Nanvarpak, Nila Vena
from the northern shore
|Location||Lake and Peninsula Borough, Alaska|
|Primary inflows||Newhalen River, Illiamna River, Pile River, Copper River|
|Primary outflows||Kvichak River|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Max. length||77 mi (124 km)|
|Max. width||22 mi (35 km)|
|Surface area||1,012.5 sq mi (2,622 km2)|
|Average depth||144 ft (44 m)|
|Max. depth||988 ft (301 m)|
|Water volume||27.7 cu mi (115 km3)|
|Residence time||7.8 years|
|Surface elevation||46 ft (14 m)|
|Settlements||Iliamna, Newhalen, Kokhanok, Pedro Bay, Igiugig|
Iliamna Lake or Lake Iliamna (Yup'ik: Nanvarpak; Dena'ina Athabascan: Nila Vena) is a lake in southwest Alaska, at the north end of the Alaska Peninsula, between Kvichak Bay and Cook Inlet, about 100 miles (160 km) west of Seldovia, Alaska.
It is the largest lake in Alaska, third largest lake entirely in the United States, and twenty-fourth in North America. (While all five Great Lakes are considerably larger, only Lake Michigan lies completely within US territory.) Covering about 2,600 km² (1,000 sq. miles), Iliamna Lake is 77 miles (124 km) long and up to 22 miles (35 km) wide, with a maximum depth of 988 feet (301 m). Through the Kvichak River, its waters drain into Bristol Bay.
The lake is marked as 'Oz[ero] Bol[shoy] Ilyamna' (Big Ilyamna Lake) on the Russian Hydrographical Department's Chart 1455, published in 1852. On an earlier Russian map, from 1802, the lake was named 'Oz[ero] Shelekhovo' (Lake Shelekov) after Russian explorer Grigory Shelekhov. According to G.C. Martin, of the United States Geological Survey, Iliamna is said to be "the name of a mythical great blackfish supposed to inhabit this lake, which bites holes in the bidarkas of bad natives."
Williamsport-Pile Bay Road portage
Originally constructed by the Alaska Road Commission during the mid 1930s, the Williamsport-Pile Bay Road is a utility-class road maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Connecting Pile Bay on the lake's northeast side with Williamsport, a tiny settlement on the Iliamna Bay of Cook Inlet (about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Homer), the road is 15.5 miles (24.9 km) long and one lane wide with four bridges. The Williamsport-Pile Bay Road is maintained as a gravel utility road for the purpose of hauling boats and freight, and is not intended for general purpose use. The road allows boats small enough to be hauled across the road's bridges an opportunity to portage from Cook Inlet to Bristol Bay, saving a trip on the open ocean which involves traveling around the Alaska Peninsula. For this and other reasons, the road is also believed to significantly reduce fuel costs for the Lake Iliamna and Bristol Bay regions.
Flora and fauna
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Iliamna Lake is noted for its sport fishing. The three primary targets of anglers in the lake are trout, salmon, and grayling. August through September is prime time for catching fat rainbow trout, some of which exceed 28 inches long. The Kvichak River Policy (the drainage of Lake Iliamna) is catch and release on trout (and all other native fish), but not on salmon. 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. It also serves as a nursery for the largest red salmon run in the world. Red salmon spend half of their 5-year lifespan in fresh water. This is longer than any other species of salmon.
Local residents have a number of stories about the alleged Iliamna Lake Monster, an aquatic creature much like the rumored Loch Ness Monster. Speculation exists that reported sightings may be an undocumented population of white sturgeon. If true, this would be the most northerly population known to exist, just a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. Jeremy Wade, presenter of Animal Planet's River Monsters is among those who speculate these sightings of a reputed "monster" is a white sturgeon. Others believe that it is a Pacific sleeper shark. Evidence of this is corroborated by a 2012 YouTube video that shows a smaller Pacific sleeper shark in Lake Iliamna.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Iliamna Lake
- Mathisen, Ole A.; Norma Jean Sands; Norma Haubenstock (July 2002). "Trophic ranking of biota in Iliamna Lake, Alaska" (PDF). Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. Stuttgart. 28: 1060–1065. Retrieved 2008-11-13.[dead link]
- "Profile of the People and Land of the United States". US Department of Interior, National Atlas of the United States. Archived from the original on 2012-09-15.
- Kari, James; Russell Kari, Priscilla (1982). Dena'ina E\nena: Tanaina Country. Alaska Native Language Center. p. 17.
- "Resident Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Iliamna Lake, Alaska: Summer Diet and Partial Consumption of Adult Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)", Aquatic Mammals, July 2008.
- Snifka, Lynne (October 2004). "Monstrous mysteries". Alaska. v. 70 (8): 44(4). ISSN 0002-4562.
- YouTube video link