The level of Kluane Lake, the largest lake in Yukon Territory, was lower than at present during most of the Holocene. The lake rose rapidly in the late seventeenth century to a level 12 m above present, drowning forest and stranding driftwood on a conspicuous high-stand beach, remnants of which are preserved at the south end of the lake. Kluane Lake fell back to near its present level by the end of the eighteenth century and has fluctuated within a range of about 3 m over the last 50 yr. The primary control on historic fluctuations in lake level is the discharge of Slims River, the largest source of water to the lake. We use tree ring and radiocarbon ages, stratigraphy and sub-bottom acoustic data to evaluate two explanations for the dramatic changes in the level of Kluane Lake. Our data support the hypothesis of Hugh Bostock, who suggested in 1969 that the maximum Little Ice Age advance of Kaskawulsh Glacier deposited large amounts of sediment in the Slims River valley and established the present course of Slims River into Kluane Lake. Bostock argued that these events caused the lake to rise and eventually overflow to the north. The overflowing waters incised the Duke River fan at the north end of Kluane Lake and lowered the lake to its present level. This study highlights the potentially dramatic impacts of climate change on regional hydrology during the Little Ice Age in glacierised mountains.