The Situk River starts at Situk Lake and flows southwest about 18 miles (29 km) through the Malaspina Coastal Plain to the Gulf of Alaska, about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Yakutat.
The name is from the Tlingit language originally reported as "Sitak River," by Captain Mikhail Tebenkov of the Imperial Russian Navy in 1852. The Tlingit village of “Setuck” near the river mouth was founded in about 1875 and abandoned in 1916. The village site is now accessible by road from Yakutat. The river is important to the community of Yakutat for the commercial set net fishery and many Yakutat families rely on the short three month fishing season for their annual income. The Sitak also supports a large population of steelhead trout that arrive in early March, reach their peak migration during early May, and generally exit the river system by the end of June.
The Sitak River has historically been the overflow for water from Russell Lake that forms when Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in North America, surges or rapidly advances to form a temporary dam across Yakutat Bay. The surges of 1986 and 2002 briefly sealed Russell Fjord off from Yakutat Bay creating a lake. In 2002, the water level quickly rose 61 feet (19 m) threatening to breech and flow into Situk Lake and then down the Situk River valley. Geomorphological evidence suggests this has happened repeatedly causing catastrophic floods in the Situk River Valley. Read more here and here. Click here to download or open the CoastView app and explore more of the Situk River and Yakutat Bay.