The Tlikakila River is located in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and drains an area of 1,610 square kilometers (622 square miles). Runoff from the Tlikakila River Basin accounts for about one half of the total inflow to Lake Clark. Glaciers occupy about one third of the basin and affect the runoff characteristics of the Tlikakila River. As part of a cooperative study with the National Park Service, glacier changes and runoff characteristics in the Tlikakila River Basin were studied in water years 2001 and 2002.
Based on analyses of remote sensing data and on airborne laser profiling, most glaciers in the Tlikakila River Basin have retreated and thinned from 1957 to the present. Volume loss from 1957-2001 from the Tanaina Glacier, the largest glacier in the Tlikakila River Basin, was estimated to be 6.1 x 109 cubic meters or 1.4 x 108 cubic meters per year. For the 2001 water year, mass balance measurements made on the three largest glaciers in the Tlikakila River BasinTanaina, Glacier Fork, and North Forkall indicate a negative mass balance.
Runoff measured near the mouth of the Tlikakila River for water year 2001 was 1.70 meters. Of this total, 0.18 meters (11 percent) was from glacier ice melt, 1.27 meters (75 percent) was from snowmelt, 0.24 meters (14 percent) was from rainfall runoff, and 0.01 meters (1 percent) was from ground water. Although ground water is a small component of runoff, it provides a critical source of warm water for fish survival in the lower reaches of the Tlikakila River.