Beyond the Moon Crater Myth
A New History of the Aniakchak Landscape
A Historic Resource Study for Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
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Pre-Contact Period (pre-1741)

The following sites are prehistoric properties listed on the National Register or are identified as situated within the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District, and therefore, should be considered as contributing sites to the National Register district. Other archeological sites that are associated with the pre-contact period are listed in Cultural Remains from a Catastrophic Landscape: An Archeological Overview and Assessment of Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve (VanderHoek and Myron). Due to culturally sensitive materials, however, this NPS document is not available to the public.

SUT-016 Packers Cabin Complex

This site consists of several subterranean depressions. Archeological testing suggests that these depressions are the result of at least five periods of occupation since 1500 BP. The site was evaluated against the criteria for the National Register and is significant because it was used during prehistoric times up through mid-1900s. Moreover, this site maintains the potential to yield information on the cultural affiliation and lifeways of the people of central Alaska Peninsula in the prehistoric past (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-013 Spire Village

Although this site is located within the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District, it was only recently discovered, and is therefore not documented on the 1991 district nomination form. The site offers excellent views of the lower Aniakchak River Valley and the northern part of Aniakchak Bay. Northeast of the center of the site, fresh clean water flows out from the hillside. According to archeologists, the site is significant for three principle reasons: First, the ages of radiocarbon samples collected at this site place it as one of the three known former villages along the Meshik River-Aniakchak River corridor, occupied from approximately 1400 until after 1300 BP, with one feature dated to approximately 1000 BP. This site potentially holds evidence that can test Don Dumond's hypothesis that the Meshik River-Aniakchak corridor was a travel route between Bristol Bay and the Pacific coast during the 1300 to 1400 BP period. Second, SUT-013 is one of only three sites in Aniakchak in which clay-lined pits were encountered. Third, the total absence of pottery suggests that this region lies beyond the southern range of Norton tradition sites, supporting Dumond's placement of that boundary at the Cinder River. SUT-013 has the potential to yield considerable information on the cultural affiliation and movement of people on the Alaska Peninsula from 1400 to 1200 BP (VanderHoek and Myron).


The prehistoric component of this sight is also situated within the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District, but was not included in the 1991 Nomination. The site contains four slight surface depressions, multiple house floors, and lithic material. SUT-014 has the potential to yield information concerning settlement patterns, subsistence patters, warfare, and cultural affiliation of perhaps the first people to occupy (or reoccupy) the region after the 3400 BP Aniakchak eruption (VanderHoek and Myron).


Lying within the boundaries of the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape district, this prehistoric camp has the potential to yield information on the cultural affiliation and lifeways of the people of central Alaska Peninsula in the prehistoric past (VanderHoek and Myron).


This site also lies within the boundaries of the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District, but was not listed on the original nomination form. It is a late prehistoric camp located above the Aniakchak River. It has the potential to yield information concerning the cultural affiliation, settlement patterns, household organization, and subsistence practice of people in late prehistoric time in Aniakchak region (VanderHoek and Myron).

Russian American Period (1741-1867)

To date, only one historic site has been discovered in Aniakchak that may reveal information about the Russian American period on the Alaska Peninsula. This number appears quite low, for written sources suggest that significant historical events occurred between Russians and Alutiit on the central Alaska Peninsula at this time. The fur trade and hunting practices extended to the mainland, Russian Orthodox priests traveled extensively up and down both coastlines to visit parishioners, and perhaps most significantly, a new cultural identity emerged from the relationships formed between Russian and Alutiiq peoples. It is highly recommended that further archeological and historical research be conducted that will help us to better understand the impact of Russian America on the Aniakchak region. Further investigations have the potential to yield important cultural information of this little known historic period. Other sites may be found on adjoining USFWS land and, therefore, developing a study in cooperation with the agency may lead to the discovery of more Russian American sites.

SUT-041 Russian Artel

Archeological evidence suggests that this site may have been a Russian sea otter hunting camp occupied after the establishment of the Suthum artel by the Russian-American Company in the 1790s. The historic remains at this site offer the best available archeological evidence for occupation of Aniakchak during the Russian period. The site may offer information on Russian-Alutiiq trade, social relations and subsistence (VanderHoek and Myron).


Early American Period (1867-1930)

The historical period known as Early American should actually be described as a cultural collision between Alaska Natives, Russians, and Euroamericans. It is a time period that reflects a great deal of cultural borrowing, yet, at the same time, cultural dislocation. By the turn of the century, the Aniakchak region had been incorporated into an American capitalistic system. It is this period that had the most profound long-term affects on both the region's economy and environment. Connecting Aniakchak to the modern American industrial network was the fur industry, the oil industry, the canned salmon industry, and the commercial reindeer industry. Local enterprises that perhaps occurred to a lesser degree but nevertheless reflected American commercialization included fox farming, trapping, and razor clam canning.

Most of the known historic properties in Aniakchak are associated with this period of Americanization. It is recommended that more studies are conducted that help explain the transition from subsistence to an exchange economy and finally to a capitalistic system, and how that transition shaped the cultural world that exists today. Moreover, the people associated with this period are characterized as frontiersmen. However, this study suggests that in fact, most people lived rather communally. A cultural landscape study is recommended to help better understand the distinct lifeways that took place in Aniakchakat this time.

SUT-042 Alaska Commercial Company Post

This is the remains of a historic hunting camp that existed during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It is possible that the site may be one of the locations of trading posts operated by the Alaska Commercial Company during the 19th century (VanderHoek and Myron). Since this is the only site that represents early American trade activities in Aniakchak, further historical and archeological investigation is highly recommended.

STU-009 Adolph Von Himmel's Camp

This site has been destroyed over the years by erosion. It had unobstructed views of the lower reaches of the two creeks and the northwestern section of Amber Bay. The site consisted of two cache pits and three house depressions, one of which had partially eroded into West Creek. Two of the three rectangular features had small side rooms and breaks in one wall of each of the depressions indicated possible doorways or connecting trenches. Squared timbers were used as posts in house depression walls. The location of this site corresponds to that identified as the camp of Adolph Von Himmel, who trapped in Amber Bay during the 1920s (VanderHoek and Myron).

STU-010 Historic Trapping Cabin

Located on the southern bank of Main Creek, this site is believed to have been the trapping cabin first used by Adolf Von Himmel and later by John Hillborn in the 1920s and 1930s. The site is on the navigable lower section of the river and is now sheltered from winds from the south by an extensive alder thicket. The site consists of the remains of a semi-subterranean house with two square connected rooms, currently nestled in the alder. The site is currently undisturbed but is potentially susceptible to erosion and damage from visitor use and vandalism (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-032 Historic Boat Ways and Boat-house

A historic ways and boathouse is located on the east side of Main Creek. Remains of the boathouse include several vertical timbers, a series of timers and logs lying parallel to and at right angles to the stream, and fragments of cable buried in the brush. The location of this site corresponds to that of a boathouse used by John Hillborn in the 1930s-1947. John Hillborn used the boat, Wayne, to ferry his family from Chignik to Amber Bay in the fall for the trapping season. The boat and Hillborn reportedly survived a tidal wave in 1938 while at the ways at Main Creek. The site is undisturbed but is potentially at risk to erosion or vandalism (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-033 "Hillborn Main House"

This historic Trapping Cabin Complex is located on Main Creek and provides a view that overlooks the flat lowland to the northwest. It is near the upper limit of tidal influence in Main Creek and can be reached by skiff or dory from the boathouse on the lower river. Larger vessels can reach the site when seasonal high tides raise the level of the steam several feet above normal.

Nine of the 12 features at the site are historic. These include the remains of one framed house, three small plank outbuildings (one of which is still standing,) three small possibly sod-walled huts or semi-subterranean houses, and a scatter of historic artifacts. The house and several plank building are nestled into vegetated blowouts on the south side of the berm. The remains of what may have been an outhouse rest on the edge of the berm about 100 feet north of the house. The frame house is earth-sheltered on the east, west and north sides, with most of the roof and wall timbers above ground level fallen or missing. A metal bedstead and stove are still visible inside the remains of the dwelling. Items visible around the house include the remains of a winch and water pitcher. The Hillborn family lived at this site during the 1930s-1940s. It is threatened by extreme erosion and has been disturbed by artifact collectors (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-015 Historic Trapping Cabin

This Historic Trapping Cabin is located in a relatively sheltered cove. The site consists of four depressions and associated plywood and modern dimensional lumber. The largest feature is a collapsed wooden structure in a depression. The collapsed structure forms a mound in the center of the feature. A plank affixed to a spruce pole with galvanized nails was found east of the other features, and apparently served as a paddle. Given the state of preservation of the structural material at this site, it likely dates to within the last 30 to 60 years. The site is undisturbed, but susceptible to potential damage from visitor use and vandalism (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-049 Fred Gungas Base Camp

The historic trapping Cabin Complex was probably used by Fred Gungas as a trapping base camp during the 1920s. The steam mouth serves as a "catcher" for driftwood. The site consists of a three rectangular depressions stretching along the northwest edge of a low bluff. The small, semi-subterranean rooms on the upper edge of the bluff are connected, with access to the outside through the middle room. Several pieces of milled lumber are evident in the walls of these rooms. The site is undisturbed and undisturbed but is susceptible to visitor use or vandalism (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-014 Historic Steam Launch Moorage and Bunk Scow

The steam launch moorage lies on Ark Island, which falls within Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge land. However, the site lies within the boundaries of the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District. Norris describes the other historic property as the collapsed remains of a bunk scow. Historic remains include an iron pipe driven into the ground just above the western beach, several timbers lying on the surface near the southern rip of the island, and a sea mammal bone driven into the ground. It was historically used by employees of the fishing companies, who watched over and maintained the early fish traps in Aniakchak Bay. These men lived on the bunk scow from 1917-1919. The island was also used historically as a moorage for the steam launch that serviced the fish traps in use along the shores of Aniakchak Bay (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-016 Columbia River Packers Association (CRPA) Cabin," "APA Cabin," or "Packers Cabin"

This historic Cabin complex is the largest and most complex site within the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District. As of 1977, it was the only site listed on Alaska Heritage Resource Survey in Aniakchak. The site consists of the cabin or bunkhouse along with its associated remains as well as the remnants of several historic semi-subterranean dwellings. The bunkhouse is constructed of platform, dimensional wood framing. According to Norris, the bunkhouse has retained a considerable degree of integrity due to the high quality construction materials, the durability of the wood foundation, and excellent workmanship. The most significant attrition is at the end of the south wing, where the roof and walls have been removed. Outbuildings are in poor condition.

The cabin was built in the spring of 1924 by the Columbian River Packers Association to house workers tending the commercial fish traps located in Aniakchak bay. It was later taken over by the Alaska Packers Association until the 1940s. Later, it was used by local people throughout the 1940s, and then as a NPS ranger cabin. It was rehabilitated by NPS in 1998. The site is historically significant due to its association with regional salmon fishing history. However, early trappers are also known to have occupied dwellings here. For example, Shurka, a Native trapper, is believed to have lived in one. Adolph Von Himmel occupied another. John Hillborn 1925-1936 live at the site before he and his family moved to Amber Bay in 1937. Henry Erikson and his family probably occupied one of the houses in 1937-1943, and Clemens Grunert Sr. from 1948 to 1949.

Because of its easy access, the site is susceptible to damage from visitor use and vandalism. Such vandalism has already been noted. For example, wood has been removed to feed woodstove and graffiti has been carved into and written on the surface of interior walls. This site is a popular destination for groups of adventures and the end of raft trips down the Aniakchak River (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-034 Historic Boat Ways

Although this site lies within the boundaries of the Aniakchak Bay Historic Landscape District, it was discovered in 1997, and therefore, not described in 1991. It is believed that the site is associated with the salmon trap operation and possibly used by John Hillborn from 1925-1937. Much of the site has been destroyed by erosion (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-035 Historic Fishtrap Piling Storage

Remnants of a historic fish trap piling storage area located in a cove on the north shore of the Aniakchak river estuary. The site consists of a stack of 30 timbers, held in place with both chain and cable. Timbers like these were driven every spring and pulled every fall, supported the fish traps used by the canneries from 1917 throughout the 1940s. The site is undisturbed thought the timbers themselves are decaying. Because it was not noted in the 1991 nomination, the site should be considered a contributing site to the National Register District (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-031 Pederson"s Historic Trapping Cabin Complex

This site lies on the western side of Aniakchak Lagoon. All that remains are remnants of a wood-frame house and tree timber outbuildings. Corrugated metal sheeting is evident on the east side of the structure facing the lagoon. Tarpaper is evident on some fragments of the roof and outside walls. Because of its proximity to a "catcher" beach, it served as a prime location. The location of the site corresponds to that reported by the Pederson Family, Chignik residents, who lived in the lagoon in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the site is undisturbed, it remains susceptible to potential damage from visitor use and vandalism (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-054 Pete Pederson's Historic Boat Ways and Boat-house

Because this site is located at the current limit of navigable waters in the lagoon, it is the ideal location for a boat haulhout. Drinking water is available in a freshwater pond to the west and from a season stream to the east. The site corresponds to that of a boat ways and boat house used by Pete Pederson and his family when they lived in their house at the head of the lagoon from 1934 to 1943. Axel Carlson also hauled his boat out in this vicinity. Prior to Pederson, this site may have been the trapping base camp of Chris Wiedermann and partner Charlie Olson (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-026 Clam Cannery

This site is the remains of a clam cannery founded by Axel Olsen in 1932. The operation only lasted for a short time. It is historically significant because it is the only known remnant of a clam cannery within Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. Rudy Carlson and his brothers, Alex Jr. and Edwin, moved into the clam cannery after their father died and used it for a residence only. Further investigation may provide valuable information concerning its association with the larger claming industry that took place along the Alaska Peninsula during the first few decades of the twentieth century (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-028 Axel Carlson's Historic Trapping Cabin Complex

This site is located on the south shore of Aniakchak Bay. The site consists of two house depressions and a cache-pit. This site may be one of the semi-subterranean houses used by the Carlson brothers in the 1930s when they ran winter trap line on Cape Kumlik (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-029 Carlson's Historic Trapping Cabin Complex

This historic site is a possible trapping cabin complex located in southern Aniakchak Bay. It appears to be one of two semi-subterranean houses used by Carlson and his sons for trapping in the late 1920s and 1930s (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-044 Axel Carlson's Fox Farm

This site is a historic fox farm on land managed by the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge. NPS investigators noted a standing frame house east of a small stream. The house was probably built by and used from 1928-1934 as part of a fox farm. Although the house is in poor condition it represents the only known fox farm remnants within or near Aniakchak. It is a unique representative of the fur farm industry that flourished in Alaska during the early 1900s (VanderHoek and Myron). It is highly recommended that NPS conduct more research pertaining to fox farms on the central Alaska Peninsula, especially to determine if foxes caused ecological damage as recently revealed in studies conducted by USFWS in the Aleutian Islands.

SUT-036 Alex Brandal Jr.'s Historic Trapping Cabin Complex

The site is on the Alec Brandal Jr. 1906 Native Allotment claim (#AA-11774). Historic features include the two frame structures that were associated with the Grunert family. George "Bobbin" Grunert and his wife, Florence, lived in one of these two houses. The other set of five historic features are associated with the Brandal family. Further investigation will likely contribute significant information concerning the lifeways of individuals and families involved in the trapping industry during the early 1900s in Aniakchak. They may also yield information on settlement patterns, household organization and subsistence practices during this period (VanderHoek and Myron).

SUT-023 Meshik Lake and the Upper Meshik Valley Historic Trapping Cabin Complex

This site consists of 2 house depressions, one cache pit and a scatter of fuel cans. This was the general location of the trapping cabins used first by Alec Brandal Sr. and by George "Bobbin" Anderson, Clemens Grunert, and Julius Anderson during the 1920s and 1930s (VanderHoek and Myron).

"The Boulevard" and the "Halfway Shack"

Running between many of the trapper's cabins were local routes, trampled by bears and men in the early decades of the century. Some routes were so popular that the trappers named them. For example, the most used trail was "The Boulevard" which went along Aniakchak Bay from the river mouth to the lagoon. Oral records also indicate that there existed a communal cabin that nearly all trails reached. The local trappers called it the "halfway shack." Such historic resources reflect the connectivity among the local trappers, debunking the common notion that trappers lived a life of isolation. Further investigation may reveal more information about the lives of trappers in the early twentieth century.

Reindeer Herding

In a paramount attempt at social and cultural engineering, the federal government sponsored reindeer herding throughout western Alaska. Reindeer herding was introduced as far south as the Bristol Bay side of Aniakchak beginning in 1910. By providing subsistence-dependent Alaska Natives with a specialization, the program endeavored to instill the Alutiiq population there, along with the Inupiaq in-migrants, with an entrepreneurial spirit, and ultimately, to incorporate the Aniakchak region into the America's capitalistic culture. Currently no historic site has been discovered inside the park boundary associated with reindeer herding. Very little is known about this period. Only a few people are left who remember the reindeer herding days. Further investigation is highly encouraged to determine if indeed herding extended into Aniakchak. Studies should also be conducted to document the Inupiaq and Saami migration to the Peninsula.

Exploratory Science

At the turn of the century, oil seeps off the peninsula coast attracted exploratory drillers, who staked their first claims in 1901, and within two decades, companies like Chevron and Mobil had transformed the village of Kanatak, located up the Pacific Coast from Aniakchak, into a booming frontier town. USGS conducted several surveys in the Aniakchak region looking for rumored oil seeps. Further research may provide information to the long history of exploratory science conducted by the federal government on the central Alaska Peninsula.


Hubbard Explorations (1930-1932)

Father Bernard Hubbard's explorations in Aniakchak allowed him and his colligate companions the opportunity to leave behind a long historic account of their expeditions, documented by photographs, films, articles, popular non-fiction, and journals. Still, as important as Hubbard was to the history of Aniakchak, no historical site, property, trail, or object exists that documents his explorations there. As far as we know, no evidence of cultural material has been recovered inside or outside the Caldera that reflects any of his three expeditions. Because Hubbard is a central figure associated with Aniakchak, it is recommended that additional research is conducted to document his famed routes into Aniakchak Caldera to determine if 1) any material items have indeed been left behind, and 2) to gather information for a cultural landscape nomination that would provide more information as to the historical significance of these expeditions.


Post World War II Period (1950-present)

Document Hunting Sites

Not since Merry Tuten's 1977 report of hunting along the central peninsula coast has NPS conducted a comprehensive study of hunting in Aniakchak. Recent interviews with residents from Port Heiden and Chignik tell us that many areas of the Aniakchak continue to be used as traditional fishing/gathering places for local families and may qualify as Traditional Cultural Places. Moreover, according to researchers who have recently worked in the region, permanent impacts due primarily to off-road vehicles used by hunters to access their camps have had the largest affect on park resources. It is recommended that a comprehensive study on both subsistence and commercial hunting be conducted to locate hunting camps, permanent trails made by off-road vehicles, and other adverse impacts so that such activities may be assessed and mitigated.

Document History of Scientific Study

Historically, the cultural presence in the Aniakchak region—whether it was prehistoric villages or salmon canneries—has generally occurred beyond the caldera walls. History has shown that most people had little interest in the geological formation. However, since the first few decades of the twentieth century it has been the Caldera itself that has drawn the most attention to the region, specifically from the scientific community. Because scientific study remains an important activity in Aniakchak, it is recommended that a comprehensive study be conducted that places archeological, biological, and geological research into a historic context. This study would 1) identify who the major scientists who worked and are still working in the field; 2) show how the such research compares to research conducted in other national parks; 3) provide summaries of scientific findings for a general audience and; 4) explain how such research might affect Alaskans living outside the park boundaries and their communities.

Document History of Tourism in Aniakchak

According to NPS records, tourist Ben Guild constructed a semi-permanent structure in the Aniakchak Caldera. Currently, no evidence exists that suggest where this structure might have been located or if anything permanent remains. Beyond finding structural remains, however, Guild's activities in the Caldera can be associated with America's changing attitudes towards natural spaces and reflect the larger environmental movement that took place in the late 1960s. From Hubbard to Guild, numerous people have visited Aniakchak, each of whom came with varied expectations and carried with them the values of their generation. A comprehensive history of tourism in Aniakchak not only would document visitation to Aniakchak over time and provide important information for the park's Gateway Communities such as Port Heiden or Chignik, but a history of tourism would provide a historical context for changing attitudes toward nature and ultimately how people view national parks, especially those dominated by wilderness such as Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve.

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Last Updated: 03-Aug-2009