Aniak is located on the south bank of the Kuskokwim River at the head of Aniak Slough, 59 miles southwest of Russian Mission in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It lies 92 air miles northeast of Bethel and 317 miles west of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 61d 34m N Latitude, 159d 31m W Longitude. (Sec. 12, T017N, R057W, Seward Meridian.) Aniak is located in the Kuskokwim Recording District. The area encompasses 4.7 sq. miles of land and 1.4 sq. miles of water. Climate is maritime in the summer and continental in winter. Temperatures range between -55 and 87. Average yearly precipitation is 19 inches, with snowfall of 60 inches. The Kuskokwim is ice-free from mid-June through October.
Aniak is a Yup'ik word meaning "the place where it comes out," which refers to the mouth of the Aniak River. This river played a key role in the placer gold rush of 1900-01. In 1914, Tom L. Johnson homesteaded the site and opened a store and post office. The Yup'ik village of Aniak had been abandoned long before this time. Eskimos Willie Pete and Sam Simeon brought their families from Ohagamuit to Aniak, which reestablished the Native community. A Russian-era trader named Semen Lukin is credited with the discovery of gold near Aniak in 1932. A Territorial school opened in 1936. Construction of an airfield began in 1939, followed by the erection of the White Alice radar-relay station in 1956, which closed in 1978. The City was incorporated in 1972.
Aniak's population is primarily Yup'ik Eskimo with some Athabascan residents. Subsistence foods contribute largely to villagers' diets. Many families travel to fish camps each summer.
The economy of Aniak is based on government, transportation and retail services. As the largest City in the area, Aniak provides services for surrounding villages. Subsistence activities supplement part-time wage earnings, and some commercial fishing occurs. Poor fish returns since 1997 have significantly affected the community. 14 residents hold commercial fishing permits. The School District, Kuskokwim Native Assoc. and state agencies provide most year-round employment. Salmon, moose, bear, birds, berries and gardens are the primary food sources.
The majority of homes are plumbed and have individual wells. A central well was completed in 1988 by the village corporation; there are also wells at Auntie Marie Nicoli School and the Joe Parent Voc Ed Center. Only a few residents haul water. A central piped sewage system serves most residents, with the exception of the school, the clinic and the Napat subdivision across Aniak Slough. The system has four lift stations, and wastewater is treated in a lagoon. Some homes use individual septic tanks, but permafrost has caused drainfield problems, so most of the unserved homes use pit privies. The City provides septic pumping services. Funds have been requested to replace failing drainfield systems by expanding the piped sewer to serve the remainder of the City. A washeteria is operated by the Village Council. Refuse is collected by a private firm, Aniak Disposal Service, or by individuals. The landfill is operated by the City. Aniak Power & Light is a privately-owned company.
Access to Aniak is limited to air and water. The State-owned airport is 6,000' of asphalt and is lighted, with a 3,000' crosswind runway, and is equipped for instrument approaches. Regular flights are provided by several carriers, including charter operators. Major airport improvements were recently completed. Float planes can also land on Aniak Slough. Fuel and supplies are brought in by barge during the summer; other goods are delivered by air year-round. There is no road connection to other villages, although the frozen river is used as a road by snowmachines during winter. The community has requested construction of a road to Chuathbaluk.
Climate is maritime in the summer and continental in winter. Temperatures range between -55 and 87. Average yearly precipitation is 19 inches, with snowfall of 60 inches. The Kuskokwim is ice-free from mid-June through October.