Katmai National Park Shares Natural ‘Halloween Horror’ Occurring On Their Shores

by Amy Myers
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the rest of the country has been carving pumpkins and hanging spider webs, Katmai National Park has been decorating its shorelines with its own natural Halloween decorations – fish skeletons and corpses.

The strange and admittedly authentic decorations are actually a yearly occurrence, according to the national park. Sockeye salmon in Alaska are semelparous, which means they only spawn once in their lifetime. And afterward, their lifecycle comes to an end. The streams then carry the carcasses toward the shoreline. In turn, this provides a vital food source for Katmai National Park’s wildlife and plant life.

Though it may seem like an alarming sight, the park cautioned that the collection of these “Halloween horrors” is actually quite natural and an important part of the species’ survival. The post-spawning deaths are a yearly occurrence. And it seems to mark the beginning of the cold months as the rest of the ecosystem prepares for hibernation and scarcer food sources.

In the photo that Katmai National Park shared, dozens of sockeye salmon line the shore at various stages of decay.

Of course, parkgoers and wildlife watchers appreciate the “high-quality fertilizer” that results from these fish, even if it does mean more of the water-based attractions in the national park are more odorous or even off-limits for a little while.

Katmai Isn’t the Only National Park With Natural Halloween Decor

Meanwhile, in the Lower 48, Shenandoah National Park has some equally spooky forest floor decor happening this time of year. In its own update, the park shared an update with an image of a strange (and poisonous) plant that looked like someone plucked a few eyeballs and stuck them on red stems.

“Natural decorations can be found all around if you take a close look so keep your eyes peeled for some fall appearances that are so on-theme, it’s spooky!” the park gushed.

Of course, some of the most common decors are spiderwebs. And this time of year, Shenandoah tends to see more of them – particularly on the trails at face level.

In addition to these spindly decorations, there are also jack-o-lantern mushrooms. Though these fungi aren’t pumpkin-shaped, they are autumn orange in the daylight. And at night, their bioluminescence lights up the organism in a ghoulish-green glow.

Finally, the plant in the park’s photo goes by the name of white baneberry or “doll’s eyes” (for obvious reasons). Like the jack-o-lantern mushrooms, white baneberry is fairly poisonous, and the eyeballs we see are actually white berries.

Gorgeous as these decorations are, visitors should refrain from touching these organisms as ingesting any part of them can lead to illness. As for the spiderwebs, we don’t recommend destroying any critter’s home, no matter how creepy-crawly they may seem.