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Bristol Bay and the Cook Inlet, Alaska

58.7N 156.7W

June 15th, 2009 Category: Lakes, Rivers

Alaska, USA - June 7th, 2009

Alaska, USA - June 7th, 2009

The Cook Inlet, far right, stretches 290 km (180 mi) from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage in south-central Alaska. Its watershed covers about 100,000 kmĀ² of southern Alaska.

The inlet is bordered on the east by the Aleutian Range, whose peaks are still snow-capped, and to the north by the Alaska River.

Several lakes are located in and near these mountains; the most visible are Becharof Lake (below) and Lake Iliamna (above). The former is located in the Aleutian Range; the latter at the northern end of the Alaskan Peninsula.

Lake Iliamna is the largest lake in Alaska. Through the Kvichak River, its waters drain into Bristol Bay, bottom center.

Bristol Bay is the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, about 400 km (250 mi) long and 290 km (180 mi) wide at its mouth.

The upper reaches of Bristol Bay experience some of the highest tides in the world. One such reach, the Nushagak Bay near Dillingham and another near Naknek in Kvichak Bay have tidal extremes in excess of 30 feet (9.9 m), ranking them as eighth highest in the world.

This, coupled with the extreme number of shoals, sandbars and shallows, makes navigation troublesome, especially during the area’s frequently strong winds.

Sediments pouring into Bristol Bay give its coastal waters a yellowish tinge, while those draining into the Cook Inlet are darker brown. The two lakes mentioned, on the other hand, appear dark blue and free of silt.

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