Selawik Lake, Alaska, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Alaska - Far North -

Selawik Lake is located on the Arctic Circle in the the northwestern part of Alaska. Covering an impressive 263,000 acres*, the lake is the third largest in the state.Selawik Lake’s name comes from the Inupiaq word for “place of sheefish,” and the lake and its tributaries are especially known for this variety of fish. The lake is about 7 miles from the town of Selawik, Alaska. Because of its remote location, the approximately 800 residents of Selawik live much as their ancestors did, subsisting on the abundant native wildlife.

The landscape surrounding Selawik Lake is both beautiful and foreboding. Temperatures range from an average low of about -12 degrees F in the winter to an average high of around 58 degrees F in the summer. Due to its location on the Arctic Circle, Selawik is light 24 hours a day for much of June and July, but receives only an hour and a half of sunlight each day during the month of December. Because of the rugged terrain surrounding Lake Selawik, locals still travel the area using traditional methods: by boat in the warmer months and by dogsled in the winter. Visitors usually access the area by plane, via commercial flights from Anchorage to the nearby city of Kotzebue. Despite the harsh climate, Selawik is home to beautiful vistas of untouched wilderness. The Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, a 2.15 million acre wilderness area that borders Selawik Lake, contains a variety of landscapes including mountains, tundra, wetlands, grassy meadows, and forests.

The Selawik National Wildlife Refuge is a prime destination for anglers. In addition to Lake Selawik, the refuge contains nearly 22,000 lakes and ponds, as well as the Selawik and Kobuk Rivers. The area offers the best sheefishing in the world, and catches of sheefish weighing 50 pounds or more are common. Anglers fish by boat in the warmer months, and visiting anglers can have the unique experience of fishing under “the midnight sun.” Ice fishing Selawik Lake for sheefish is popular from March through May. In addition to sheefish, the area is also home to arctic char, burbot, whitefish, grayling, and northern pike. The Selawik Wildlife Refuge is also popular with hunters, especially during the fall season. The refuge is home to the largest herd of Western Arctic Caribou in Alaska. Hunters are also drawn to Selawik in search of moose and bear.

Wildlife observation is another activity that visitors enjoy at Selawik. The lake is a birdwatching paradise, being home to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds who use the area for breeding and as a place to rest before continuing their migration. Geese, tundra swans, and sandhill cranes all nest on the lake and its surrounding wetlands. Ducks, loons, and sandpipers can also be seen on the shores of the lake. The nearby woodlands are home to songbirds, including the yellow wagtail, yellow warbler, white-crowned sparrow, and Lapland larkspur. In addition to birds, many small mammals can be found in the woodlands near the lake, including wolves, arctic fox, red fox, lynx, wolverine, and beaver.

When the weather permits, visitors can enjoy scenic rafting trips down the Selawik River. Rafters can float all 168 miles of this gentle river from its beginnings in the Purcell Mountains at the eastern edge of the Selawik Wildlife Refuge to where it flows into Selawik Lake. The trip provides excellent views of the wild, undeveloped lands at the river’s edge. In winter, local residents and visitors alike often enjoy a trip to the hot springs at the head waters of the Selawik River. The thermal springs prevent this area of the river from freezing and were once prized by native tribes for their medicinal value.

Selawik Lake offers adventurers many ways to experience the Alaskan wilderness. Visitors can get a rare glimpse of what life might have been like hundreds of years ago–from the untamed landscapes that surround Selawik Lake, to the hardy people who live off the land as generations before them have done. A visit to Selawik Lake is truly a step back in time.

*Acreage figures are from the Alaskan Dept of Hydrology. Shoreline lengths are not given as most of Alaska’s large lakes have ill-defined shorelines: water collecting in the lakes does not pass thru the permafrost level and thus must either dissipate via evaporation or river drainage. Most shorelines are seasonal wetlands and their size depends on the amount of snow-melt and precipitation. Many lakes have no outlet so water simply continues to collect there, causing the lake to grow larger.

Things to do at Selawik Lake

  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge

Fish species found at Selawik Lake

  • Burbot
  • Char
  • Grayling
  • Northern Pike
  • Pike
  • Whitefish

Selawik Lake Photo Gallery

    Selawik Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

    Surface Area: 262,809 acres

    Lake Area-Population: 800

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    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.


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    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.


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    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."


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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    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.


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