Thursday, June 12, 2008

How many of "Feature X" exist in Alaska?

Question: How many rivers are there in Alaska? How many lakes? How about islands?

Answer: This is a type of question without a straight answer. It depends on how you define rivers and lakes, whether places that appear to be islands at high tide count and on the fact that parts of Alaska has not been mapped in high detail. Then there are physical processes that wipe out old features and create new ones.


With these cautions in mind, estimates of rivers, lakes and islands can be found at the Alaska Office of Economic Development's Alaska geography site at http://www.dced.state.ak.us/oed/student_info/learn/aboutgeography.htm. (Update October 2014: This website is no longer maintained by the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development's Division of Economic Development. You can find estimates of the numbers of rivers, lakes, and islands at the State of Alaska's Kids' Corner at http://alaska.gov/kids/learn/aboutgeography.htm.)

According to the United States Board of Geographic Names, there are 2,762 named islands, 3,388 named lakes, and 9,587 named streams in Alaska as of October 2014. You can download the entire dataset at http://geonames.usgs.gov/domestic/download_data.htm.

For more information about mapping, geography and geology in Alaska, check out these three resources:

Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys
http://www.dggs.dnr.state.ak.us/

United States Geological Survey information about Alaska
http://www.usgs.gov/state/state.asp?State=AK

Domestic (Geographic) Names from USGS
http://geonames.usgs.gov/domestic/index.html - Handy resources for learning about place names in Alaska and the other 49 states.

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