Imagine a panorama so “out of this world” that NASA sent four Apollo astronauts to train there, and you’ll have envisioned the dramatic, moon-like landscape of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

In an eruption 10 times more forceful than the 1980 Mount Saint Helen’s eruption, the Novarupta Volcano blew its top in June of 1912, dramatically altering the Katmai area. Severe earthquakes rocked the area leading up to the cataclysmic explosion, ejecting enormous quantities of glowing-hot pumice and ash into the atmosphere. The flow destroyed all life in its path leaving more than 40 square miles of lush green land buried beneath volcanic deposits up to 700 feet deep.

Only one eruption in historic times – Greece’s Santorini in 1500 B.C. – displaced more volcanic matter than Novarupta. The terrible 1883 eruption of Indonesia’s Krakatoa belched out little more than half as much, but tragically killed 35,000 people. Fortunately, Novarupta is so vastly isolated that no one was killed.

The valley home to the event was unnamed at the time, until the National Geographic Society’s Robert Griggs came to explore the area in 1916.

“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,” Griggs wrote. Thus the landscape was dubbed, “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.”

Today you can experience the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes aboard our day-long natural history bus tours that depart each day at Brooks Lodge. See where the turbulent Ukak River and its tributaries cut deep gorges in the accumulated ash. Hike down to the “Valley” floor to examine the impressive ash and pumice vistas. Or, take in the sights from the best seat in the house (the air), on one of our hour-long float plane tours.