Lake Iliamna 2020

Located in the southwest corner of Alaska, Lake Iliamna is surrounded by small villages, small lakes, rivers and streams. Lake Iliamna, named by the local indigenous Tanaina tribe, covers an astonishing 1,000 square miles. It has an average depth of 144 feet, with the deepest section reaching depths of over 900 feet.

This remote landscape is only accessible by air. It is possible to take a short 45 minute flight directly from Anchorage, Alaska to the village of Iliamna. The town of Iliamna is home to 55 inhabitants. The population has fallen by 50% over the past 12 years. Other municipalities, such as Pedro Bay, Kokhanok, Igiugig and Newhalen, are the only townships bordering Lake Iliamna. Local economies depend on sport hunting and fishing excursions and are home to some of the finest lodges in the country. Igiugig is the only village without a local airport, and crossing the vast lake is the only access to the outside world for this community.

Lake Iliamna seen from above.

Ecology of Lake Iliamna

About 60 miles southeast of Lake Iliamna is Bristol Bay. This huge saltwater bay is home to around 30 million sockeye salmon. During the summer, sockeye salmon swim up the Kvichak River and spawn in the fresh waters of Lake Iliamna. It is said to be one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. Once their eggs hatch, these beautiful salmon will spend 1 to 3 years in the lake before migrating to the ocean. Chinook salmon and coho salmon also spawn in these waters along with sockeye salmon.

Dolly Varden, Lake, and Rainbow Trout are also found in abundance in the lakes, making them a famous fishing destination. Lake Iliamna is also home to freshwater seals, the only such seal population found in all 50 states. With the population of aquatic wildlife in the lake dwindling, many animal activist groups across the country are coming together to protect these species and delicate ecosystems from further harm.

The Lake Iliamna Monster

Lake Iliamna is also associated with a mythical creature. According to legends, an enigmatic creature lurks in the cold waters of the lake called the Iliamna Lake Monster. Some call it Illie, but local tribes may use the words Gonakadet or Jigiknak. It is said to be 10 to 30 feet long with a cube-shaped head for club fishing boats that get too close to it. It is also believed to have the tail of a wolf and the body of an orca. In the 1970s, a local news agency offered a $100,000 reward to any risk taker who could show proof that this lake monster was real.

Helen L. Cuellar