Alaska Lakes: Lake Iliamna

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

Alaska has about 3,197 officially named natural lakes, out of over 3,000,000 unnamed natural lakes. 86,051 square miles of Alaska are covered by water.  The largest, Lake Iliamna, encompasses over 1,000 square miles. Many of Alaska's lakes are only reachable by air or boat. Lakes that are easily accessible are used for recreation such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

Lake Iliamna is Alaska's largest lake. Some 80 miles long and with a surface area over a thousand square miles, Iliamna is approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island.* This makes it the second-largest fresh-water lake (after Lake Michigan) lying entirely within the United States.  Iliamna has a mean depth of 144 feet and is over 900 feet deep in some areas.  The lake is connected to Bristol Bay, 60 miles southwest, by the Kvichak River, through which such marine mammals as harbor seals and belugas can travel.  The lake offers both salmon and trout fishing, as well as sightings of freshwater seals.

Visitors to Iliamna will be very likely to see bear and other wildlife, and can explore the lake and surrounding areas via boat or on foot. The fishing lodges provide accommodations, food and assist guests in setting up tours and other outdoor adventures. The active Iliamna Volcano, 10,016 ft (3,053 m) high, lies northeast of the lake.

Lake Iliamna is an isolated body of water, its shores largely unpopulated.  The largest village, Kakhonak, counts only 200 permanent residents.  The lake cannot be reached overland.  Summer visitors must come by boat or fly in to a single airstrip. 

It was named by Tanaina Indians, whose mythology held that it was inhabited by a giant blackfish capable of biting holes in canoes.  Local residents have a number of stories about the alleged Iliamna Lake Monster, an aquatic creature much like the rumored Loch Ness Monster.

Reports of something odd in Iliamna go back to the Aleut and other indigenous tribes, although no one knows how far back in time these stories began.  The Aleuts did not hunt the lake’s creatures, and believed them to be dangerous to men fishing in small boats.  Some early white settlers and visitors reportedly saw the things, too, but the stories about Iliamna did not gain wide circulation until the 1940s, when pilots began spotting monsters from the air.  The flyers’ descriptions generally matched the native tales.  The lake’s mystery inhabitants were most often described as long, relatively slender animals, like fish or whales, up to 30 feet in length.  Modern sightings have occurred mostly near the villages of Iliamna and Pedro Bay.  It was off the latter town in 1988 that several witnesses, three in a boat and others on shore, reported one of the creatures.  In this case, it was described as black.  One witness thought she could see a fin on the back, with a white stripe along it.

Explanations for the creatures that have been observed range from a lost whale that strayed in from the ocean to a huge sturgeon to a species of freshwater seal. The Native people say the creature is a monster that doesn't like people and upsets boats that stray too far from shore, but there's no scientific evidence to prove any theory."

Lake Iliamna offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in Alaska. Alaska is famous for it's healthy population of wild Rainbow Trout and Lake Iliamna is full of them. The Alaska Northern Pike yet another popular Alaskan Sport Fish.  Residing in many Alaska lakes sloughs and tributaries and they can be found in Lake Iliamna. One of Alaska's most sought-after sport fish, the Dolly Varden is a world class fighter and Lake Iliamna has plenty of them.

August through September is prime time for catching fat rainbow trout, some of which can exceed 28 inches long. The Kvichak River Policy (the drainage of Lake Iliamna) is catch and release on trout (and all other native fish), so if you're looking for a meal then salmon is your best bet. Sockeye (Red) and Chinook (King) Salmon are consistently found in the lake and are open to harvest under Alaska Department of Fish and Game Regulations.

Lake Iliamna also has one of few populations of freshwater seals in the world. The only other instance of a freshwater population of harbor seals exists in Lacsdes Loups Marinson the Ungava Peninsula of northern Québec, Canada.  Salmon are a key part of the Lake Iliamna seals’ diet. Despite their long history of inhabiting Iliamna Lake, very little is known about these rare freshwater seals.


Lake Iliamna has freshwater seals, salmon and even a monster

Lake Iliamna is Alaska's largest lake

Alaska Rivers:

Alaska has more than 12,000 rivers including the nine major rivers listed below:

Learn more about Alaskan rivers

Colville River Copper River Gulkana River
Kuskokwim River Noatak River Porcupine River
Susitna River Tanana River Yukon River.