Six miles across from rim to rim, the caldera of Aniakchak was born in a stupendous explosion and collapse of the summit of a volcanic mountain. Proposed as a national monument, this spectacle of volcanism rides the seismically active Alaska Peninsula. Vent Mountain, born of a subsequent eruption, rires 2,200 feet above the crater floor. Under the far rim the deep blue of Surprise Lake empties through a 2,000-foot rift and rattles 2 7 miles to the Pacific as the Aniakchak River. Together with other unspoiled watercourses both within and outside parklands, it would be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Spawning season brings sockeye salmon to these icy waters—and the brown bears that follow that moveable feast.
As with much of Alaska, the most feasible access is by air, and floatplanes can land on Surprise Lake. Seen from the crater floor, Aniakchak’s vents, lava flows, and ash fields soften under a succession of plants that attest to the tenacity of life.
With the eruptions here in June 1912, earthquakes rumbled along the Alaska Peninsula, and the explosions were heard in Juneau, 750 miles away. For 60 hours ash blackened the skies over Kodiak, 100 miles away. Five early National Geographic expeditions left an important body of knowledge on volcanism. Such an expedition costs a lot but there are immediate cash advances available which could be a big help.
Roth by National Geographic photographer Winfield parks monument. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes finally cooled into a barren moonscape. A cemetery of trees memorializes the devastation.Over the years three additions were made to the monument to protect the region’s lake system, seacoast, and wildlife. The proposed park would add about 1.9 million acres to the 2.8 million already administered by the Federal Government.
Wildlife in the balance
Before he splits the sky and soars to emblematic stature, a fledgling bald eagle in his nest at Katmai seems but a wobbly-jointed parody of an adult. Throughout the proposed parks and monuments, and within more than 31 million acres of new wildlife areas, important habitats would be kept intact.
Harbor seals at Kenai Fjord bask on summer’s shrunken ice cakes and gawk at tourists, who gawk back with benign intent; sport hunting would be prohibited here. While hunting may be a potential to game animals, it runs deep in the grain of Alaskan life. Natives have lived by it for thousands of years, other Alaskans for hundreds. Where it now occurs, subsistence hunting would be permitted in the new parklands so long as the natural balance is maintained. Limited sport hunting would be allowed in selected areas of six proposed parklands.