Discover the Lowest Point in Alaska

Written by Ella Coppola
Updated: June 11, 2023
© SJ Brown/
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The United States has diverse terrain, from low-lying desert basins to tall icy mountain peaks. While Alaska has a lot of mountainous regions with extremely lofty summits, it also has some shallow low points at the coast. Alaska stretches as the largest of all 50 states in the United States, located on the northwest border of Canada. Because of its proximity to the North Pole, during the Winter months, some parts of Alaska don’t have sunlight for two months, and in the summer, the dark days stretch even more extensively with no sunlight for almost three months.

Portage Lake area, Portage Glacier area, Alaska. The scenery is spectacular while hiking on this beautiful perimeter trail.
While Alaska boasts the tallest point in the United States, Alaska does not have a specific geographical location designated as the lowest point below sea level.

©Arlene Waller/

Alaska is known for its majestic mountains, vast wilderness, beautiful coastline, and unparalleled natural beauty. While the state is famous for its towering peaks, the coastline in Alaska is one to reckon with. While Alaska boasts the tallest point in the United States, Alaska does not have a specific geographical location designated as the lowest point below sea level.

In this article, you will learn about the lowest and highest points of Alaska and the animals that live there.

Lowest Point in Alaska

You can not pinpoint the lowest point in Alaska at a specific place but instead found all along the coast at sea level, where the state meets the Pacific, The Bering Sea, and the Arctic Ocean. Alaska’s lowest points are along the coastlines, where the shores meet the sea. Alaska coastlines are the same elevation as the Pacific and Arctic oceans.

Best National Parks to Visit in July - Glacier Bay National Park
Alaska’s lowest points are along the coastlines, where the shores meet the sea.


Animals that Live at the Lowest Point in Alaska

Despite Aslaska’s harsh subarctic and tundra climate, it is home to a thriving wildlife ecosystem. Alaska’s diverse ecosystem supports a wide range of wildlife on land near the coast and surrounding waters.

Bald Eagle

A Bald Eagle flying with the backdrop of one of Alaska's glacier's Grewingk.
A Bald Eagle is flying against the backdrop of one of Alaska’s glaciers Grewingk.


Scientific Name: Hailiaeetus leucocephalus

The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America and along the coastlines of Alaska. Bald Eagles have 20/5 vision which is much sharper than humans. As a result, these birds can see four to five times as well as typical human eyesight. Bald eagles inhabit diverse habitats in Aslska, like coastal areas, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and even urban environments. However, humans can see them soaring above the coastline at sea level areas hunting their primary food source of fish. They also enjoy eating small birds and other mammals found along the coast.

Bald Eagles in Alaska form monogamous breeding pairs that often remain together for the entirety of their life. They build large nests called “aeries” on tall trees near the water; some nests weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. The nests are so heavy because they are several feet in diameter, and the eagles expand them yearly. This gives them a good vantage point for hunting and raising their young.

Bald Eagles have made a remarkable recovery in Alaska acter facing significant population declines due to habitat destruction and human pesticides like DDT. However, thanks to the conservation efforts and legal protections of Alaska lawmakers, the protection of Bald Eagles in Alaska has rebounded, and humans do not consider these majestic birds endangered or threatened.

Harbor Seal

Harbor seals at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Cook Inlet, Alaska
Harbor seals at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Cook Inlet, Alaska

©Danita Delimont/

Scientific name: Phoca vitulina

You will find Harbor seals along the coastlines of Alaska, including sea-level areas. You will see them sunning themselves on rocks, stretching and doing “yoga” on rocks, or swimming in coastal waters. These seals prefer rocky shores and sandy beaches where they can rest.

Harbor seals weigh between 200 to 300 pounds and are characterized as medium-sized seals. They typically are colored gray to brown but can also sport spots on their back. Harbor seals are skilled hunters with an excellent underwater vision to hunt their prey for fish, such as salmon, herring, or cod, and invertebrates, including squid, shrimp, and crab. These seals hunt in shallow waters and can dive to depths of 600 feet to search for food.

Harbor Seals do not fall on the endangered or threatened list but instead protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with prohibits the hunting, capturing, or harassment of these majestic creatures. Conservation efforts in Alaska for these seals include monitoring their populations, protecting their habitats, and minimizing human disturbances in their breeding areas.

Harbor seals play a vital role in Alaska’s marine ecosystems because of their predator status in nearshore waters and their preying on fish to help maintain and balance the Alaska fish populations. Additionally, their excrement contributes nutrients to coastal ecosystems that support algae growth and other primary products.

Pacific Salmon

Scientific name: Oncorhynchus spp

Several salmon species live in Alaska’s coastal waters, including Chinnok, coho, and sockeye salmon. All these species migrate from the Ocean to Alaska’s rivers and streams to spawn. They spend part of their lives in the Alaskan Sea and return to freshwater at sea level to reproduce.

Chinook Salmon

Largest salmon - chinook salmon

©Kevin Cass/

Scientific name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

Chinook or “King” salmon are the largest species of Pacific Salmon. King salmon, on average, weigh 20-50 pounds but can reach over 100 pounds. These salmon are prized for their rich flavor and sought after recreationally by fishermen for their large size. As a result, some King salmon populations will travel hundreds of miles upriver to spawn in freshwater.

Coho Salmon

A pair of silver salmon, also called coho salmon, leaps from the icy waters of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska.

© Pennell

Scientific name: Oncorhynchus kisutch

Coho or silver salmon are known for their acrobatic leaps and bright silver coloration. They are smaller than Chinook, weigh 8 to 12 pounds, live two years, and spend their first year in freshwater before migrating to the ocean. Silver salmon return to their natal streams in Alaska to spawn, providing significant sport fishing opportunities.

Sockeye Salmon

A pair of bright-red sockeye salmon
Sockeye salmon turn bright red during the spawning season

©Vasik Olga/

Scientific name: Oncorhynchus nerka

Sockeye salmon, or red salmon, are highly prized for their rich flavor and deep red flesh. These fish are medium-sized and extremely tasty to humans for their rich flavor and deep red meat. They weigh 5 to 15 pounds and spawn in large numbers traveling hundreds of miles upstream to reach their freshwater breeding grounds. They will spawn in not only rivers but also lakes in Alaska.

Beluga Whale

Beluga whale at public beach
Beluga whale in clear blue water.

©Luna Vandoorne/

Scientific name: Delphinapterus leucas

Beluga whales display charismatic and unique characteristics as marine mammals that contribute to the rich biodiversity of Alaska’s coastal waters. These graceful and important creatures swim and live in arctic and sub-artic waters, including the coastal areas of Alaska. Humans can also spot them in the Bering Sea, the Chukchi Sea, and the Beaufort Sea, as well as estuaries and river mouths that connect these regions.

Beluga Whales display a distinctive appearance of robust body shape with a bulbous forehead called a “melon.” These marine animals do not have a dorsal fin, and this characteristic helps them navigate under the ice in their Arctic habitat better. They are entirely white, which separates them from other whale species. However, older whales develop yellow or gray patches with age.

Beluga whales are relatively small in size compared to other whale species. Adults measure between 13 and 20 feet in length and weigh between 1,500 to 3,500 pounds. Beluga whales primarily eat fish like salmon, cod, herring, and capelin and include invertebrates such as squid, shrimp, and crab.

These whales display extremely social characteristics similar to humans and often travel in groups called pods. These pods can have a few whales and up to a dozen for larger groups. Belugas have their language: clicks, whistles, and other sounds. The whales use these sounds to communicate, navigate and find prey together in the water.

Beluga whales hold significant cultural meaning to many indigenous groups in Alaska and play a vital role in these communities’ subsistence and cultural practices for generations, providing food, materials, and spiritual connections. Humans protect these lovely marine animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Beluga whales are not considered endangered. , but some species, like the Cook Inlet beluga, are on the endangered list as critical.

Dall’s Porpoise

Dall's porpoise breaching water, its eye visible
Dall’s porpoise is the largest porpoise species.

Scientific name: Phocoenoides dalli

Dall’s porpoise is a small cetacean species commonly found in the coastal waters of Alaska and frequently observed in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. They are known for their fast swimming speeds and distinctive black-and-white markings. In addition, these porpoises display a unique appearance of a robust body and striking black and white coloration.

With a length of 6.5 ft and a mass of around 230 lbs, they can swim up to 34 miles an hour and dive 1,640 feet. They attack at these depths to feed on small schoolings of fish like anchovies, herring, hake, and squid. These whales are known for their agility and speed while hunting prey.

Known for their energetic and highly active behavior, humans have witnessed Dall’s porpoise riding bow waves created by boats and putting on acrobatic displays by jumping in and out of the water. These creatures reach 25 to 30 miles per hour to get that height.

Dall’s porpoise is not considered globally endangered or threatened. However, some local populations may face specific conservation concerns due to factors such as bycatch in fisheries. Monitoring and management efforts aim to ensure the conservation of Dall’s porpoise populations, including those in Alaska.

Sea Otter

river otter vs sea otter
The clever otter employs objects such as stones to crack open mollusks and other food.

©Kirsten Wahlquist/

Scientific name: Enhydra lutris

These highly adaptable marine animals live along the coast of Alaska with their dense fur and ability to use tools such as rocks to break open shellfish. Sea Otters typically inhabit nearshore waters in kelp forests, estuaries, and rocky shorelines between the Aleutian Islands to Southeast Alaska.

Sea Otters display unique characteristics that assist them in the marine lifestyle, such as dense fur consisting of two layers, one consisting of a waterproof outlet layer and an insulating underlayer that help keep them warm in cold waters.

Adult Sea Otters typically measure around 4 to 5 feet and weigh 50 to 100 pounds. These animals are social and live in groups called “rafts.” Rafts consist of a few otters to up to a dozen, and rafts spend a significant amount of time with each other grooming their fur to maintain its insulating properties. These animals are also playful; you can see them rolling, diving, and engaging in various activities in the water.

These animals are predatory creatures with diverse diets, feeding on marine invertebrates, including sea urchins, crabs, clams, snails, and abalone. Sea otters are famous for using tools like rocks to crack open shells to eat prey.

Sea Otter populations in Alaska are classified as “threatened” in southwest Alaska because humans hunt otters in this region for their fur, leading to population declines. Humans protect the otters under the Endangered Species Act and are classified as “threatened” in southwest Alaska. Populations in other parts of Alaska have recovered, but they still face threats such as oil spills, predation by killer whales, and habitat degradation.

Sea otters play a crucial role in ecosystems and considered a keystone species as their presence significantly affects the community structure of nearshore environments. These otters feed on herbivorous invertebrates such as sea urchins that could otherwise overgraze kelp forests and impact the health of coastal ecosystems.

Other Low Points in Alaska

Nunanakanuk Lake sits in the Yukon Delta of Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska, United States. The lake is 9 miles (14km) long and bordered to the southeast by the Kusilvak Mountains. The lake’s name comes from Eskimo origin. At an elevation of -4 ft (1.2m), it is near the lowest point in Alaska.

The Lowest Point in the United States

The United States has jurisdiction over The Mariana Trench, the lowest point in the United States. The trench is in the Western Pacific Ocean. It has a depression with a depth of 10,920 m (35,827 ft).

The Mariana Trench

the Mariana Trench
Mount Everest would fit inside the Mariana Trench. The ocean’s deepest point.


The Mariana Trench holds the title of the deepest known part of the world’s oceans and located in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Mariana Islands. The Mariana Trench reaches a maximum depth of approximately 36,070 feet (10,994 meters), making it the deepest point on Earth. This depth is greater than the height of Mount Everest, the highest peak on land. The trench named after the nearby Mariana Islands, which were, in turn, named after Queen Mariana of Austria.

Highest Point in Alaska

Denali Range Mt McKinley Alaska North America
Mount McKinley stands as the highest peak in North America and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Alaska.

©Real Window Creative/

Mt McKinley, with a significant elevation of 6168 meters ( 20,237 feet), is the highest mountain in North America and Alaska. Located in Denali National Park, in the south-central part of the state, people consider the mountain the third most prominent peak after Mt. Everest in the Himalayas and the Aconcagua in the Andes.

Mount McKinley stands as the highest peak in North America and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Alaska. It is located in Denali National Park in the interior region of Alaska, in the Alaska Range. This range stretches 240 miles north of Anchorage and 130 miles southwest of Fairbanks. Mount McKinley stands over 20,000 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the United States, and offers breathtaking views of the top.

Mount McKinley

President William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, named the mountain after himself. However, the peak’s original name was Denali, meaning “high one” or “great one” in the Athabascan language. In 2015 the U.S. government officially recognized Denali as the mountain’s primary name.

Climbing Mount McKinley requires proper training, experience, and permits because it presents significant challenges to climbers for its altitude, unpredictable weather, and technical climbing routes.

Mount McKinley in Denali National Park has diverse wildlife, from grizzly bears, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and moose. The park’s ecosystem includes alpine tundra, taiga forests, glaciers, and river valleys.

Not just advanced climbers have a chance to experience the beauty of Mount McKinley. Denali Nation Park features jagged peaks, glaciers, and snowfields that offer hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography opportunities.

Mount McKinley and Denali National Park hold cultural significance for indigenous communities, including the Athabascan people. They have a deep connection to the land and consider it a sacred place with historical and spiritual importance. The park’s managers protect it to preserve its natural and cultural values. Conservation efforts focus on maintaining the park’s ecosystems, protecting wildlife habitats, and ensuring sustainable use of resources.

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About the Author

My name is Ella Coppola. I graduated from Southern Methodist University with degrees in Journalism and Ethics in Dallas, Texas. I'm a huge animal lover and have two dogs named Charlie and Meatball.

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