How big is Alaska?
586,400 square miles (largest state in the union; one-fifth the size of
Two times the size of Texas
33,000 miles of coastline!
1,400 miles north to south
2,700 miles east to west
Over 1/2 the world's glaciers, the largest (Malaspina) of which encompasses
850 square miles
55 miles east of Russia
Only state to have coastlines on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific
Ocean and Bering Sea.
The 3.5 million acres of the Alaska State Park System constitutes the largest
park system in the United States.
The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United
States. It covers almost the whole of Southeast Alaska.
Record high temperature: 1915 +100 degrees F
Record low temperature: Tanana -78 degrees F
High tides of 37 feet
Snow: 24 hours - 62 inches; 1 year - 974 inches (Thompson, Alaska, near
Valdez during the winter of 1952-53).
Longest period of daylight: Barrow Daylight begins May 10 and continues
for almost three months
Longest period of darkness: Barrow Darkness begins November 18 and continues
for almost two months
Largest seal colony: Pribilof islands numbering about one million
Strongest earthquake: March 27, 1964, North America's strongest recorded
earthquake with a force of 8.4 since revised upward to 9.2) on the Richter
The Fifteen Largest Earthquakes in the World
||May 22, 1960
||March 28, 1964
||Prince William Sound, Alaska
||November 4, 1952
||January 31, 1906
||March 9, 1957
||Andreanof Islands, Alaska
||November 6, 1958
||February 4, 1965
||Rat Islands, Alaska
||August 15, 1950
||November 11, 1922
||Feb. 1, 1938
Source: National Earthquake
Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey.
Denali: 20,320 feet (tallest in North America)
Elias: 18,008 feet
Foraker - 17,400 feet
Bona - 16,500 feet
Blackburn - 16,390 feet
Sanford - 16,237 feet
Vancouver - 15,700 feet
Churchhill - 15,638 feet
Fairweather - 15,300 feet
Hubbard - 15,015 feet
Bear - 14,831 feet
Kodiak - 3,588 square miles
Prince of Wales - 2,770 square miles
Chichagof - 2,062 square miles
Iliamna - 1,000 square miles (largest freshwater lake)
Becharof - 458 square miles
Teshekpuk - 315 square miles
Naknek - 242 square miles
Yukon River - total of 2,300 miles; 1,875 are in Alaska
Kodiak bear; 1,400 pounds, 11 feet tall, the largest carnivore in the world
Polar bear; 1,400 pounds, 11 feet tall
Grizzly bear (brown bear); 800 pounds, 9 feet tall
Moose; 1,350 pounds, 5 feet high to shoulder; antlers span 72 inches
Blad eagle; more in Alaska than all the other states combined. As many
as 3,000 bald eagles gather along the Chilkat River in fall and winter
months for late salmon runs.
Plus mountain goat, Dall sheep, bison, musk ox, elk, Sitka black-tailed
deer, reindeer, caribou, black bear, rare glacier or blue bear, otter,
beaver, mink, weasel, fox, lynx, wolverine, muskrat, rabbit, squirrel,
wolf, 400 species of birds of birds including sea bird, swan, crane, duck,
eagle, geese hawk, ptarmigan, falcon, and owl, marine life including seal,
sea otter, walrus, porpoise, 16 kinds of whales, herring, salmon, halibut,
shrimp, lobster, and crab.
Alaksa Marine Highway: Important ferr system which carries passengers and
automobiles, connects 28 Alaska towns as well as British Columbia and Bellinghas,
Alaska Highway: The state's only land link leaving Alaska
Alaska Railroad: Covers 470 miles and joins Seward and Fairbanks, provides
transportation for freight, sightseeing and wilderness bound passengers.
World's largest seaplane base: Lake Hood in Anchorage, accommodating more
than 800 takeoffs and landings on a peak summer day, record peak set in
1984 for one day 1,200. Week days see an average of 500 landings and takeoffs.
Every four years Alaskans elect a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor to
The Alaska State Legislature is made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
Twenty senators are elected to four-year terms; forty representatives serve
Alaska's Constitution was adopted in 1956, and became effective in 1959,
when the state was admitted to the union as the 49th state.
Alaska's U.S. Congressional Delegation is made up of two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, who serve six-year terms of office, and one
representative, Don Young, who serves a two-year term of office.
Population (2013 Census)
- Alaska's population of 736,399 (2013 Census) makes it the third least populous state, Wyoming and Vermont are first and second.
- The state also boasts the lowest population density in the nation. There is 1.3 person per square mile (2013) in Alaska, compared to 84.4 people per square mile for the entire U.S.
- The state's largest city is Anchorage, a south-central city with a little over 300,950 (2013) people.
- The second largest city is Fairbanks, located in the interior of the state, with just over 32,324 (2013) people.
- The average age of Alaskans was 33.8 (2010) years old, the second lowest of any state (Utah has the lowest)
- About 52 percent (2010) of Alaskans are male, the highest percentage of any state
By far, Alaska's most important revenue source is the oil and natural gas
industry, about 90% of the state's revenues.
Alaska accounts for 25% of the oil produced in the United States.
Located near Prudhoe Bay, on the northern Alaskan coast, is North America's
largest oil field. Every day, millions of gallons of oil are removed from
Prudhoe Bay and pumped through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The pipeline,
maintained by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, snakes its way from Prudhoe
Bay on Alaska's northern coast to the southcentral port of Valdez
where the oil is pumped into tankers. One of the largest pipeline systems
in the world, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline moves up to 88,000 barrels of oil
per hour on its 800 mile journey to Valdez.
The state's vast amount of oil revenues are invested in the Alaska Permanent
Fund, an inviolate trust belonging to the people of Alaska. The fund, managed
by the Permanent Fund Corporation, was established in 1976 to generate
perpetual revenues from non-renewable sources for present and future generations
The seafood processing and fishing industries are also important to Alaska.
The fishing and seafood industry is the state's largest private industry
employer. Alaska's waters are rich in seafood. Most of America's salmon,
crab, halibut, and herring come from Alaska.
Forestry is important to Alaska's economy, especially that of the southeastern
region. The timber industry, though currently undergoing much reform, provides
thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to Southeast
Alaska. The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska contains nearly
seventeen million acres and is the largest national forest in the United
Although it might seem unlikely, productive farms operate in Alaska. The
fertile Matanuska and Tanana valleys near Anchorage and Fairbanks produce
many crops, including grains and vegetables. Because of the long summer
days, some vegetables grow to astonishing sizes. Eighty-pound cabbages
and 30-pound turnips have been harvested in the Matanuska Valley.
Hard rock minerals are one of Alaska's most important undeveloped natural
resources, including coal, gold, silver, copper, and many others. Some
geologists believe Alaska contains as much coal as the rest of the United
States combined. According to the Alaska Miners Association, "Alaska now
provides the greatest opportunity for minerals exploration and development
in all of North America."
World's largest producer of zinc: Red Dog Mine
Tourism is also one of the state's most important industries. Every year
millions of people visit the state of Alaska.
Average household income: $60,853, fifth highest in the nation
The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) authorizes the
operation of state postsecondary institutions, and provides postsecondary
students with educational loans.
Find out about available Student Aid, including student loans, grants,
and exchange programs administered by ACPE.
Public schools in Alaska are listed in the Department of Education'sschool
The University of Alaska consists of three regional campuses: the University
of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University
of Alaska Southeast (in Juneau).
Alaska Pacific University has a campus in Anchorage, one in the Matanuska-Susitna
Valley, and one in Homer.
The Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) is a web site that gives
people access to library, government, local community, and Internet resources.
Native Alaskan Information
The term Alaska Native, referring to Alaska's original inhabitants, includes
Aleut, Eskimo and Indian groups who differ from each other in ethnic origin,
language and culture. In 1996, Alaska Natives constituted 16.5% of the
state's total population.
In 1971 the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed by U.S.
Congress. Alaska Natives received 44 million acres of land and $962.5 million,
in exchange for the extinguishment of their aboriginal land claims. The
cash and lands became the property of the 13 regional, 4 urban, and over
200 village Native corporations formed by the Act. Any Native Alaskan born
before passage of the Act who could prove one-quarter blood Native ancestry,
was eligible to enroll in a local and regional corporation, entitling him
or her to 100 shares in both corporations.
- Purchased from Russia in 1867 for under 2 cents an acre ($7.2 million).
State motto: North to the Future. It was chosen in 1967 during the Alaska
Purchase Centennial and was created by Juneau newsman Richard Peter. The motto
is meant to represent Alaska as a land of promise.
- Alaska's state capital is Juneau,
the only state capital in the U.S. which has no road access and can only be
reached by air or water.
- State seal: Created in 1910 by an "unnamed
- State flag: Designed by a 13 year old
student from Chignuk, Alaska. It was adopted as the territoial flag in 1927.
The blue field is for the sky and the Forget-Me-Not, the state flower. The
North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska. the most northerly of
the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear - symbolizing strength.
State nickname: "The Last Frontier". The name Alaska
is derived from the Aleut word "Alyeska," meaning "great land."
- State flower: Forget-me-knot; The plant
grows well in most of Alaska's varied climate. It was adopted in 1949.
- State bird: Alaska Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus alascensis Swarth);
It can change it's color from light brown to snow white. The willow ptarmigan
was named Alaska's state bird in 1955.
- State mammal: The moose
was made the official Alaska land mammal when Governor Tony Knowles signed
SB 265 into law on May 1, 1998.
- State tree: Sitka spruce (picea
sitchenensis); The evergreen is found throughout the southeastern and central
areas of Alaska and was adopted in 1962.
- State marine mammal: Bowhead whale adopted in 1983.
- State fish: Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha); King salmon weighing
up to 100 lb. have been caught in Alaska. The king salmon is also known as
the chinook salmon and is a popular sport fish. It became the state fish in
- State sport: Dog mushing. It once
was the primary form of transportation in most of Alaska. Today dog sled racing
is a popular winter sport. It was adopted as the state sport in 1972.
- State gem: Jade; Alaska has a large deposit
of jade, including a big mountain filled with dark green jade on the Seward
Peninsula. It was adopted in 1968.
- State mineral: Gold; The search for gold
played a major role in shaping the history of Alaska, from the discovery of
gold in Juneau to the great gold rush at Nome. Gold was named the state mineral
- State insect: Four spot skimmer dragonfly.
- State fossil: The great Wooly Mammothadopted
- State song: "Alaska's Flag", written by Marie Drake and set to music by
- Eight stars of gold on a field of blue,
- Alaska's Flag, may it mean to you
- The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
- The mountain lakes and the flow'rs nearby,
- The gold of the early sourdough dreams,
- The precious gold of the hills and streams,
- The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
- The Bear, the Dipper, and shining high,
- The great North star with its steady light,
- O'er land and sea a beacon bright,
- Alaska's Flag to Alaskans dear,
- The simple flag of a last frontier.
About 15,000 years ago, the ice age caused great land masses (which today
are under water) to become exposed. One such land mass connected Alaska
to Siberia. Anthropologists now believe that most of Alaska's native people
are descended from the nomadic hunters and gathers who cross this land
bridge. These first Alaskans developed into Eskimos (northern and western
regions of Alaska), Aleuts (Aleutian Islands) and Indians (Tlingits and
Athabascans in Southeast and central Alaska). In
8,000 BC the Ice Age ended and rising waters covered the land bridge.
In the 1700s and 1800s, two other small Indian tribes (Tsimshians and Haidas)
moved from Canada to southeast Alaska.
Outsiders first discovered Alaska in 1741, when Danish explorer Vitus Bering
sighted it on a voyage from Siberia. The fur pelts
they brought back turned out to be immensely valuable to the Chinese -
a single pelt could be worth three times the yearly pay of a sailor! And
the 'fur rush' was on!
In 1778 British Captain James Cook explored the Alaskan
coast, seeking Northwest Passage back to the Atlantic. On the way back
to England his crew almost mutinied, wanting to go back to Alaska, after
stopping in China and discovering how much sea otter pelts were worth.
The first settlement in Alaska was established by Russian whalers and fur
traders on Kodiak Island in 1784.
From 1791-1795 British Captain George Vancouver explored
the Northwest Coast exhaustively with two ships, but found no Northwest
In 1799 Aleksandr Baranov consolidated Russian possession
of Alaska with fort and trading base at Sitka.
After expanding their reach all the way to Sitka, war broke out in Europe
in the 1820's, and the Russians began to lose interest in Alaska.
In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward offered Russia $7,200,000,
or two cents per acre, for Alaska.
On October 18, 1867, Alaska officially became the property of the United
States, to the chagrin of many Americans, who called the purchase "Seward's
Joe Juneau's 1880 discovery of gold ushered in the gold rush era. Thousands
of people flocked to Alaska, seeking their fortune in the wild frontier.
After the gold rush clamor subsided and while the country battled a depression,
most of the nation forgot about the territory thousands of miles to the
In 1922 Roy Jones made the first floatplane trip
up the Inside Passage; such small aircraft revolutionize travel in the
A 674 mile dogsled relay in 1922 brought diphtheria
vaccine to Nome
When America declared war on Japan in 1941, Alaska's strategic position
became apparent, and Americans once again perceived "Seward's Folly" to
be an asset.
In 1943, Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands which started the "One Thousand
Mile War," the first battle fought on American soil since the Civil War.
140,000 military were stationed in Alaska. A 1,523 mile gravel highway
was built through Canada to Fairbanks as a supply route for military personnel.
Completed in just eight months, the Alaska Highway is still the only roade
linking Alaska to the lower 48 states.
In 1958, Congress finally approved the Alaska Statehood Act, and Alaska
officially became the 49th state on January 3, 1959.
Good Friday, 1964 second largest earthquake
in recorded history struck Alaska.
In 1968 10 billion barrels of oil were discovered
at Prudhoe Bay.
In 1977 the first oil flowed through an 800 mile
engineering feat - the Alaska Pipeline.
The Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation
Act (ANILCA) was passedin 1980, establishing new parks and settling Alaska
Native land claims.
In 1989 Tanker Exxon Valdez rams Bligh Reef in Prince
William Sound, creating a massive oil spill and years of work for hundreds
Today, Alaska is prized for its natural beauty and its vast supply of natural
Although few visitors still expect to find Alaskans living in igloos and
riding on dog sleds, many are surprised to discover that daily life for
most Alaskans is much like life in the "Lower 48." Some Alaskans choose
an isolated and independent life, but most live in modern homes, drive
automobiles, watch television, and shop in modern stores. Alaska's larger
communities have paved streets, traffic lights, fast food restaurants,
theaters, recreation facilities, modern health care facilities, and the
conveniences found in most modern cities. Art galleries, museums, concerts,
and live theater as well as a fine statewide university system also contributes
to the quality of life enjoyed by Alaskans. Satellites beam telephone service
and television into even the most isolated villages. Use of this satellite
system allows the state to provide nearly every Alaskan community with
network television. Although some of Alaska's smaller towns have one-room
school houses, most classrooms throughout the state are very similar to
schools anywhere in the U.S.
Many thanks to Rick L. Kisinger for Alaska population updates!
Page created 5/1/97 and last updated 1/12/15
© 1997-2015 John Combs unless otherwise noted