- This article is about the state of Alaska. For other uses, see Alaska (disambiguation).
|State nickname: The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun|
|Other U.S. States|
|Area||1,717,854 km² (1st)|
|- Land||1,481,347 km²|
|- Water||236,507 km² (13.77%)|
|- Population||626,932 (48th)|
|- Density||0.42 /km² (50th)|
|Admission into Union|
|- Date||January 3, 1959|
|Time zone||Alaska: UTC-9/-8|
Aleutian: UTC-10/-9 (west of 169° 30')
|Latitude||54°40'N to 71°50'N|
|Longitude||130°W to 173°E|
|- Highest||6,194 m|
|- Mean||3,060 m|
|- Lowest||0 m|
|- ISO 3166–2||US-AK (FIPS Code 02)|
|The Last Frontier|
|State bird||Willow Ptarmigan|
|State land mammal||Moose|
|State marine mammal||Bowhead Whale|
|State fish||King Salmon|
|State insect||Skimmer Dragonfly|
|State motto||"North To The Future"|
|State song||"Alaska's Flag"|
|State tree||Sitka Spruce|
|State fossil||Wooly Mammoth|
|State sport||Dog Mushing|
On January 3, 1959, Alaska was admitted to the United States as the 49th state. The population of the state is 626,932, as of 2000. The name "Alaska" is most likely derived from the Aleut word for "great country" or "mainland". The natives called it "Alyeska", meaning "the great land". It is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, Canada to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west, and the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska is the largest state by area in the United States.
Table of contents
Alaska was probably first settled by people who came there across the Bering Land Bridge. Eventually, Alaska became populated by the Inuit and a variety of Native American groups. Most, if not all, of the pre-Columbian population of the Americas probably took this route and continued further south and east.
The first written accounts indicate that the first Europeans to reach Alaska came from Russia. Vitus Bering sailed east and saw Mt. St. Elias. The Russian-American Company hunted otters for their fur. The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation.
At the instigation of U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 on 9 April 1867, and the United States flag was raised on 18 October of that same year (now called Alaska Day). The first American administrator of Alaska was Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski. The purchase was not popular in the continental United States, where Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox". Alaska celebrates the purchase each year on the last Monday of March, calling it Seward's Day.
In 1976, the people of Alaska amended the state's constitution, establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund. The fund invests a portion of the state's mineral revenue, including revenue from the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, 'to benefit all generations of Alaskans.' In March 2005, the fund's value was over $30 billion.
Prior to 1983, the state lay across four different time zones — Pacific Standard Time (UTC −8 hours) in the extreme southeast, a small area of Yukon Standard Time (UTC −9 hours) around Juneau, Alaska-Hawaii Standard Time (UTC −10 hours) in the Anchorage and Fairbanks vicinity, with the Nome area and most of the Aleutian Islands observing Bering Standard Time (UTC −11 hours). In 1983 the number of time zones was reduced to two, with the entire mainland plus the inner Aleutian Islands going to UTC −9 hours (and this zone then being renamed Alaska Standard Time as the Yukon Territory had several years earlier (circa 1975) adopted a single time zone identical to Pacific Standard Time), and the remaining Aleutian Islands were slotted into the UTC −10 hours zone, which was then renamed Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time.
Littke, Peter, Russian-American Bibliography, 2003.
Alaska is the only state that is both in North America and not part of the 48 contiguous states; about 500 miles (800 kilometers) of Canadian territory separate Alaska from Washington. Alaska is the largest state in the United States in terms of land area, 570,374 square miles (1,477,261 km²). If you superimposed a map of Alaska on the Lower 48 states, Alaska would stretch from Minnesota to Texas, and from California to Georgia.
One scheme for describing the state's geography is by labeling the regions:
- South Central Alaska is the southern coastal region with towns, cities, and petroleum industrial plants;
- the Alaska Panhandle, also known as Southeast Alaska, is home to towns, tidewater glaciers and extensive forests;
- the Alaska Interior has big rivers, such as the Yukon River and the Kuskokwim River, as well as Arctic tundra lands and shorelines; and
- the Alaskan Bush is the remote, uncrowded part of the state.
Alaska, with its numerous islands, has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of Alaska is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mount Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.
North America's second largest tide occurs in Turnagain Arm just south of Anchorage, which often sees tidal differences of more than 30 feet.
Map of Alaska – PDF
Much of Alaska is managed by the federal government as national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. There are places in Alaska that are general public lands (BLM land) which are arguably more spectacular than many national parks in the Lower 48. Many of Alaska's state parks would be national parks if they were in other states.
Much of Alaska is managed by corporations called ANCSA, or native, corporations, of which there are thirteen regional ones and dozens of local ones.
Boroughs and census areas
The state's 2003 total gross state product was $31 billion. Its per-capita income for 2003 was $33,213, 14th in the nation. Alaska's main agriculture output is seafood, although nursery stock, dairy products, vegetables, and livestock are produced and used internally. Manufacturing is limited, with most foodstuffs and general goods imported from elsewhere. Employment is primarily in government and industries such as natural resource extraction, shipping, and transportation. Its industrial outputs are crude petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, precious metals, zinc and other mining, seafood processing, timber and wood products. There is also a growing service and tourism sector.
The cost of goods in Alaska has long been higher than in the contiguous 48 states. This has changed for the most part in Anchorage, where the cost of living is actually less than some major cities in the Lower 48, thanks to lower housing and transportation costs. However, rural Alaska suffers from extremely high prices for food and consumer goods due to the lack of transportation infrastructure. Many rural residents come in to Anchorage and purchase food and goods in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club. Some have embraced the free shipping offers of some online retailers to purchase items much more cheaply than they could in their own communities, if they are available at all.
Alaska is arguably the least-connected state in terms of road transportation. The state's road system covers a relatively small area of the state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway, the principal route out of the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by road, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system. One unique feature of the road system is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with the relatively isolated community of Whittier. The tunnel is the longest road tunnel in North America at nearly 2.5 miles and combines a one-lane roadway and train tracks in the same housing. Consequently, eastbound traffic, westbound traffic, and the Alaska Railroad must share the tunnel, resulting in waits of 20 minutes or more to enter.
The Alaska Railroad runs from Seward through Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks to North Pole, with spurs to Whittier and Palmer. The railroad is famous for its summertime passenger services but also plays a vital part in moving Alaska's natural resources, such as coal and gravel, to ports in Anchorage, Whittier and Seward. The Alaska Railroad is the only remaining railroad in North America to use cabooses on its freight trains. The route between Talkeetna and Hurricane (an area between Talkeetna and Denali) features the last remaining flag stop train service in the United States. A stretch of the track along an area inaccessible by road serves as the only transportation to cabins in the area. Residents board the train in Talkeetna and tell the conductor where they want to get off. When they want to come back to town, they wait by the side of the tracks and "flag" the train, giving the train its name.
Most cities and villages in the state are accessible only by sea or air. Alaska has a well-developed ferry system, known as the Alaska Marine Highway System, which serves the cities of Southeast and the Alaska Peninsula. The system also operates a ferry service from Bellingham, Washington up the Inside Passage to Haines (several cruise companies offer cruises up the Inside Passage as well, with service all the way to Seward and Whittier). Cities not served by road or sea can only be reached by air, accounting for Alaska's extremely well-developed Bush air servicesan Alaskan novelty.
Anchorage itself, and to a lesser extent Fairbanks, are serviced by most major airlines. Air travel is the cheapest and most efficient form of transportation in and out of the state. Anchorage recently completed extensive remodeling and construction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to help accommodate the upsurge in tourism (unofficial sources have estimated the numbers for 2004 at some four million tourists arriving in Alaska between May and September).
However, Alaska Airlines has a virtual monopoly on jet air travel within the statemeaning airfares are extremely high. The airline offers frequent jet service (sometimes in combination cargo and passenger Boeing 737-200s) from Anchorage and Fairbanks to regional hubs like Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Kodiak, and other larger communities as well as to major Southeast and Alaska Peninsula communities. Smaller communities are served by the three main regional commuter airlines: Era Aviation, PenAir, and Frontier Flying Service. The smallest towns and villages must rely on scheduled or chartered Bush flying services using general aviation aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, the most popular aircraft in use in the state. But perhaps the most quintessentially Alaskan plane is the Bush seaplane. The world's busiest seaplane base is Lake Hood, located next to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, where flights bound for remote villages without an airstrip carry passengers, cargo, and lots of items from Costco.
Another Alaskan transportation method is the dogsled. In modern times, dog mushing is more of a sport than a true means of transportation. Various races are held around the state, but the most well-known is the Iditarod, a 1,150-mile trail from Anchorage to Nome. The race commemorates the famous 1925 serum run to Nome in which mushers and dogs like Balto took much-needed medicine to the diphtheria-stricken community of Nome when all other means of transportation had failed. Mushers from all over the world come to Anchorage each March to compete for cash prizes and prestige.
As of 2003, the population of Alaska was 648,818.
51.7% is male, and 48.3% is female.
Racially, the state is:
- 67.6% White (Non-Hispanic)
- 15.6% American Indian or Alaska Native
- 4.1% Hispanic
- 4% Asian
- 3.5% Black
- 5.4% mixed race
As of 2000 85.7% of Alaska residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 5.2% speak Native American languages. Spanish speakers make up 2.9% of the population, followed by Tagalog speakers at 1.5% and Korean at 0.8%.
Alaska has long had a problem with "brain drain" as many of its young people, including most of the highest academic achievers, leave the state upon graduating high school. The state has tried to combat this by offering 4 year scholarships to the top 10 percent of Alaska high school graduates.
The National Statuary Hall of the United States of America is part of the Capitol in Washington DC. Each state has selected one or two distinguished citizens and provided statues. Alaska's are of its first two senators:
- Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett (1904–1968) was the territorial delegate to the US Congress from 1944 to 1958, and was elected as the first senior US senator in 1958 and re-elected in 1964. There are streets, buildings, and even the first state ferry, named for him.
- Ernest Gruening (1886–1974) was appointed Governor of the Territory of Alaska in 1939, and served in that position for fourteen years. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1958 and re-elected in 1962.
- Jay Hammond was Governor during the building of the Alaska Pipeline and established the Alaska Permanent Fund, providing Alaskans with essential free money. He is regarded as somewhat of a hero because of this.
Honorae V. Dale
Books about Alaska
Marcia Simpson (d. 2003) has written three books which describe what it is like to live in a small coastal community in Alaska: Rogue's Yarn (2003, ISBN 0425191982), Crow in Stolen Colors (2000, ISBN 1890208361) and Sound Tracks (2001, ISBN 1890208728).
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the true story of Christopher McCandless, a college graduate and top student, who donated his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and moved into the Alaskan wilderness. 1997, ISBN 0385486804
Bob Cherry has written two books, "Spirit of the Raven: An Alaskan Novel" (ISBN 0966543068) and "inua" (ISBN 0966543017). "Spirit of the Raven" is set during Alaska's territorial days and examines the interactions of a culturally diverse group of characters brought together by a murder. "inua" is set after Alaskan statehood and again examines the intersection of cultures and the impact on the traditional Native Alaskan family.
Gore Vidal based his first novel, Williwaw, on his military experiences in the Alaskan Harbor Detachment.
"Johnny's Girl" by Kim Rich, a memoir by the daughter of a 1960s Anchorage mobster and a former stripper. Made into a TV movie. Insightful look into a different side of Anchorage in the 1960s and 1970s. 1999 paperback, ISBN 0882405241
Important cities and towns
Alaska's most populous city is Anchorage, home of 260,284 people, 225,744 of whom live in the urbanized area. It ranks third in the List of U.S. cities by area, behind two other Alaskan cities. Sitka ranks as America's largest city by area, followed closely by Juneau.
Towns > 100,000
Towns of 10,000–100,000
Towns < 10,000
25 Richest Places in Alaska
Ranked by per capita income
1 Halibut Cove, Alaska $89,895
2 Chicken, Alaska $65,400
3 Edna Bay, Alaska $58,967
4 Sunrise, Alaska $56,000
5 Lowell Point, Alaska $45,790
6 Petersville, Alaska $43,200
7 Coldfoot, Alaska $42,620
8 Port Clarence, Alaska $35,286
9 Hobart Bay, Alaska $34,900
10 Red Dog Mine, Alaska $34,348
11 Adak, Alaska $31,747
12 Meyers Chuck, Alaska $31,660
13 Pelican, Alaska $29,347
14 Ester, Alaska $29,155
15 Chignik Lagoon, Alaska $28,941
16 Four Mile Road, Alaska $28,465
17 Healy, Alaska $28,225
18 Moose Pass, Alaska $28,147
19 Cube Cove, Alaska $27,920
20 Womens Bay, Alaska $27,746
21 Skagway, Alaska $27,700
22 Nelson Lagoon, Alaska $27,596
23 Valdez, Alaska $27,341
24 McKinley Park, Alaska $27,255
25 Attu Station, Alaska $26,964
See complete list of Alaska places
Colleges and Universities
- University of Alaska System
- Alaska Bible College
- Alaska Pacific University
- Charter College
- Ilisagvik College
- Sheldon Jackson College
- Wikicities has a wiki about Alaska: Alaska
- State of Alaska website
- US Census Bureau
- Alaska Information
- Alaska Travel Industry Association
- Anchorage Daily News
- Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation
- Russian-American Company "Sealskin" Banknotes
- Alaska Fishing Information
- Photos of Alaska – Terra Galleria
- Alaska Newspapers
- Alaska Republican Party
- Alaska Democrat Party
- Alaska Republican Moderate Party
- Alaskan Independence Party
- Alaska Libertarian Party
- Alaska Green Party
|Regions of Alaska|
|Alaskan Bush | Interior | North Slope | Panhandle | South Central | Tanana Valley|
|Anchorage | Barrow | Bethel | Fairbanks | Homer | Juneau | Kenai | Ketchikan | Kodiak | Kotzebue | Nome | Palmer | Petersburg | Seward | Sitka | Unalaska | Valdez | Wasilla|
|Boroughs and Census Areas|
|Aleutians East | Aleutians West | Anchorage | Bethel | Bristol Bay | Denali | Dillingham | Fairbanks North Star | Haines | Juneau | Kenai Peninsula | Ketchikan Gateway | Kodiak Island | Lake and Peninsula | Matanuska-Susitna | Nome | North Slope | Northwest Arctic | Prince of Wales – Outer Ketchikan | Sitka | Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon | Southeast Fairbanks | Valdez-Cordova | Wade Hampton | Wrangell-Petersburg | Yakutat | Yukon-Koyukuk|
|Political divisions of the United States|