In June 1917, Griggs and the eager NGS explorers rushed to the Katmai coast with the express goal of exploring the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. They quickly worked their way up through the ash-filled Katmai River valley and over the pass. lieutenant was a month of terror and elation for the twelve adventurers.
Through the long Alaska summer days, they took chemical and geologic samples, shot photographs, and made rough maps.
Mincing their way across the crumbling, treacherous surface of the hot ash, they studied the temperatures and temperaments of the roaring fumaroles and explored the perilous margins of the pyroclastic deposits. As they explored and documented the valley, they began to build a picture of the eruption.
Foreign five years, the American public had been entranced by the exciting volcanic discoveries in Alaska. Hungry for stories to push the horrors of World War I from their minds, thousands of National Geographic subscribers had thrilled to Griggs’ gripping articles about the adventures of his exploring parties.
As the discoveries unfolded, Griggs became increasingly zealous in his advocacy of the site.
His vivid descriptions of the wonders of the Katmai country ignited the interest of what was then a budding conservation movement in the United States. The mysterious volcanic valley seemed an ideal candidate for protection. Griggs and the chiefs of the National Geographic Society campaigned persistently to preserve the area, and in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson declared 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) of land as Katmai National Monument.