Originally published in Knik.co
Sitting on the edge of the Municipality of Anchorage, Eklutna is a native village with a population of less than 100, mostly Alaska Natives. The village of Eklutna was established nearly a thousand years ago by the Dena’ina Athabascan tribe. The village remains the oldest inhabited area in the Municipality of Anchorage.
A popular recreation spot for locals, Eklutna Lake is a vast, strikingly blue oasis inhabited by paddle-boarders, kayakers, hikers, campers, bikers, and picnic-takers. The lake is complete with a campground on site as well as several public-use cabins you can hike to.
The name Eklutna is given to the village, lying 25 miles North of Anchorage, the glacier, the river, and the lake. Eklutna is “Idlughet” in the Dena’ina language, which translates to “by the objects.” referring to the mountains in the area, most notably Twin Peaks.
Russian Orthodox missionaries came to the village in the mid-1800s, spreading the word of Christianity to the Natives. A Russian Orthodox Church was built for the newly-converted Eklutna village shortly after the missionaries arrived. This church, known as Old Saint Nicholas Church, was moved from Knik in 1900 to where it stands now. The building, still in Eklutna today, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest standing structure in Anchorage.
Both Russian Orthodoxy and the traditions and faith of the native Dena’ina Athabascans can be seen at the village – most evident at the Eklutna cemetery.
A major cultural feature of the Eklutna area is the graveyard. Located in the village and in use since the mid-1600s, the cemetery (now a historical park) is full of spirit houses. An Athabascan tradition, the spirit houses are built by the loved ones of the deceased. The spirit houses are brightly colored, many featuring a cross symbolizing the Orthodox Christianity of their more recent heritage.
Kayak and bike rentals are available at the lake for those interested in recreational activities other than hiking.
Four-wheelers are allowed on the trails near the lake Sunday through Wednesday from the end of April to the end of November.
Winter activities abound, including snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog mushing, and snow-machining.
The lake, a result of runoff from Eklutna Glacier, is icy and turquoise blue. Glacial silt – a fine, powdery residue of glacial movement – flows from the glacier as ice melts and becomes suspended in the lake’s water. The suspended silt, with particles about the size of flour, reflects the sunlight to create the distinct blue color.
Flowing from Eklutna Lake is the Eklutna River, the source of power for the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project. A dam was first built on the Eklutna River in 1929, and this project has been rebuilt and improved many times in the dam’s existence.
njoy Eklutna, its cultural significance, its hydroelectric power, and its recreational possibilities any time of the year.