Lakes and Ponds

Wonder Lake
Wonder Lake.

Phillip Vaughn.

Surface Waters - (Rivers, Streams, Lakes and Ponds)

Denali’s surface water system is immense. Over twenty major glaciers, some of the longest in the world, feed numerous silt-laden braided rivers. Upland spruce forests support small clear water streams, which are fed from snow melt. In the northwest corner of the park, a vast, untracked expanse of flat boggy tundra features numerous lakes, ponds and wetlands. Glacier carved valleys have left fiord-like basins, a couple of which host large lakes in the park, and countless glacier produced kettle ponds dot the landscape.

Major rivers originating from the north side of the Park include the Foraker, McKinley, Kantishna, Toklat, and Teklanika Rivers, while on the south side, the Yentna, Kahiltna, and Chulitna rivers dominate. Forming the east boundary of the park is the Nenana River, a popular watercourse for rafting and kayaking during the summer season. Although most streams and rivers within the park are pristine, many are silt-choked gray, brown or light blue from glacial flour, the fine grained sand-silt product of glacial erosion.

The best known lake in the park is Wonder Lake, which, according to the legend, was named by a miner in the early 1900’s when he first gazed upon it saying, "I wonder why we didn’t notice this lake before?" Wonder Lake is 268 feet deep, the largest kettle lake in the park. It is accessible by the park road, and has tent campground facilities not far from its shores. Another large lake in the park is Chilchukabena, located near the northwestern boundary near the village of Lake Minchumina. Two large notable lakes just outside the park boundary are Lake Minchumina, and Chelatna Lake.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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