Iliamna Lake, Alaska, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Alaska - Southwest -

Also known as:  Lake Iliamna

Iliamna Lake, also known as Lake Iliamna, is the largest lake in Alaska and the second largest freshwater lake contained wholly within the United States (after Lake Michigan). This glacial lake in southwest Alaska is often referred to as an inland sea, stretching out about 80 miles long, 25 miles wide, and covering a surface area of approximately 640,000 acres. Iliamna Lake is sandwiched between Lake Clark National Park and Preserve to the north, Katmai National Park and Preserve to the south, and Cook Inlet (Gulf of Alaska) to the east. Several uninhabited islands dot the lake’s surface, including Porcupine, Flat, Triangle, and Seal Islands.

Iliamna Lake was named by the Tanaina Indians, who believed that the lake was inhabited by a giant blackfish that could bite holes in canoes. Other beasts alleged to live in Iliamna Lake, referred to as Illies, look like giant fish up to 30 feet long. Iliamna’s creatures gained wider circulation in the 1940s when pilots began sighting monsters from the air. Unlike these mythical creatures, however, the lake is distinguished for its resident population of freshwater seals, one of only two colonies of freshwater seals in the world.

Small communities dot the Iliamna Lake shoreline, including Iliamna, Newhalen, Pedro Bay, Pile Bay Village, Kokhanok, and Igiugig. The population around the lake totals about 600 residents. The development of hunting and fishing lodges, beginning in the 1930s, brought tourism to the area. Since then, the lake has become a recreational and tourist attraction due primarily to the excellent fishing. Most access to Iliamna Lake is by air and water. Scheduled air service provides transportation to the region’s hubs in Iliamna and King Solomon. Air taxis and charter service provide transportation from the hubs to the local communities. Cargo is shipped in by boat.

The communities of Iliamna and Newhalen on Iliamna Lake’s northern shore are connected by an 8-mile gravel road. A new 22-mile road connects Iliamna to the community of Nondalton and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve to the north. The Williamsport-Pile Bay Road connects the community of Pile Bay on the lake’s northeast shore to Iliamna Bay on the Gulf of Alaska. Recreational boaters can travel from Ilaimna Bay and the Gulf of Alaska to the east to Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea to the west by driving the Williamsport-Pile Bay Road, cruising across Iliamna Lake through the exit at the Kvichak River to Bristol Bay. This route saves a 1,200-mile trip over open waters around the Aleutian Chain.

Iliamna Lake is a renowned trophy fishing region. The lake is teeming with arctic grayling, rainbow trout, lake trout, dolly varden trout (char), sockeye (red) salmon, Coho (silver) salmon, Chinook (king) salmon, and northern pike. The Kvichak River, the primary outflow of Lake Iliamna, is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The area is also home to the world’s largest brown bear population, which feed on the tasty river salmon. Tour guides are available to visitors interested in viewing and photographing the enormous brown bears. Other area wildlife include freshwater seals, caribou, moose, wolverines, and eagles. After you have reeled in your record catches, take some time to view this pristine wilderness on foot, by water, or by air.

June through September are prime months for visiting the national parks and preserves to the north and south of Iliamna Lake. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was established in 1980 to protect the area’s scenic beauty, fish and wildlife, the watershed necessary for red salmon, and the lifestyle of local residents. The park and preserve cover almost 6,300 square miles. Lake Clark is a glacial lake more than 40 miles long at the rim of the Chigmit Mountains, in which there are two active volcanoes, Iliamna and Redoubt, both rising more than 10,000 feet above sea level. In addition to volcanoes, the park’s geologic diversity includes dozens of glaciers, hundreds of waterfalls, and jagged mountain peaks. Caribou, Dall sheep, brown and black bears, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons make their home in the park. Access the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is by air.

The Katmai National Park and Preserve to the south of Iliamna Lake covers almost 6,400 square miles of Alaskan wilderness. Designated as a national park and preserve in 1980, the area was originally established as a national monument in 1918 to preserve the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a massive ash flow deposited on June 6, 1912 by eruptions of Mt. Katmai and Novarupta volcano. The ash flow covers 40 square miles and is 100 to 700 feet deep! The park is also known for its rugged Gulf of Alaska coastline, brown bear population, and pristine rivers and lakes with abundant fish.

Just 15 miles from Lake Iliamna lies the Pebble Deposit, North America’s biggest deposits of gold and copper. The Pebble Deposit is on state-owned land, and Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources will make key decisions about whether to allow mining of the precious metals. Some claim that mining would provide jobs to an impoverished local economy for 50 to 80 years. Others claim that mining will destroy Bristol Bay’s fisheries, dry up spawning streams, contaminate lakes and rivers with acid runoff, and kill off wildlife dependent on the area’s clean waters. Read up on this controversy to learn more about the future of this Alaskan wilderness.

Things to do at Iliamna Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Hunting
  • Waterfall
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Iliamna Lake

  • Char
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Grayling
  • Lake Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Trout

Iliamna Lake Photo Gallery

Iliamna Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 653,552 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 46 feet

Average Depth: 144 feet

Maximum Depth: 900 feet

Water Residence Time: 7.8 years

Lake Area-Population: 600

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

Spread the word! Share our Iliamna Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.