Katmai National Park to Operate at Full Capacity This Season for First Time Since Pandemic

by Caitlin Berard

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside-down. Across the globe, common meeting places shut down. Everything from bars to restaurants to movie theaters to music venues became inaccessible. Then, as if the closing of indoor spaces wasn’t enough, popular outdoor areas were hit with restrictions as well. Thankfully, however, pandemic restrictions are slowly lifting. And with that shift comes the return of all our favorite places, including the gorgeous Brooks Camp at Katmai National Park in King Salmon, Alaska.

What to Know:

  • COVID-19 forced National Parks to cut back on visitor capacity
  • Pandemic restrictions are slowly lifting across the country
  • Katmai National Park will operate at full capacity this summer

Katmai National Park to Abolish Visitor Restrictions This Summer

Though Katmai National Park never officially closed its gates, park officials had no choice but to place heavy restrictions on visitor and camping numbers in 2020. Because of the pandemic, visitation was down about 40% from their typical numbers.

“That completely changed in 2021,” said Park Superintendent Mark Sturm. “And even though we had some reduced operational capacities and certain aspects of our campground and other areas of the park, we set a record and actually had more visitation than we’ve ever had before. And we expect to see another high level of visitation this year.”

Because of coronavirus concerns, Katmai National Park has been running its campsites at half capacity. With widely available COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, however, they’re able to lift the restriction.

“At this stage of the game, we feel confident that we can open up 100%,” said Sturm. Though optimistic, park officials are still wary of the pandemic and understand that circumstances can change at a moment’s notice.

“Make sure that you understand what the requirements of the park are currently. There is still a pandemic going on,” Sturm said. “Things did change on use with the omicron variant kind of resurfacing and causing us to adjust along the way, so something could happen. So just check the park’s website for alerts. Hopefully, we’ll see you around this summer and look forward to seeing you.”

The National Park Measures Visitors With Bear Orientations

Though it isn’t the only metric, Katmai National Park uses attendance of their Brooks Camp bear orientations to measure visitation levels. These classes teach visitors to the park how to practice proper safety measures around the 1000-pound brown bears.

“Last year, our number was above 20,000,” Mark Sturm said. “Which is a big number for those trainings. And so, you know, I guess that’s a metric that gives us an indication, as to how busy we are in comparison to other years.”

Katmai National Park, known for its thriving brown bear population, draws thousands of visitors a year to marvel at one of Alaska’s most awe-inspiring creatures.