Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, midway down the wild and roadless Alaska Peninsula, includes one of the world's great dry calderas, as well as lava flows, cinder cones, and explosion pits. The six-mile wide, 2,000-foot deep caldera was formed when a 7,000-foot volcanic mountain erupted about 3,500 years ago. The mountain collapsed, leaving a relatively flat-floored, ash-filled bowl. The remaining rim of the mountain ranges from 3,000 to 4,500 feet in elevation. That, however, was not Aniakchak's last hurrah. It has erupted more than 20 times since that first monster explosion, the last time in 1931. That eruption scattered ash over villages up to 40 miles away and added a small but impressive explosion pit to the already pockmarked caldera floor.

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
©2007 Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is made up of 586,000 acres of
pristine Alaska wilderness.

Still considered active, Aniakchak is part of the so-called Ring of Fire, a volcanic area along the Pacific Ocean rim. Visitors can hike, climb, and explore the caldera's windswept plains, cinder cones, and lava fields. Though much of Aniakchak looks like a desolate moonscape, wildlife is abundant and easy for visitors to see. Brown bears, caribou, wolverines, red foxes, and the occasional wolf, among others, are found here. Bald eagles, one of 40 species in the monument, roost on the caldera rim. Meanwhile, Sockeye salmon fight their way up the Aniakchak River into Surprise Lake, the river's shallow headwater lake inside the caldera.

To the east, rugged bays and inlets and offshore islands in the Pacific provide habitat for sea mammals and sea birds. Mosses, grasses, and flowering plants have invaded sheltered spots in the caldera, and scattered meadows of grasses and wildflowers add a splash of color to the landscape.

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve Information

Address: Located on the Alaska Peninsula, 450 miles southwest of Anchorage, King Salmon, AK
Telephone: 907/246-3305
Hours of Operation: Open year-round
Admission: Free

Learn about these other national monuments:

­Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Colorado National Monument

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument

George Washington Carver National Monument

Ocmulgee National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve

Dinosaur National Monument

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument

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Booker T. Washington National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument

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Fort Stanwix National Monument

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Rainbow Bridge National Monument


Chiricahua National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Russell Cave National Monument


To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.