6400 square miles in size, Katmai is home to some of the largest brown bear populations in the world. Because of its roadless and pristine wilderness nature, Katmai is a critical habitat for may wildlife and bird species. Katmai encompasses more than four million acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake, the largest lake within a National Park.
Katmai was declared a National Monument in 1918 to preserve the famed Valley of the 10,000 Smokes. This spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow was deposited during the June 6-9, 1912 eruption of Novarupta, the most explosive and volumnous volcanic event of the Twentieth Century. Concerns for the protection of brown bear habitat, the boundaries were extended, and in 1980 the area received Wilderness designation and became a National Park and Preserve.
Katmai National Park has received more notoriety in the past few years from it’s Fat Bear Week Contest. This contest is an effort to boost awareness and conservation efforts for the brown bears in Katmai. The contest lets the public vote on the fattest bear in Katmai. The bears get huge by the fall in their attempts to eat enough food to survive their winter hibernation.