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Alaska is one of the states that may never suffer from water shortages in the near future as many meters of water bodies cover its surface. In fact, Alaska has over 3,000 natural lakes and about three million unnamed lakes, surpassing Massachusetts, a state famously referred to as the land of 10,000 lakes. No wonder people want to know about the oldest man-made lake in Alaska.
Many lakes in Alaska remain unnamed because the state’s remote nature is dotted with parts yet to be explored. Even with vast natural bodies of water, Alaska still has artificial lakes built to supplement water sources for human consumption and to generate hydroelectric power.
Below we look at the oldest man-made lake in Alaska, its history, and some activities to indulge in nearby.
The oldest artificial lake in Alaska
The oldest man-made lake in Alaska is Eklutna Lake. It was built between 1927 and 1929. The lake was built on a natural landslide dam in the Eklutna Valley.
Between 1929 and 1956 the lake underwent a series of reconstructions under the supervision of the Bureau of Reclamation. Reconstructions included the construction of the Eklutna Dam to raise Lake Eklutna and allow management of the water volume through penstock gates. The reservoir is located in the rough terrain of the Chugach Mountains north of the village of Eklutna.
Aside from the Eklutna Glacier, this lake is also fed by the runoff from the surrounding mountains. The lake provides drinking water for its residents and is also a source of hydroelectric power for the city of Anchorage and its surrounding area.
History of Lake Eklutna
Located 25 miles northwest of the city of Anchorage, Alaska, Eklutna Dam Lake has an area of 3,247 acres and an average elevation of 867.5 feet. Located not far from the Native American village of Eklutna, it is the state’s first hydroelectric project, solving the power shortage in and around the city of Anchorage.
As the city at the center of power distribution, Anchorage had a contract as early as 1927 with the Anchorage Light and Power Company, which installed the Old Eklutna Hydro Plant. The first unit of the facility was commissioned in 1929, and with a number of remodelings over time, the sea causeway was able to serve the people of Anchorage until 1956.
When the dam was built, it became a diversion that blocked the water flowing out of the Eklutna River, causing the river to sediment and dry up. The result of sedimentation was the destruction of the salmon’s natural habitat, leading to a decline in fishing activity on the river.
In 1997, the federal government transferred ownership of the project to three bodies, which, among other things, would study the impact of the hydroelectric project on fish and wildlife. They include:
- The Urban Light and Power
- The Matanuska Electric Association was formed in 1941
- The Chugach Electric Association
The project generates over 175,000 megawatts of electricity annually.
Other artificial lakes in Alaska
Alaska has over three million unnamed lakes but 67 named artificial reservoirs. Some of them include the following.
As the name suggests, Twin Lakes includes two lakes in Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. The upper lake is six miles long and the lower four miles.
The lakes join the Chilikadrotna River on the western side and eventually drain into Nushagak Bay. The lakes are located in remote regions and therefore, apart from the summer season, are not crowded as people come to hunt.
You may encounter black or brown bears when visiting Twin Lakes, so stay alert when camping. Camping is allowed, but limited to 14 days.
The Blue Lake is another artificial reservoir in the western part of Baranof Island. It is three miles long, with Blue Lake Valley Creek and Sawmill Creek as its main inflow and outflow, respectively.
Blue Lake is expansive, encompassing an area of 1225 acres, a maximum depth of 468 feet and a surface elevation of 436 feet.
Sawmill Cove Industrial Park is home to a small bottling initiative that relies on water from Blue Lake. The state of Alaska allows the city of Sitka to export around 9.5 gallons of raw water to the world market each year.
Blue Lake is also a good destination for adventure lovers thanks to its dense forests, mountain slopes and views. While swimming is not permitted at the lake, visitors can engage in activities such as nature walks, camping, and hiking.
The Deer Mountain Trail at Blue Lake has two shelters that make the whole adventure unique.
Chena River Lake Dam
Chena River Lake is a tributary of the Tanana River in remote Alaska near Chena Hot Springs. It is a confluence of the north and west forks of the river and has an elevation of 1,024 feet.
The Chena River Lakes Dam was built in 1973 in response to the Fairbanks area flood disaster. The disaster displaced nearly 7,000 people in the region. Its named tributaries include the Middle, Western, Northern, Southern, and Little River Chena.
In this place, you can enjoy recreational fishing and boating. In winter you can also have fun with mushers and snow machines.
The dam of the Chena River Lakes is a habitat for a number of fish species, such as This makes it the most popular sport fishing area in the state of Alaska.
But sport fishing for the grayling species is limited due to overfishing in the 1980s, which led to an alarming decline in the species.
Abyss Lake is an artificial lake in southeast Alaska. It also borders Brady Glacier on the east side, allowing it to receive meltwater that flows into the Dundas River.
The lake is 50 feet deep and provides good fishing for cutthroat trout and rainbowfish can be easily spotted without ice from mid-June to September.
Eklutna is a remote village in central Anchorage City, Alaska, United States. According to the tribal council, it has an estimated population of 70, with many of its tribal members residing in the surrounding communities.
The village of Eklutna is located 24 miles from Anchorage City and just 2 miles from the mouth of the Eklutna River.
In the interior parts of the region lies the village of Dena’ina Athabascan, the last of the eight villages that existed before the arrival of the American colonists, who arrived around 1915 after the construction of the Alaska Railroad. Dena’ina is the oldest inhabited village in the Anchorage area, first being inhabited over 800 years ago.
You will also find many Russians in the area who arrived as missionaries in the 1840s. The cultural exchange between native practices and Orthodox Christianity resulted in the striking spirit houses that can be seen in the Eklutna Cemetery, now a historical park. The cemetery is the most photographed cemetery in the state.
In 2014, the village of Dena’ina was granted a large homestead covering 160 acres. Alaska Natives lived on the homestead for a long time. The donated land has remained untouched for many years and is under conservation where it will be preserved as a sanctuary for wildlife and protected from any form of property expansion.
All residents of Eklutna Village are of Alaskan origin and are known federally as the Native Village of Eklutna. Most residents work on the Eagle River, in Anchorage, or in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley as game rangers, tour guides, and conservationists.
Activities around Lake Eklutna
Although this is a remote area, there are plenty of activities to indulge in thanks to the mountains and bodies of water like Eklutna Lake, the oldest man-made lake in Alaska.
For example, the Eklutna Lake State Recreation Area offers excellent recreation space. There are several activity options such as canoeing and kayaking, mountain bike trails, 40 km of hiking trails, a campsite and a fishing spot. In addition, the lake offers immaculate scenery. The lake is crossed by glaciers and the high peaks of the Chugach Mountains can be seen from the shore.
Visitors can also rent canoes and bicycles for hours or a whole day. There are also 50 campsites; Some are aimed at groups while others are public. Campsites can be booked in advance and are allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Thunderbird Falls, not far off the Glenn Highway, offers an amazing view. It’s also a good place for hiking.
You will also learn about Alaska Native culture at Eklutna Village Historical Park. With the help of guides, explore the spirit houses, outdoor altars, and St. Nicholas Church, which represent the fusion of Russian Orthodox culture and that of the indigenous people.
Swimming is allowed at the lake, but the water is usually cold because of the glaciers.
Animals around Lake Eklutna
A few miles from Eklutna Lake is Anchorage City, a good spot for wildlife viewing. Here you will see many moose that live in the Anchorage bowl which makes the place more unique and exciting.
You might also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of migratory birds that land in the Anchorage area during their migration season. Also, you will experience the wild lands of Anchorage, which is home to diverse animals such as whales, birds, bears, otters, puffins, and salmon that fill the surrounding waters throughout the summer.
You can visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center or the Alaska Zoo for exceptional viewing.
Eklutna Tailrace is the perfect spot for fishing on Eklutna Lake. It is stocked with Pink Fish, Dolly Varden Trout, Silver Salmon, King Salmon and Chum Fish.
In addition, the territory has no regulations. This means you can fish for salmon even when other regions prohibit it. The lake is also popular for sport fishing, particularly along the Glenn Highway. Morning and evening are ideal fishing times as they help cast a shadow that attracts the fish. Colored baits are more attractive to the fish and will bring you better luck.
Lake Eklutna is the oldest artificial lake in Alaska. It has a dam designed to maintain its water level. Its primary mission is to provide hydroelectric power to residents of Anchorage and the surrounding area. However, it has also developed into a huge source of drinking water.
Lake Eklutna is located in a remote place with few residents. The small population makes it ideal for people who love uncrowded places. It has great hiking trails and campgrounds that allow you to experience nature up close. Visiting the area also allows you to swim in a glacier-streaked lake and spot rare species of birds that only appear during their migration season.
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