President Woodrow Wilson established Katmai National Monument in 1918 to preserve the "Valley of 10,000 Smokes," so named when the Novarupta Volcano filled the valley with a 100- to 700-foot-deep ash flow. The "smokes" were created when water trapped underneath the ash flow turned to steam and escaped to the surface. Today, the Valley of 10,000 Smokes is still a spectacular visitor destination, though all that's left of the smokes are colorful fumaroles.*
In addition to its volcanic history, Katmai is also known for its sportfishing and bear viewing at locations such as Brooks River. For decades, rainbow trout that grew fat on spawning salmon eggs drew anglers from all over the world. New brown bear viewing opportunities developed in 1980 when the monument was expanded and renamed Katmai National Park & Preserve. In fact, brown bear viewing is now more popular with visitors than fishing.
*Did You Know?
Fumaroles are vents in the Earth's crust that allow gases and steam to escape. They usually occur near areas of volcanic activity. The Valley of 10,000 Smokes in Katmai National Park & Preserve once featured thousands of these vents. Exploring the valley after the Novarupta volcano erupted in 1912, Robert F. Griggs, saw thousands of fumaroles and wrote, "The whole valley as far as the eye could reach was full of hundreds, no thousands--literally, tens of thousands--of smokes curling up from its fissured floor." Yellowstone National Park is another good place to see fumaroles, with an estimated 4,000 fumaroles in the park.