Chignik River starts at Black Lake and flows south for about 8 miles to Chignik Lake, which is about 7 miles (11 km) long, and then the river continues flowing east for another 2 miles (3.2 km) to Chignik Lagoon, past the fish weir located about 12 miles (19 km) west-southwest of the community of Chignik and 2.3 miles (3.7 km) east-northeast of the community of Chignik Lake, Alaska. The name was first reported in 1899 by Lieutenant Commander J.F. Moser, of the U.S. Navy, who was the captain of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross.
The Chignik Lake system is located on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula and produces the vast majority of salmon in the region. The watershed includes two interconnected lakes. The upper lake is Black Lake, with about 10,130 acres (4100 ha), which is extremely shallow with a maximum depth of 10 feet (3 m) and very turbid. Black Lake drains via the Chignik River into Chignik Lake that is smaller at 5,436 acres (2200 ha) and relatively deep, with a maximum depth of 210 feet (64 m), and surrounded by precipitous mountains. The outlet of Chignik Lake flows into Chignik Lagoon, a very large semi-enclosed tidal estuary, and then into the Gulf of Alaska.
The Chignik salmon populations are tightly managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game primarily using data from the numbers of fish caught and escapement. The escapement is the number of fish that “escape” the fishery and return to their natal streams to spawn. In the Chignik system, the escapement is measured from aerial surveys and counts at a fish weir on the Chignik River using digital video equipment and acoustic sonar. Changes in Black Lake may be causing the loss of this important salmon habitat. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Chignik River and lagoon here: