Selawik Lake, Alaska, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Selawik Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Selawik Lake

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

Find Places to Stay at Selawik Lake

If you’re considering a Selawik Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Selawik Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Selawik Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Selawik Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 262,809 acres

Lake Area-Population: 800

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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