Spanning more than 4 million acres – most of which compose a designated wilderness area – Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of the wildest places in North America. It's the type of place where breathtaking wilderness scenes like these are an everyday occurrence, making it a truly one-of-a-kind entry into the National Park System.
Bald eagle in flight
Located on the northern Alaska Peninsula, Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of the best bird-watching areas in the U.S., especially during the spring migratory and summer breeding seasons. Hundreds of bird species call the park home during all or part of the year, but few are more impressive than the bald eagle. As top predators, bald eagles like this one are indicators of an ecosystem's overall health, and their growing numbers in the last decade are a very good sign.
Sparring brown bears at Naknek Lake
Katmai National Park and Preserve hosts one of the greatest brown bear populations in the world. Bears are usually solitary creatures, avoiding conflict with one another whenever possible – but occasionally, as with these two bears sparring at Naknek Lake, they are known to clash over food and territory.
Hiking around the rim of Kaguyak Crater Lake
As part of one of the most volatile volcanic regions in the world, the landscape of Katmai National Park and Preserve is dotted with both active and dormant volcanic sites. The rim of Kaguyak Crater Lake, formed by a massive prehistoric eruption, offers unparalleled hiking opportunities and a reminder of the park's tumultuous geologic past.
Salmon spawning at Brooks Falls
An abundant salmon run is part of what makes Katmai National Park and Preserve such a perfect bear habitat. The fish enter the Naknek system of lakes and rivers by the millions every summer, providing an ample food supply for hungry bears. Some of the most famous pictures of brown bears fishing for salmon have been taken at Brooks Falls, where visitors come every year to see the staggering salmon run as well as the bears that follow it.
Bees and Alaskan wildflowers
The northern Alaska Peninsula is far from the barren tundra that some might imagine. Vibrant wildflower blooms bring the park's meadows to life every summer. Flowers like the purple-hued Epilobium angustifolium, better known as fireweed, are a huge resource for honey bees and play a key role in the park's intricate ecosystem.
Brown bears in their natural habitat
With more than 2,000 resident brown bears, Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of the best bear-watching locations in the world, but there's a limit to how close we humans can safely get to these wild animals. Thankfully, "bear cams" in locations like Brooks Falls and Dumpling Mountain catch shots like this one, giving viewers an up-close look at Katmai's amazing brown bears without invading their habitat. You can even stream continuous footage from several bear cams online.
Float plane flight into Brooks from Homer
As much as there is to see at ground level, a bird's eye view of Katmai National Park and Preserve really brings the park's majestic scale into focus. Flightseeing tours are an increasingly popular way to experience the park's landscape in the most dramatic fashion, including sights that are inaccessible any other way but from the air.
Since it was first established in 1918, Katmai National Park and Preserve has been one of the best places in the country to find scenes of unspoiled wildlife. Find more pictures like these and share your own at FindYourPark.com!
Photo Credit: Barb Coohey, Eric Magayne, Graham McGeorge, Kathryn Capaldo, Sandeep Rajagopal, and Sara Leibold via Share the Experience