Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes: A Uniquely Barren Alaskan Area

The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is defined by its post-eruption characteristics.

On June 6, 1912, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century occurred, which blasted 6 cubic miles of material into the atmosphere for 60 hours. Affecting communities across the world, the eruption darkened the skies above Kodiak, a community approximately 100 miles away, and covered it in a foot of ash, produced acid rain 370 miles away and tarnished brass in California, Colorado and Victoria, British Columbia.

Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes
Territory near Ukak Falls in Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Facebook: Katmai National Park & Preserve

The blast also produced a haze visible days later in Washington, D.C. and prevented approximately 10 percent of the sun’s heat from reaching the northern temperate zone during Summer 1912. Earth’s average temperature decreased 2 degrees Fahrenheit that year.

As a result of the eruption, the Ukak River valley became a barren 40-square-mile terrain after ash and pumice rushed into it at more than 100 miles per hour. Heat contained in the ash transformed any water buried by the residue into steam, which rose through fumaroles that Robert Griggs of the United States Geological Survey found in 1916 during an expedition.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Facebook: Katmai National Park & Preserve

After becoming known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the region, which originally had thousands of jets of steam as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, transformed into an area suitable for several different activities.

Geological studies and seismological investigations took place after initial post-eruption explorations of the land, and in the 1960s, NASA sent astronauts to it for geology training in preparation for the Apollo missions.

Nowadays, adventurists can trek through the area, as its rough terrain and unique scenery may provide a challenging yet rewarding experience. Although there are no official trails and journeys through the region are most appropriate for experienced hikers, is it possible those who undertake this outing enjoy spending time at some of the valley’s notable locations.

In particular, Buttress Range, which borders the valley’s western side, is an attractive site for hikers to visit. The ridge provides many small alcoves containing water and places to camp, as well as locations from which one can spot bears, caribou and ptarmigan. A majority of travelers enter the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes through Buttress Range, and it may be the first notable spot one sees in the area.

Mount Griggs
Mount Griggs. Facebook: World Landscapes

Located northeast of the ridge is Mount Griggs. As it is the tallest mountain bordering the region, mountaineers might have a fruitful experience ascending the hill’s gentle slopes before trekking through glaciers and an ice-covered ridge. Mount Griggs provides a slightly less hydrated habitat than significant locations to its south, such as Katmai Pass, which is situated in the crest of the Aleutian Range in Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Originally the site of a trade route used by indigenous Alaskans, Katmai Pass now allows adventurists to explore warm springs that seep from underneath recent lava flows. One can also view Katmai River gorge from Observation Mountain, which lies south of Katmai Pass.

Situated to the east of the pass is Novarupta, a 200-foot hill that marks the vent of the eruption. Although it is considerably smaller than some of the other highlands in the area, Novarupta still emits warm steam and may prompt explorers to imagine the destruction that the volcano caused more than a century ago. The land surrounding the hill is more colorful than other territory in the valley and might be a worthwhile location for travelers to visit during their trip to the geologically significant region.

Ray Lewis

Content Editor Associate

Originally from New Jersey, Ray developed a passion for traveling through his adventures in Europe. He created unforgettable memories in Greece and Italy, but is looking to explore more countries in different parts of the world as well.

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