture
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve was established to recognize the unique geological significance of the Aniakchak caldera. Scientists soon discovered, though, that the area has a rich cultural history.
The oldest known archeological sites date to around 2,000 years ago, more than a millennia and a half after the caldera-forming eruption 3,500 years ago. Archeologists theorize that the massive blast created a "dead zone" that couldn't be reoccupied for generations.
The archeological record shows that prehistoric communities hunted, fished, trapped, picked berries, and gathered shellfish. By 1,200 years ago, the strategy had proven so successful that the population had expanded dramatically.
During the historic era, people continued to make a living from the rich resources of the land. As industrialization gripped the rest of the United States, Aniakchak residents followed suit. Commercial fishing and cannery operations began in the twentieth century and continue today in the lower Alaska Peninsula area. Alutiiq people descended from the early inhabitants of Aniakchak maintain subsistence and cultural traditions.
For more information on the people of Aniakchak, download the book Puyulek Pu'irtuq! The People of the Volcanoes (pdf, 6.18 MB). A poster about Aniakchak archeology is also available for download (jpg, 3.09 MB).
Did You Know?
The Aniakchak (Big) River drops more than 1,000 feet in elevation within the first 15 miles leaving the caldera. The final 12 miles of the 27 mile river is a smooth, winding float along the open tundra. Watch for bears, moose, and other wildlife as you float.