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What Is Iliamna Lake?

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  • Written By: Carol Kindle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Iliamna Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the US state of Alaska. Located in the southwest portion of the state, Iliamna Lake is popular among tourists who enjoy sportfishing. It is home to several species of fish that also provide an important food source for local villagers. This lake is also home to one of a few colonies of freshwater harbor seals.

Located about 225 miles (362 km) southwest of the city of Anchorage, Iliamna Lake is 77 miles (124 km) in length and 22 miles (35 km) in width. Several small villages surround this lake and the inhabitants survive by fishing, hunting, or growing their own food. These villages include Iliamna, Igiugig, Kokhanok, and Pedro Bay. The city of Newhalen is also located on Iliamna Lake.

The village of Iliamna lies on the northwest side of the lake and has limited access by road. Most villagers and tourists travel to and from the area by airplane or boat. Several fishing and hunting lodges are located in the village, and these are popular tourist destinations. The slightly larger city of Newhalen is just 4.5 miles (7.2 km) west of the village of Iliamna.

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Igiugig is another small village on Iliamna Lake. This village lies at the western tip of the lake at the point where it drains into the Kvichak River. The Kvichak River is known for the size of its rainbow trout and the large yearly runs of sockeye salmon. Igiugig is also home to several hunting and fishing lodges that provide seasonal accommodations for tourists in the area.

Kokhanok is located on the south side of Iliamna Lake and access to this village is primarily by air or water. Subsistence fishing and hunting activities provide food for local villagers. Tourism and lodge accommodations are not available in Kokhanok.

Pedro Bay, which is surrounded by many species of trees, is at the northeast tip of Iliamna Lake. This village is also accessible by air or water and is not far from the village of Pile Bay. Pile Bay is at one end of a 15.5 mile (24.9 km) portage road maintained by the state of Alaska. This gravel road allows commercial transport of supplies from Pile Bay to Williamsport on the Cook Inlet.

Natives of the villages that surround the lake are primarily Eskimos, Aleutians, or other native peoples. They have a subsistence lifestyle and they are quite resourceful at making use of fish and wildlife in the area to provide food and necessities to maintain this lifestyle. For decades, villagers have reported sightings of an unknown creature in the lake that they refer to as the Iliamna Lake monster. Explorers believe this mythical monster could be a white sturgeon.

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