Katmai Terrane


About This Blog

Bears. Salmon. Volcanoes. Wilderness. Culture. These are the terranes of Katmai. Each is distinct, but in combination these features create a place like no other. Read about the uniqueness of Katmai in this blog.

The Road Almost Traveled

November 02, 2022 Posted by: Makenzie Kutyba

An early proposal to build a road to Geographic Harbor and how it would have changed Katmai's coast.


How to Pack for 10 days in Katmai’s Backcountry

November 02, 2022 Posted by: Makenzie Kutyba

Imagine being dropped off in the wilderness for days at a time with only the essentials. That’s just another day in the life of a Wilderness Ranger.


The Tides at Hallo Bay

November 12, 2021 Posted by: Christopher McCloud

Hallo Bay is a tidally influenced area.


Backpacking in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes - One Ranger's Adventure

November 10, 2021 Posted by: Christopher McCloud

One ranger's adventure backpacking in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes


A Little Help from My Feathered Friends

November 10, 2021 Posted by: Sherrin Vanstrom

A Little Help from My Feathered Friends- Vigilance, strategy and a few helpful birds might reduce bear confrontations when walking the Brooks Falls trail. Paying attention to animal behavior can clue you in on what may be happening.


Weathering out the Wind in Brooks

November 08, 2021 Posted by: Kylee Navarro

East Wind days at Brooks Camp mean a change in operations.


Fat Bear Week 2021

October 06, 2021 Posted by: Amber Kraft

A look back at the excitement of the 2021 Fat Bear Week competition.


Following in the Footsteps of Astronauts

August 24, 2021 Posted by: Sarah Gage

In 1965 and 1966 Katmai’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was selected as a training destination for NASA’s Apollo astronauts. The Valley was believed to be a good representation of a lunar landscape. Katmai shares several geological features with the moon, like igneous rock and ashy soil. The astronauts journeyed into Katmai and “played the moon game” in the Valley’s barren, rocky landscape.


FAQs and Answers after Attending "Bear School"

June 28, 2021 Posted by: Cara Rohdenburg

Even after attending "Bear School" visitors to Brooks Camp may still have several questions about visiting Brooks Camp. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers.


Brooks Falls Photography - Know before you go!

April 29, 2021 Posted by: Sherrin Vanstrom

Brooks Falls presents unique challenges for photographers. Know what to bring, and manage your photographic expectations with rules, FAQs, and tips to understand your gear, location and subject, and learn the key to the best photo you will take.


Fat Bear Week 2020

October 21, 2020 Posted by: Amber Kraft

A recap of the 2020 Fat Bear Week competition.


Brooks' Buildings

September 06, 2020 Posted by: Chris Kliesrath

A historical look at the buildings of Brooks Camp.


Beyond Brooks Camp

August 30, 2020 Posted by: Cara Rohdenburg

A look at opportunities outside of the Brooks Camp Developed Area experienced by one ranger at Katmai.


Ranger Unlimited

July 29, 2019 Posted by: John Koster

John finds out how and why Ranger Chris became a park ranger.


One Fish, Two Fish...

July 16, 2019 Posted by: John Koster

Katmai Conservancy Ranger John Koster muses on science, Goethe, and the search for meaning in nature while staying up all night to count sockeye salmon jumping Brooks River Falls.


As Autumn Arrives

September 21, 2018 Posted by: Russ Taylor

As Autumn arrives we see a subtle change in light, the angle with which it cuts across the landscape.


The Return of the Night Sky

September 15, 2018 Posted by: Russ Taylor

After a summer of long Alaskan days, the night sky has returned to Katmai.


The Challenges and Rewards of Backcountry Travel

September 06, 2018 Posted by: Russ Taylor

This blogs looks at the challenges and rewards of travel in the Katmai backcountry


A Brief History of Human and Bear Interaction

August 25, 2018 Posted by: Russ Taylor

A brief history of the interaction between humans and bears from the Roman Empire to today.


An Anomalous August

August 18, 2018 Posted by: Russ Taylor

August is normally a quiet month in Brooks Camp at Katmai National Park in Alaska. During this year, 2018, with a strong run of red and silver salmon, the fishing season for bears has lasted well into the month of August.


Alagnak Wild River: A Lifeline Through Tundra

August 03, 2018 Posted by: Crystal Muzik

Alagnak Wild River: A Lifeline Through Tundra


Spruce Bark Beetle Update

May 19, 2018 Posted by: Andrew LaValle

Katmai still grapples with the aftermath of an outbreak of spruce bark beetles several years ago.


Notes From The Field: Winter Marine Bird Survey

May 17, 2018 Posted by: Deanna Ochs

This past winter a science communicator for the National Park Service, joined a team of researchers on a winter bird survey along the coast of Katmai.


Notes from the Field: The Eye of the Wolf

September 28, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

A close encounter with a coastal wolf leads to reflections on the inner complexity of a top predator and the value of protecting animals that are often feared and misunderstood.


Katmai: A 99 Year-old Gem

September 21, 2017 Posted by: Rebecca Nourot

99 years ago, Katmai National Monument was formed to protect a geologic landscape.  Today, Katmai National Park’s identity incorporates many facets other than geology.


The Mountains with No Name

September 21, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Contemplating nameless mountains can bring about a number of reflections on wilderness, local histories, and the power of words.


Notes from the Field: Soaring Above a World of Plenty

September 21, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Discovering Katmai by air during an aerial survey provides wonder and valuable data over the abundance of the park


Notes from the Field: The Ethics of Science

September 15, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Visiting a bear health exam on the Changing Tides Project reveals the care scientists show in protecting and understanding these impressive animals.


Marine Debris on Katmai Coasts

September 13, 2017 Posted by: Andrew LaValle

On Katmai’s vast coastline, debris washes ashore in waves of plastic. Even in the most remote places, ecosystems can see human impact.


Notes from the Field: A Tale of Two Bears

September 01, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Spending time around bears provides fascinating glimpses into their unique personalities and habits.


Notes from the Field: Adagio of Life and Death

September 01, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Scenes of life and death on the Katmai coast can reveal both stories of renewal and stories of loss, often in the same events.


Connecting to Wilderness: How We Can Be More Mindful in National Parks

August 31, 2017 Posted by: Everly Jazi

Nature and people belong together and mindfulness can help connect us to these precious landscapes of the National Park Service.


July in Review: #32 Chunk as Most Dominant Bear

August 15, 2017 Posted by: David Kopshever

The bear hierarchy at Brooks Falls is dynamic. As dominant bears age or weaken from injury or malnutrition, bigger, younger, more dominant bears take their place in positions of dominance. Ascent for these bears means a better chance at survival and a better chance to pass on their genes for the next generation of Brooks River bears.


Our Impact on Growth: Reducing Our Trace on Cryptobiotic Soils

August 03, 2017 Posted by: Everly Jazi

Through the protection of fragile ecosystems and organisms, we can learn to enjoy the natural world without leaving a trace.


Enter the Bear Den

July 29, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Exploring a bear den provides an intimate look at a bear’s ability to survive extreme circumstances


Notes from the Field: Puzzle Pieces of the Past

July 29, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Archeology in Katmai is both an art and a science: puzzling over layers of soil to tell stories about the people who once lived here.


Subadult Summer

July 18, 2017 Posted by: David Kopshever

Newly emancipated subadult bears are facing the most difficult time of their lives. Individualistic and opportunistic by nature, the subadults we see this year on the bearcam will have unique approaches in their struggle to survive in Katmai’s rugged terrain.


Brooks River Bridge Construction to Begin 2018

July 01, 2017 Posted by: Mark Sturm

Katmai's superintendent shares his thoughts on why the Brooks River bridge replacement project will be good for bears and people.


Adapting to Katmai National Park

June 20, 2017 Posted by: Everly Jazi

Adaptation is key to survival in Katmai. This rings true not only for the flora and wildlife in the area, but also for rangers coming to the park for the first time. Read how one of our interpretive rangers adjusted to moving to Alaska and preparing for the upcoming season.


Notes from the Field: Scientific Storytelling

June 14, 2017 Posted by: Clint Augustson

Field research in Katmai this season tells a fascinating story of conservation, discovery, and adventure, a story I will be documenting throughout the season


Climbing Solstice Peak and Discovering Hidden Worlds

June 14, 2017 Posted by: Russ Taylor

Nature’s landscapes, the macro-world we admire in depth for its sweeping vistas and inspiration, is connected to an equally spectacular, if more obscured, micro-world. Hidden animal bones, ancient fossils, tiny tundra plants and more await careful observers of our natural world.


A Toast to the Summer Season

April 27, 2017 Posted by: Kristen Davis

As winter transitions to spring, exploration along the banks of the Naknek River offer a tranquil experience into the beautiful formations of ice that are slowly melting away.  Resembling rare works of art, these unique pieces are essential to the health of the Bristol Bay watershed and its surrounding ecosystems, and welcome the curious with a cacophony of crystal.


Beluga Whales in Bristol Bay: Katmai’s Anonymous Neighbors

May 01, 2017 Posted by: David Kopshever

Beluga whales are a mysterious, little studied species that lives surprisingly close to Alaska's few major centers of human population.


Ashes to Ashes

October 28, 2016 Posted by: Rebecca Norout

A backpacking trip in Katmai’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes can humble humans by bringing them face-to-face with the power and destructive force of the landscape.


Genetics Study FAQ

October 18, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

We asked Ranger Michael Saxton some questions about his ongoing genetics study. Read what his project is all about!


Our Memories of Landscape: Oral History and Ethnography in Katmai Country

October 18, 2016 Posted by: Crissy Phillips

Oral histories are some of our most vital resources in understanding the human history of Katmai.


Bears and More!

October 18, 2016 Posted by: Julian Narvaes

Ranger Julian reflects on his trip to the wild Moraine and Funnel Creeks .


A Picture of the Past - Geophysical Imagery of Cultural Resources

October 11, 2016 Posted by: Chloe' Stevens

As technology advances throughout time, archaeology becomes less and less invasive to the surrounding environment. The potential growth of knowledge from these advances is exciting to see.


Witnesses to A Landscape of Contradictions – The Rediscovery Of A 1917 National Geographic Society Expedition Camp

October 02, 2016 Posted by: Laura Stelson

In 2013, a ranger stumbled upon the remnants of a National Geographic Society basecamp in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. This summer, 2016, our team of archaeologists returned to the site and found a landscape of contradictions.


American Wolf Wars

September 25, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

Looking back at American history with the wolf shows why human concepts of morality and ethics should never be imposed upon wild animals.


Salmon of The Coast

September 20, 2016 Posted by: Robert Evans

Brooks Camp and Katmai’s coastal life cycles are more similar than you think.


Change in the Eternal Night Sky View

September 11, 2016 Posted by: Scott Chandler

The view of the night sky can seem timeless and boundless, but a northern phenomenon can throw stargazers into a new level of wonder.


The Scent of Sacrifice

September 04, 2016 Posted by: Kristen Davis

Sockeye salmon are the heartbeat of Katmai National Park and Preserve. An ecological sacrifice, they face a gauntlet of challenges in order to fulfill their life’s purpose


Bear Profile: 435 "Holly"

September 03, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

Mother bears are always on the clock. Learn how this summer has been for 435 "Holly," who emancipated her cubs this past spring.


In The Eye of The Camera

September 01, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

The Changing Tides Project hopes to better understand the connection between brown bears and marine mammals. With the placement of remote cameras this year on two islands along Katmai’s coast, researchers hope to capture on camera predation.


Surprise Encounter

August 30, 2016 Posted by: Kelsey Griffin

Ranger Kelsey Griffin was in for a surprise one day in Hallo Bay. What was that wolf chasing in the shallow water?


Reflecting on the NPS Centennial

August 29, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

The National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary on August 25th.


Getting Out of Camp

August 29, 2016 Posted by: Eric Wiard

Ranger Eric shares what it is like to explore more of Katmai’s 4.2 million acres.


2016 Bear Profile: 128 Grazer

August 20, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

128 “Grazer” is an excellent case study for how sows with cubs must adapt to a new set of circumstances — a need to balance the demands of their own survival, and the drive to protect their otherwise helpless cubs.


The Changing Tides of Amalik Bay

August 19, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

At Amalik Bay, the changing tide dictates the way of life for all animals in the ecosystem.


Bear Bones

August 19, 2016 Posted by: Daniel Lombardi

A bear skeleton was recently found along the Brooks River.


A New Bear at Brooks Falls?

July 31, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

This July, a new bear, possibly one that has visited in past fall months, has been making frequent visits to the falls. Find out what we know about him so far.


Old Bears and New Tricks

July 31, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

775 "Lefty" used to be a bear that only visited the Brooks River in the fall months, but is now a regular in July. Check out what he's been up to this year.


How We "Feed the Bears"

July 31, 2016 Posted by: Mark Melham

The Bristol Bay fishery is a strictly regulated resource. Through carful management, we humans are able to feed ourselves and still ensure the bears have a chance to get fat for the hard winter ahead.


The Second X Chromosome

July 28, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

Why do researchers for the Changing Tides project pick female bears over males? A big boar may run the show at Brooks Falls, but on the coast the celebrities are the sows.


The Hunt For The Great Flat Fish

July 13, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

Three scientists, a net, a stick with a knife tied to it, and miles of intertidal zone. Rangers are on the hunt for flounder.


We’re Crazy Scientists

July 13, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

Abstract: Ranger Kaitlyn shares her week adventure at Hallo Bay with Ranger Kelsey and Researcher Joy Erlenbach from the Changing Tides Project.


Bugs That Bite: the Dark Side of Brooks Camp?

July 02, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

Biting insects are a pain, but do they serve a purpose in the greater ecosystem?


Rafting for Invasive Species

July 02, 2016 Posted by: Christine DeVries

Who would have thought that looking for invasive plants would be such an adventure? SCA interns Christine and Nicole tell us about their fun rafting trip on American Creek.


Why We Are Really Here

June 28, 2016 Posted by: Robert Evans

Rangers Robert and Montana reflect on their job in what they think is the best place in the world.


Swimming the Brooks River

June 25, 2016 Posted by: Daniel Lombardi

Ranger Daniel swims the Brooks River, finding another world of wildlife below the water's surface.


In Celebration of the Sun

June 20, 2016 Posted by: Scott Chandler

June 20th marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.


A Cub's First Spring

June 18, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

Newborn cub development and physiology has adapted in interesting ways to help give our favorite furry critters a good shot at survival.


Changing Tides - Bluebird Days For Researchers And Bears

June 15, 2016 Posted by: Joy Erlenbach

The first step for the 2016 portion of the Changing Tides Project was a success! 10 female bears have been collared for the 2016 study year.


Changing Tides - More Questions Than Answers

June 08, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

With only one year completed for the three year Changing Tides Project, we ended up with more questions than answers. Find out what we did learn in this 2015 review.


A Wing, a Head, or a Foot

June 07, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce, Kelsey Griffin

Rangers Kesley and Carissa completed the first COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) in Swikshak Bay for 2016. Surveying 1 km of beach in Swikshak Bay, they documented almost 100 dead seabirds from the tideline to the first high point on the beach.


Backpacking in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

June 02, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

Rangers make their first trip into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.


A Visit to Bristol Bay

June 01, 2016 Posted by: Kyle Chisolm

Kyle Chisolm visits Naknek and King Salmon to see beluga whales.


A Day of Firsts

May 26, 2016 Posted by: Kaitlyn Kunce

The coast is a great place to view wolves. What has intrigued scientists is how wolves interact with the nearshore environment. Rangers Kelsey and Kaitlyn get more questions than answers, during a Marine Debris Survey.


Brooks Camp, Week One

May 23, 2016 Posted by: Daniel Lombardi

Ranger Daniel desscribes his first encounter with an Brooks Camp Brown Bear


Robert Griggs: Katmai’s First Champion

May 05, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Robert Griggs organized and led expeditions funded by the National Geographic Society into the heart of the Katmai region. He discovered far more than imagined.


Naknek River Cam 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

We’re quickly approaching prime time on the Naknek River cam. Here’s what to look for over the next month.


Story Behind the Bear Jam Photo

February 23, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Nine bears can be seen in this photo taken from the Lower River Wildlife Viewing Platform in early July 2010. What were they doing there and what were the circumstances that brought them together? This photo tells a story of hunger, instinct, and survival.


U.S. Presidents and Katmai

February 14, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Throughout Katmai’s 97 years, several presidents have influenced Katmai’s purpose and the evolution. Which U.S. presidents established, expanded, or adjusted Katmai’s boundaries and why did they do so?


Why National Parks Can't Ignore Individual Animals

January 20, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

A recent Yellowstone Science article describes how a focus on individual animals limits our ability to preserve wildlife populations, but this is not true. Naming an animal, referring to its individuality, or connecting with it isn’t a weakness of the human condition or near-sighted. We must recognize the role of the individual in wildlife management, conservation, and especially in public appreciation.


Recent Bear Deaths at Brooks River

November 23, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz and Jeanne Roy

Bearcam 2015 ended with startling deaths that highlighted the harsh realities of a bear’s world. The death of two bears, a young cub and an adult male, offered the opportunity to learn from events that people rarely have the opportunity to observe and study.


September in Hallo Bay

September 08, 2015 Posted by: Carly McCoy

At Hallo Bay, bears no longer graze in the sedge meadows like they did in June and July. Instead, they're feasting on berries and salmon. Runs of chum, pinks, and now silver salmon are in Hallo Bay's numerous creeks.


The Hunt for Shepherd's Purse

September 04, 2015 Posted by: Jordan Tourville

Everything needs to be ready. We review our plan of attack. We were on the hunt for Katmai’s most wanted invasive plants.


Collaring and Handling Bears for the Changing Tides Project

September 02, 2015 Posted by: Rebecca Paterson

Tranquilizing wild animals requires considerable skill, especially in remote locations.


Late Night at Brooks Falls

August 31, 2015 Posted by: Tori Anderson

From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. June 15 to August 15, the platforms and boardwalks at Brooks Falls are closed. In order to better understand how bears use the falls when no humans are present, I assisted Brooks Camp’s bear monitor, Leslie Skora, with an overnight monitoring session from 10:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., then again from 4 to 7 a.m.


Through the Lens: A Photojournalist and the Changing Tides Project Part 2

August 17, 2015 Posted by: Kaiti Chritz

Climbing out of my tent at 5:30 a.m. revealed an absolutely stunning morning. The water-striped mud flats of the low tide in Hallo Bay reflected the morning sun and silhouetted clamming bears off in the distance. As we hiked along the beach to the observation spot, my camera gear, tripod, and large lens made it’s presence known on my back. I wasn’t going to regret not bringing something with me on this once in a lifetime opportunity.


Picture Hallo Bay

August 13, 2015 Posted by: Carly McCoy

Picture this: You walk through tall beach grass over a sandy berm and see purple, pink, and yellow wildflowers lining lush sedge meadows. A branch of a nearby creek divides the meadow. In the distance, a wall of snow-capped mountains loom over, broken only by a glacier that has wedged itself between the peaks. What you're imagining isn't some picturesque ad from a travel agency, but the hidden wonder of Hallo Bay.


Thank God for Shelter

August 12, 2015 Posted by: Joy Erlenbach

After experiencing some of the weather at Hallo Bay, I most certainly appreciate the good in life—heck, even the mediocre—better than I used to.


Expectations Versus Reality at Brooks Camp

August 11, 2015 Posted by: Tamija Woods

Even as a resident of Anchorage, I had never heard of Katmai or Brooks Camp before coming to King Salmon. I was unaware of the fact that Katmai had volcanoes and that invasive plants are affecting the national parks and spreading faster than a bear can run. Before arriving in King Salmon, I was a little nervous about going to Brooks camp because even though I am more apprehensive of moose than bears, what could be more nerve-racking than being surrounded by the world’s largest land predators?


Next Month on Bearcam

July 30, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

What should you expect to see at Brooks River and on bearcam over the next month? While other parts of Katmai fill with bears in August, it’s the opposite at Brooks Camp. August brings bears more opportunities to find food away from Brooks River.


Through a Ranger’s Eyes: Questions

July 29, 2015 Posted by: Lacey Thomas

We are taught as children to ask questions to understand the world around us. When people leave their comfort zones and go on vacation they tend to ask more questions. The rangers at Katmai, and at Brooks Camp in particular, spend a lot of time answering questions.


Through the Lens: A Photojournalist and the Changing Tides Project

July 24, 2015 Posted by: Kaiti Chritz

Before today, I had never laid eyes on a brown bear. My job today? Fly out to the coast of Katmai National Park to take photos and video of the team that has been collaring brown bears as a part of the Changing Tides project.


People, Platforms, and Bears

July 21, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Near Brooks Falls, a complex of elevated boardwalks and wildlife viewing platforms stand in the forest. Viewed from a distance, or even from the perspective of a person standing on the walkway, it may seem that the walkways eliminate our impact on bears. While the boardwalks and viewing platforms have substantially reduced bear-human conflicts near the falls, they haven’t eliminated them. Sometimes a bit of restraint and sacrifice, on our part, are needed to help bears.


Did That Just Happen? Stories from a Bear Researcher’s Trip to Hallo Bay

July 17, 2015 Posted by: Joy Erlenbach

As I prepare to head back out to Hallo Bay I’ve been rereading my field notes and reminiscing on the highlights from my first trip. Watching bears in Hallo Bay has shown me that there’s always more to learn.


402 Returns with Four Cubs

July 09, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

402, a well known adult female, returned to Brooks River yesterday with a litter of not one, not two, not three, but FOUR spring cubs. 402, therefore, faces a huge challenge. Will she be able to meet it?


Ukak Spire: Falling Down, Falling Down

July 05, 2015 Posted by: Aaron Camire

The present breathtaking, but steam-free, view from the Robert F. Griggs Visitor Center is a reminder that one of earth's newest landscapes is rapidly transforming. Evidence of this transformation lies throughout the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, especially at Ukak Falls.


Where's Ted?

July 03, 2015 Posted by: Mark Kaufman

Each summer, we expect to see bears at Brooks River, like family at Thanksgiving. Sometimes though, well known bears don’t come back.


Hey Lurch! What's Up with You?

July 02, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

So far in this summer, 814 Lurch looks and behaves differently than years past. So, what’s up with Lurch?


Death of a Bear

July 01, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

One year ago, bearcam favorite 130 Tundra was found dead at the cut bank along Brooks River. Her death provided another example that bears face significant risk in their daily lives. What causes the death of a bear?


Through a Ranger's Eyes: Wild Country

June 29, 2015 Posted by: Crystal Brindle

I finally felt like I got back to my roots - the moments that drive me and keep me returning to the mountains.


Previously on Bearcam

June 23, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

What happened on Bearcam 2014? Catch up on the action...


Volcanic Leftovers at Brooks Camp

June 22, 2015 Posted by: Mark Kaufman

Most of the time when a volcano erupts, it does not send avalanches of fifteen-hundred degree surging volcanic rock across the landscape, completely burying whatever might lay in its path. Nor does a volcano typically send a column of ash twenty miles into the sky, turning day to night and blanketing a hundred plus mile radius of land in a foot or two of ash. Katmai's volatile young volcano, Novarupta, erupted in such a manner in 1912, and it left behind compelling proof of its explosive might.


Through a Ranger’s Eyes: Migration

June 15, 2015 Posted by: Lacey Thomas

Anyone who has ever moved from one home to another knows how stressful the process can be. Moving to Brooks Camp in Katmai is no exception.


Bigger is Better?

June 10, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Bears in Katmai grow large, very large. For example, adult males average 700-900 pounds (272-408 kg) in mid summer! By October, well fed, large-bodied males can tip the scales above 1000 pounds (454 kg). Why do male bears grow so large? What advantages does large size confer to male bears? Competition for food and mates may provide answers.


435 Holly Returns with Her Adopted Cub

June 03, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Each spring, I have questions floating around in my head.  As spring wanes and summer approaches I wonder, what stories will unfold along Brooks River this summer? Which bears will have cubs? Which bears will maintain dominance along the river? Which will survive and endure another year of hardships in the bear world? Which will become casualties? One story from 2014 already added another chapter.


Through a Ranger’s Eyes: Seasonal Training

June 02, 2015 Posted by: Lacey Thomas

The first day of a new season is always one of the most exciting. It’s a mix of old and new, seasonal and permanent, hopes and expectations. There is so much happening, it can be hard to absorb it all. One aspect that never changes from the beginning of one season to the next is that we must all be trained to do our jobs in the most efficient, effective, and safe manner possible.


To Name or Not to Name?

May 07, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Bears at Brooks River are assigned numbers for monitoring, management, and identification purposes. Inevitably, some bears acquire nicknames from staff and these nicknames are shared with the public, but naming wild animals is not without controversy. Is it appropriate to name wild animals?


Bones Don't Lie: Evidence of a Bear's Perseverance Through Trauma

January 22, 2015 Posted by: Michael Fitz

On July 1, 2014, bear 130 Tundra was found dead near Brooks River. Since this bear was well known by rangers and the public, her skull was collected and cleaned so it could be used for educational and interpretive programs. As it turns out, Tundra’s skull reveals a biography of trauma she apparently suffered through several years before. Bones don’t lie. They tell the story of pain and healing. As a yearling cub, this bear apparently persevered through potentially traumatic damage to her skull.


2014 Bearcam Year In Review

December 17, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

2014 proved to be an exciting year for fans of the Brooks River bears. Let’s recap the drama and events captured on the Brooks River. These are my choices for 2014’s most notable bearcam moments. Which story resonated most with you?


The Challenges of Managing Bears and People at Brooks Camp

July 02, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

July 1, 2014 was a stressful day for rangers and one yearling cub at Brooks Camp. Around 10 AM bear #402 became separated from her cub near the mouth of the Brooks River. The yearling walked and ran to Brooks Lodge and climbed a tree just outside of the lodge. The cub was not reunited with its mother until 8:15 PM. This situation highlights the challenges of managing people and bears at Brooks Camp.


Explorers of Katmai Country: Robert F. Griggs (1881-1962)

December 10, 2014 Posted by: Aaron Camire

Explorers of Katmai Country: In this continuing series of posts, we’ll highlight different people tied to Katmai’s varied history. Today, we focus on Robert F. Griggs who led the charge to protect the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. No single individual has made longer lasting impacts on Katmai's modern history.


Bearcam Update

November 12, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

The bearcams have been experiencing technical difficulties over the past 10 days. This post provides an update on their status.


Explorers of Katmai Country: Ivan Petroff (1842-1896)

November 04, 2014 Posted by: Landis Ehler

Explorers of Katmai Country: In this series of posts, we’ll highlight a different person tied to Katmai’s varied history.

Much of what we know today about the early American period of Alaska is due to the pioneering efforts of one man, Ivan Petroff. He is largely responsible for compiling the US Census for this territory twice, in 1880 and 1890, as well as exploring and publishing on many areas along the Alaskan coast. In many ways this Russian transplant was the leading American authority on Alaska of his day, a prominent position he held until he was discredited in a most public and humiliating manor during tense international negotiations. Does that not read like a high powered plot in a John Gisham inspired best seller?


Explorers of Katmai Country: Alphonse Pinart (1852-1911)

October 30, 2014 Posted by: Landis Ehler

Explorers of Katmai Country: In this series of posts, we’ll highlight different people tied to Katmai’s varied history.

The first person in this series was an adventurer, linguist, collector of antiquities, probable plunderer of historic documents, and the originator of mysterious crystal skulls. These descriptions and more can be applied to the nebulous French national Alphonse Pinart.


Short Life of Sockeye Salmon

October 21, 2014 Posted by: Aaron Camire

Every summer between twenty-five and forty million sockeye salmon return to the lakes, rivers, and streams of the Bristol Bay watershed. Against immeasurable odds, they have reached the apex of a salmon's life: the spawning period. It is on these spawning grounds where the individual stories of salmon become more apparent.


Chasing Bigger Bears

October 07, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Who's on bottom of the bear hierarchy? Young subadult bears, like bear 500, that's who. On Sunday, October 5, part of an extended chase was seen on the River Watch bearcam. 435 Holly’s adopted yearling chased subadult bear 500 while Holly’s spring cub and Holly herself tried to keep up.


What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

October 06, 2014 Posted by: Tim Downey

In May 2014 my wife, Ann, and I were vacationing on the southern Oregon coast. Upon checking my email while watching Pacific waves crash against sea stacks I saw an unexpected message from my former Katmai National Park supervisor. Curious, I thought. I have not heard from him in some time. “I know this is a long shot, but would you consider returning to Brooks Camp this summer?” he wrote.


Journeying Through the Summer Isles

October 03, 2014 Posted by: Landis Ehler

Within the vast fresh water lakes of Katmai National Park and Preserve lie a hidden gem known as the Bay of Islands. Here nestled within the furthest reaches of the north arm of Lake Naknek, a one to hour motorized boat ride from Brooks Camp, stretches a happy geological accident of numerous granitic islands. These mostly unnamed islands jut out of the dark waters as deeply forested mounds, calling to mind the renowned coast line of Maine. As I glide my kayak through the tangled channels separating the mounds, which appear at a distance like green bristling mole hills, I can almost picture the long receded glaciers that carved these rock formations into the pleasing rounded shapes before me.


Abandoned Cub Finds a New Mother

September 11, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

In early July, bear 402 abandoned her yearling cub. Rangers, including myself, were routinely asked, “Will it find another bear to care for it?” My usual response to this question was coldly factual, "Adoption of cubs by another bear is very rare. It has been documented, but is unlikely to happen." However, bears, even young bears, are adaptable and smart. They possess the ability to recognize favorable situations and take advantage of them. 402’s abandoned yearling is no exception.


Extreme Camping on the Kamishak

September 14, 2014 Posted by: Perri Spreiser

Kamishak is a long, winding river which empties into Kamishak Bay at the very top of Katmai National Park and Preserve. It has little visitation...by people. I had the opportunity to go for work and spend four nights, five days on this river doing what was later explained to me as "extreme camping."


Water, Water, Everywhere

September 02, 2014 Posted by: Bryanna Plog

Before arriving in Katmai National Park and Preserve in May, I had worked two years in the desert of the American Southwest. Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that the first thing I noticed about Katmai was the water. Water infuses all life on the planet, but it seems especially prevalent in Katmai. That the weather, landscape, and geographic features all seem completely reliant on water is something that struck me when I first arrived to Katmai and in the months since.


The Blowing Preserve

August 26, 2014 Posted by: Mark Kaufman

Brown bears are the consummate omnivores, and Katmai National Park and Preserve provides an untrammeled land for its most dominant inhabitant to travel in search of food of all shapes and sizes.


The Katmai Keystone

August 22, 2014 Posted by: Lacey Thomas

The Bristol Bay region is some of the largest runs of Pacific salmon in the world. Salmon are the keystone species of Katmai National Park. The Brooks Camp area and Katmai in general would not be what it is today without sockeye salmon. Everything present has been built on salmon and their annual migration from vast oceans to Katmai.


August at Brooks Camp

August 13, 2014 Posted by: Sean Meleen

The Brooks River is well known for its bear viewing opportunities. Each summer, people come from all over the world to view brown bears in a pristine environment. Those who visit the Brooks River in August, however, may not see many or any bears. Why?


Removing a Wire Snare from 854 Divot

August 04, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Pop! When I saw the tranquilizing dart strike 854 Divot, I knew that there was much work to do and we needed to be quick about it, but I couldn’t help but feel a sigh of relief. “This might just work,” I thought, “We’ll be able to remove the snare.” Frankly, I never thought we’d get the opportunity.


Being Dominant

July 15, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Dominant male bears along the Brooks River gain many advantages over other bears. They can access the most preferred fishing spots when they choose, easily appropriate food from other bears, and have a higher likelihood of courting female bears and siring offspring. Gaining access to food allows bears to grow larger. Growing larger gives bears a greater chance to become reproductively successful.


Surprises of the Bear World

July 11, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Katmai’s female bears go through a somewhat predictable cycle. They nurse their offspring while caring for them and don’t go into estrus while nursing. These behaviors happen with regularity and are the “norm.” However, bear behavior is full of surprises.


Death of Bear 130

July 08, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

July 1 was a busy day at Brooks Camp. Late in the evening, while many rangers were still dealing with 402’s yearling cub in a tree at Brooks Lodge, another ranger discovered a dead bear near the cut bank on the Brooks River.


Thoughts on Hallo Bay

June 27, 2014 Posted by: Landis Ehler

If and when the public think of Katmai National Park and Preserve, they are increasingly thinking of bears, particularly wild brown bears in relatively large concentrations. From the popular Alaska attractions of Homer and Kodiak many wildlife tours visit a place called Hallo Bay.


Fure's Alarm Clock

June 11, 2014 Posted by: Kathryn Myers

Why is a rusty clock important to Katmai? Because it belonged to Roy Fure, one of the park’s former residents. Fure and his family used this alarm clock while living at his cabin in the Bay of Islands. This cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Starvation Time

April 25, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Spring is a season often associated with increasing abundance. However, if your name is Ursus arctos, the brown bear, then springtime may be the hardest season to survive.


Little Monsters?

April 07, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Prior to 2006, Katmai’s spruce forests appeared healthy. Under the dense canopy of needles, little light filtered through to the forest floor where mosses and shade tolerant shrubs held a dominant foothold. Reaching toward the sky were many spires of green-needled spruces that intercepted much of the incoming light. Today, however, even the casual observer walking through those same forests will find something amiss.


Have Spear, Will Travel

March 10, 2014 Posted by: Kathryn Myers

In 1964, George Gryc, then chief of the Alaska Geology Branch of the USGS, visited the geological survey party that was mapping the Iliamna quadrangle, which was then just north of Katmai National Monument. During his visit, the geologists landed on Grosvenor Lake to do some mapping. During their lunch break, Gryc began investigating a sandstone bluff near the edge of the lake, looking for fossils. According to a 1972 letter to the superintendent from Gryc:

“I noticed, rather incidentally, a stick that seemed unusually weathered lying on a ledge. I picked it up and noticed that it was worked. I looked around and after some searching noticed a couple of more similar pieces (shafts) sticking out of a crevice..."


What Does a Bone Needle Say?

February 04, 2014 Posted by: Kathryn Myers

A simple bone needle, broken into four pieces, is perhaps not as exciting to look at as a spear point, an oil lamp, or an incised pebble, but it can tell us as much or more about the lives of the people who used it as any finely worked point or intricately carved pebble can.


The Last Bear Killed at Brooks Camp

January 29, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

In the Brooks Camp Visitor Center, a bear pelt hangs in the rafters. This pelt belonged to a young female bear nicknamed Sister. After obtaining food and equipment from people, Sister became the last bear destroyed at Brooks Camp. This is a story of mistakes and loss. It teaches a lesson that we should never learn the hard way again.


Baking in Alaska

January 27, 2014 Posted by: Chuck Lindsay

While much of the Lower 48 and Canada have experienced a bitter cold January, Alaskans are experiencing unusually warm temperatures. These warmer-than-average January temperatures are not in themselves unusual, what’s really odd is how long they’ve stuck around.


Birth of a Brown Bear

January 22, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Brown bear cubs are from 1/3 to 1/10 of that predicted for female mammals of comparable size. Why would brown bears give birth to such small and vulnerable offspring? Like many natural phenomenon, no one knows for sure but biologists have some ideas.


An Underwater Winter

January 14, 2014 Posted by: Masaki Mizushima

As Lake Brooks and Naknek Lake freeze over during the Alaska’s long, cold winter the Brooks River continues to flow. Its currents carrying wind-swept white spruce trees and icy sludge downriver. However, beneath the truculent waters, Brooks River is alive with life.


Incised Pebbles from the Brooks River Area

January 09, 2014 Posted by: Kathryn Myers

To many, the Brooks River is the heart of Katmai National Park & Preserve. It is also a National Historic Landmark and an Archeological District consisting of 20 different prehistoric sites.

From 2002-2003, working with the Council of Katmai Descendants, NPS archaeologists partially excavated one of these 20 sites in an attempt to answer research questions and learn about the site before sections were lost to erosion. Some of the artifacts found during this excavation were delicately designed incised pebbles.


2013 Bearcam Year in Review

December 31, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

It was a great year on the bearcam with many memorable moments. Who can forget bear 469’s attempt to persevere through injury, the playfulness of young and well fed bears, or the care mothers took to protect their cubs? The insight gained into the lives of bears and the intimate moments we were able to observe dominate this bearcam year in review.


Deciphering the Novarupta-Katmai Eruption

November 26, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

In the early 20th century geologists had a limited understanding of volcanoes. Plate tectonic theory was still half a century away. Radio communications in remote, volcanically active areas were unreliable or non-existent. Eyewitness accounts of volcanic eruptions were difficult to gather. Seismographs, an essential tool for contemporary volcanologists, were almost unheard of in Alaska. For many years, little was known or understood about what happened in early June 1912 on the northern Alaska Peninsula.


Giving Bears Space

September 04, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Every once and a while, you may see people on the floating bridge while a bear is nearby. The people in the photo above were not behaving appropriately for the unique bear viewing opportunities at Brooks Camp. The wildness of the bears and the wonderful experiences for people at Brooks Camp is dependent on everyone giving bears space.


Bear Hibernation

November 21, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

One adaptation that has evolved in some mammals is hibernation. Hibernation is a state of dormancy that allows animals to avoid periods of famine. It takes many forms in mammals, but is particularly remarkable in bears.


Dynamics of the Brooks River Sockeye

July 27, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

In winter, ice and snow cover much of Katmai’s landscape. Salmon fry bide their time waiting to become smolt and run to sea. Later in the year and soon after the smolt depart, much larger salmon are returning from the ocean. In late June, schools of silvery and energetic fish begin to pulse through the river. During August and September, the Brooks River is dotted with ruby-colored jewels digging nests and fighting for territory. Soon after, the waters of Katmai begin to quiet again. The salmon have spawned and most are dead. Eggs are quietly incubating.

These are extreme contrasts, but the Brooks River is a dynamic place. Maybe nothing else better illustrates this than the annual sockeye salmon run--a powerful example of change, adaptation, and instinct.


The Resilient Bear

July 14, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz

Watching the bearcams on explore.org gives anyone with internet access an opportunity to experience the dynamics of a bear’s world. We get to observe the playfulness of cubs, the intimacy of mating, and the satiation of hunger when a bear eats a salmon. However, when we watch the cams, we will also see some unpleasant aspects of the bears’ world.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 7
1000 Silver Street, Building 603

King Salmon, AK 99613


907 246-3305

Contact Us