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There are over 3,000 lakes in the Mat-Su Valley, and Big Lake is one of the largest. The Mat-Su Borough, which is short for Matanuska-Susitna, is 24,000 square miles, about the size of West Virginia. With the beauty of the surrounding Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains and the clean glacial water and bays, it is easy to see why the Mat-Su Valley is "Where Alaska Comes to Play". Big Lake's slogan is "Alaska's Year-Round Playground".
Big Lake is a natural lake 15 miles west of Wasilla and about 45 minutes from Anchorage. Many residents live in the Town of Big Lake and commute to Anchorage for work. Its proximity to populated areas has made Big Lake a popular year-round recreation destination. The area's first inhabitants were the Athabascan Dena'ina Indians. Around 1899 the Boston and Klondike Company made the first sled trail via Big Lake into the Talkeetna Mountains. Settlement expanded with homesteaders in 1929 and after World War II. By the late 1950's lodges, cottages and recreation camps, including some for children, had grown up around the lake. By the 1960's and 70's improvements to roads in the area made residential lakefront development practical.
Today there are permanent residences and recreational cabins around Big Lake along with boat ramps, at least one marina, and lakeshore restaurants. Big Lake South Wayside and Big Lake North Wayside recreation sites have campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms and boat launches. Boating is popular on the lake for motor boats, jet skis, canoes and kayaks.
The same development that made Big Lake so accessible for recreation eventually threatened its water quality. Although the lake has been through several studies and conservation plans, its water is still classified as oligotrophic. Oligotrophic lakes have very good water quality with few algal species. They don't usually support large populations of fish, but the fish in oligotrophic lakes tend to grow to exceptional sizes. The same is true of Big Lake. Big Lake has artic char, burbot, northern pike, and rainbow trout. There are also Coho or sliver salmon and sockeye or red salmon. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocked Big Lake until 1993.
Big Lake has been a popular recreation spot for Alaskans since the 1940's. The community of Big Lake and its proximity to Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage make it an accessible destination for visitors from all over. Accommodations range from camping and cabins to resorts and chain hotels. There are restaurants and shopping and any amenities a visitor might want. There are also Iditarod Racer's dog kennels nearby with tours available in the summer. The annual 1,100 mile sled dog race starts just a few miles away in Wasilla.
With the majestic background of the Chugach Mountains and the beautiful clean water, it is easy to see why Big Lake is "Alaska's Year-Round Playground". Its accessibility and amenities make it a great Alaska destination for visitors from all over.
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