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Becharof Lake, the second* largest lake in Alaska, is located on the Alaskan Peninsula. Stretching an incredible 290,000 acres, the lake measures 35 miles long and 15 miles wide and reaches depths of as much as 600 feet. Deep in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Becharof Lake offers its visitors an unforgettable setting for hunting, fishing, hiking, and observing wildlife.
The land surrounding Lake Becharof is as varied as it is beautiful. There are the sandy beaches and steep cliffs of the Alaska Peninsula's coastline, gently sloping hills, harsh tundra, and even the volcanic Mount Peulik at the lake's southern shore. The lake is part of the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, a 1.2 million acre wilderness area that is accessible only by plane, boat, or hike over rugged, unmarked trail. Most visitors choose to reach Becharof by plane via a commercial flight from Anchorage to the nearby King Salmon Airport. Popular activities at the refuge include hunting, especially for bear, caribou, and moose, fishing, hiking, and camping. The refuge's stunning vistas and varied wildlife also make it an ideal place for wilderness observation and photography. Approximately 500,000 acres of the refuge have been designated by Congress as the Becharof Wilderness, insuring that this land will be protected for many more generations of nature lovers to enjoy.
Becharof Lake is best known for its salmon population. The lake and its tributaries spawn an estimated 6 million sockeye salmon per year, making it the second largest producer of the fish in the world. In addition, the lake and surrounding streams are home to arctic char, grayling, trout, dolly varden, northern pike, and burbot. Fishing is available year-round, and most visiting anglers take advantage of local commercial fishing guides to find the best fishing spots.
The lake's large population of salmon attract brown bear, which can be found at Becharof in some of the largest numbers in the state. The bear have been known to inhabit dens on islands in the lake, a behavior that has not been observed anywhere else in the world. Large numbers of caribou also reside in the land surrounding Becharof Lake, as well as moose, wolverine, and fox. A trip to the nearby coastline affords more nature watching opportunities. Eagles and falcons often nest in the steep cliffs towering above the shoreline. Seals, sea lions, and sea otters can be spotted frolicking in the frigid waters and basking on the sandy beaches, and whales can be found just offshore.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate Becharof Lake and its environs is by air. "Flightseeing" trips are favorite excursions, offering breathtaking views of Becharof Lake, the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, and the coast. Mount Peulik on Lake Becharof's southern shore is not to be missed. The cone shaped volcanic mountain measures 4,835 feet tall. Volcanic activity in this area has been observed as recently as 1977, when the Ukinrek Maars craters were formed. Mount Peulik's gas rocks emit a steady stream of carbon dioxide, and the gases heat the waters at the base of the rocks, where the hot springs reach temperatures of 120 degrees.
For those seeking adventure in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness, Becharof Lake offers the trip of a lifetime. Whether you enjoy fishing, hunting, or just observing the beauty of your surroundings, Becharof won't disappoint. The Becharof Wilderness beckons, promising its visitors a glimpse of natural wonders that they will never forget.
*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.
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