The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is located in an area of Alaska that is now a part of Katmai National Park and Preserve and it was created by the most dramatic and destructive volcanic episode of the 20th century. In June of 1912, a series of severe earthquakes ravaged the area for an entire week, which was then climaxed by the violent eruption of the Novarupta volcano. These cataclysmic events radically transformed the area. Massive amounts of red-hot burning pumice and volcanic ash were blown out of the Novarupta everywhere. Molten lava flooded the entire area and wiped out every living thing for miles around. Along with the devastating destruction of the immediate vicinity, the volcanic ash and debris darkened the sky over most of the Northern Hemisphere for several days.
When the smoke cleared, over 40 square miles of what was once lushly forested terrain had become a desert wasteland, now buried in 700 feet of volcanic matter. Acid rain that resulted from the eruption negatively affected areas as far away as Vancouver and Seattle, and the remaining hazardous volcanic ash from the eruption still gets kicked up in wind storms that affect surrounding areas of Alaska, such as Kodiak Island, to this day.
In 1916, National Geographic explorer Robert Griggs wrote, “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.” Thus, from then on, the area famously became known as the “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” In the video below, you’ll get a close look at the area, including the lava dome of Novarupta and the neighboring volcano Mt. Katmai. As you’ll see, the Katmai caldera is now essentially a big crater lake.
Check out the video below to see more…