Wood River Lakes


The Wood River Lake system consists of five interconnected lakes (425 km²) draining to Bristol Bay (59° 20’N lat., 158° 40’W lon.). Situated between precipitous mountains, the lakes are deep (100–150 meters [m]) and range from 6 to 201 km². The lakes are oligotrophic, covered with ice from December through May and are arrayed along a continuum from marine to interior climates. Most of the lake system is located within the Wood–Tikchik State Park. Terrestrial communities include mixed conifer–deciduous forest and deciduous scrub.

Alaska Salmon Program field station on Lake Aleknagik

Alaska Salmon Program field station on Lake Aleknagik

Three facilities are available in the Wood River Lakes. The facility on the lower lake is within the village of Aleknagik (pop. ~250) and is capable of supporting 15 people. A two-story house, a bunkhouse, and a Pan Abode cabin provide housing quarters for all visiting personnel. The Aleknagik facility serves as a base of operations for research on Lake Aleknagik (the lowermost of the lakes) and as a staging ground for research in the upper lakes. Visitors can fly to Dillingham (the largest fishing port in the region, served by regularly scheduled jet flights from Anchorage) and drive the 30 km to our camp. A wet lab, a small lab for limnological studies, and a telephone and fax machine are available, as well as cooking facilities, washer–dryer, and other amenities. Electricity is provided by conventional hook-up to the local community. A Chevrolet suburban and pick-up truck are available for transportation as well as a four-wheel drive ATV.

Our second camp (on Lake Nerka, next in the chain of lakes) is accessible by float plane or, more typically, by boat from Aleknagik. The Lake Nerka facility is capable of supporting eight people; it has a small laboratory, tool shop, storage building, and two bunkhouses. Electrical power is supplied by a 12-kw diesel generator, heat is by propane, and communication is provided by radio-telephone. A four-person cabin is maintained at Lake Kulik (the upper-most of the main lakes) and is accessible by float plane or boat during moderate to high water levels.

Boats available for research in the Wood River Lakes include two very sturdy welded aluminum vessels: a 24′ flat-bottom boat powered by twin 40-hp outboard motors and a 19′ boat powered by a 70-hp motor. We also have an aluminum boat with twin 40-hp jet motors, several 16–18′ skiffs, and an inflatable boat. Each camp has a maintenance shop, fully equipped for carpentry, plumbing, electrical projects or outboard motor and truck repairs.