Facts About Alaska - The Biggest State In The US
|Facts About Alaska - The Biggest State In The US By Size|
What is the largest state in the US?
The United States is the third largest country in the world by area and ranks just behind Russia and Canada. All 50 states in the US vary drastically in area. The largest state, Alaska is more than 400 times larger than Rhode Island, the smallest state. In the US, a large area does not mean a large population.
Alaska, a constituent state of the United States of America, was admitted to the union as the 49th state on January 3, 1959. Alaska is a lot of exciting things – it’s the biggest state in the US, a powerhouse of nature, and home to literally 98% of the entire US population of brown bears. With its abundance of wildlife, natural resources, and diverse landscapes, it’s no wonder why Alaska is known as America’s last great frontier!
Let's discover interesting and fun facts about the state and people, attractions and geographical superlatives, and all-important facts about Alaska with KnowInsider.
Where is Alaska on the map?
|Alaska Location Map|
Alaska is located in the north-western part of Canada. Alaska is the largest state of the United States by area. As you can see on the given Alaska state map, it is non-contiguous state situated extreme north-west of North America continent.
Alaska is bordered by Canada’s Yukon territory and British Columbia province to the east; the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north; the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west; the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south; and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. The Bering Strait in the western side separates it from the Russian Federation.
History and origin of the name "Alaska"
Alaska is the 49th state of the USA constituted in 1959; in fact, it was the territory of Russia but in the year 1867 USA purchased. Most of the part of Alaska has Arctic Climate which is totally unfavorable for the human habitat. This is one of the reasons that Alaska is sparsely populated state of the USA. About half of the residents of Alaska live in the Anchorage southern coastal metropolitan area. Juneau, situated in the south eastern part of the state is the capital city of Alaska.
The Mt. Mckinley situated in the almost centre of Alaska is the highest peak (6194 m) of North America continent. It is the peak of Alaska Mountain Range. Alaska map discernibly shows the state has the longest coastline even more than all states of the USA collectively.
The first people probably came to what is now Alaska about 13,000 years ago. They either walked from what is now Russia, which was connected to Alaska by a patch of land up to 600 miles wide called the Bering Land Bridge, or they sailed.
Russia controlled most of the area that is now Alaska from the late 1700s until 1867, when it was purchased by U.S. Secretary of State William Seward for $7.2 million, or about two cents an acre. During World War II, the Japanese occupied two Alaskan islands, Attu and Kiska, for 15 months. Many thought the harsh habitat was a bad buy until gold was struck in 1872. Alaska became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
Indigenous people including the Inuit, Tlingit, Haida, Aleuts, Athabascans and Yup'ik still live here.
Alaska’s name comes from the native Aleut word Alyeska, or Aláxsxaq, which roughly means “great land.”
Facts about the state of Alaska - size and population
Alaska is the largest state of the United States of America and is about twice as big as Texas or four times as big as California. Alaska is roughly the size of the five European countries of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and France combined!
Alaska’s capital is called Juneau. The state capital can only be reached by water or by air. Although Juneau is located on the Alaskan mainland, the terrain is rough and there are no roads linking the capital to any other city.
Juneau is the only US capital situated at an international border and borders Canada in the east of the city's borders.
Alaska borders the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. In fact, Alaska has the longest coastline of any US state with 55,000 km/ 34,000 miles.
The Alaska-Canada border is 2,475 km/ 1,538 miles long and is the longest land border of any US state with Canada.
Alaska has a population of about 700,000 people. The majority of the people in Alaska live in the southern central parts of the state.
Anchorage is Alaska’s most populous city with about 250,000 inhabitants.
Alaska houses the two largest US cities by land area: Juneau is the second largest city of the USA by land area - after Sitka, which is also located in Alaska. Sitka has only about 9,000 inhabitants!
Date of Statehood: January 3, 1959
Population: 710,231 (2010)
Size: 664,988 square miles
Nickname(s): The Last Frontier; Land of the Midnight Sun
Motto: North to the Future
Tree: Sitka Spruce
Bird: Willow Ptarmigan
Nature and landscapes
Mountains: Of the 20 highest peaks in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Denali, the highest peak in North America, is 20,320 ft. above sea level. Denali, the Indian name for the peak, means "The Great One."
Water Bodies: The Yukon River, almost 2,000 miles long, is the third-longest river in the U.S. There are more than 3,000 rivers in Alaska and over 3 million lakes. The largest, Lake Iliamna, encompasses over 1,000 square miles.
Glaciers: Alaska has an estimated 100,000 glaciers, ranging from tiny cirque glaciers to huge valley glaciers. There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world. The largest glacier is the Malaspina at 850 square miles. Five percent of the state, or 29,000 square miles, is covered by glaciers.
Compass Points: Alaska boasts the northernmost (Point Barrow), the easternmost (Pochnoi Point on Semisopochnoi Island in the Aleutians), and the westernmost (Amatignak Island in the Aleutians) points in the United States."
Coastline: Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, has 33,904 miles of shoreline.
Volcanoes: There are more than 70 potentially active volcanoes in Alaska. Several have erupted in recent times. The most violent volcanic eruption of the century took place in 1912 when Novarupta Volcano erupted, creating the Valley of Ten Thousand clouds of smoke which is now part of Katmai National Park.
Earthquakes: On March 27, 1964, North America�s strongest recorded earthquake, with a moment magnitude of 9.2, rocked central Alaska. Each year Alaska has approximately 5,000 earthquakes, including 1,000 that measure above 3.5 on the Richter scale. Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the world, three have occurred in Alaska.
Weather in Alaska
Over a third of all vacation/pleasure, visitors found the weather better than expected. During the summer, average daytime temperatures throughout the state range from the 60s to the 90s.
The average high temperature for Fairbanks in the month of January is 1 degree, the average low is 17 degrees below zero. Don’t be afraid of the cold, with plenty of layers you’ll be fine for a few hours hunting the northern lights.
The highest temperature recorded in Alaska was 100 degrees in Fort Yukon in 1915. If the cold January temperatures in Fairbanks aren’t for you, plan your interior Alaska vacation during the summertime to enjoy warmer temperatures.
The lowest temperature recorded in Alaska was -80 degrees at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971. This is also (not surprisingly) the lowest temperature recorded in the U.S.
For two and a half months, the sun doesn’t set at all in Alaska
New York may be known as the city that never sleeps, but Alaska is the state that never sleeps… at least not in the summer.
Alaska’s Midnight Sun is a well-known phenomenon that occurs typically occurs from late April to August, during which areas of Alaska will literally receive 24 hours of sunlight.
In the state’s northernmost community of Barrow for instance, the sun does not set for 2.5 months.
Alaska Wildlife and Natural Resources
Off the north and west coasts of Alaska, you might spot polar bears, beluga whales, and walruses. More big mammals include black bears, moose, Dall sheep, musk oxen, caribou, and the world’s largest brown bear, the Kodiak. Alaska is also home to birds such as albatross, eagles, and loons.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it is estimated that between 250 to 350 American black bears and 55 to 65 grizzly bears live in Anchorage alongside people.
And while Anchorage has plenty of wild spaces for the bears to hang out, they have been known to mingle from time to time… most recently (and famously) somehow entering an outhouse and surprising a woman by biting her on the butt.
You can see trees including hemlock, pine, cedar, and Sitka spruce, Alaska’s state tree. The state flower is the forget-me-not, which gives off its scent only at night.
Alaska’s biggest export is the mineral zinc, but gold is its most famous export. Alaska is also known for lumber, fish—especially salmon—coal, and jade, the state gem.
Facts about Alaska’s industry and economy
Alaska is the only state that does not collect state sales tax or levy an individual income tax (some cities have a sales tax, however).
According to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, seafood is the economic foundation of many rural communities where more than 21,200 residents or 15% of all rural working-aged were directly employed by the industry.
Alaska produces more than 60% of the commercial fisheries in the U.S. Five species of salmon, four species of crab, cod, shrimp, halibut, and more are harvested in Alaska.
Prudhoe Bay, on the northern Alaskan coast, is North America’s largest oil field.
The trans-Alaska pipeline starts in Prudhoe Bay and stretches more than 800 miles over rugged terrain (including three mountain ranges) to Valdez. More than 18 billion barrels have moved through the pipeline. The pipeline project involved 77,000 workers from 1969 through its completion in 1977.
As of July 2015, Alaska had 10,378 active pilots. With more than 1% of the state’s population with some level of certification, its 3.6 times higher than the U.S. average. The state also has four times the number of airports per square mile. This can be attributed to the fact that so many places in Alaska are only accessible by air or water.
Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world’s largest and busiest seaplane base.
Zinc is the state’s biggest mineral export but gold might be what Alaska is most known for.
Alaska is rife with exceptional food. Whether meals include fresh-caught king crab or locally grown vegetables, restaurants proudly serve the best of the Last Frontier’s treats. Though most restaurants don’t serve iconic Alaska dishes like akutaq (Eskimo ice cream) or game meat (think moose, caribou, and deer), locals still prepare plenty of it.
Few foods are so deeply connected to Alaska as seafood. Fresh salmon, flaky halibut, and monster king crab draw a lot of attention, and rightly so. Whether steamed, seared, or as sushi, this is as fresh as it gets. You’ll also find Kachemak Bay oysters alongside champagne, razor clams in hearty chowders scallops seared to perfection, and rockfish, pollock, and cod hauled out of the depths.
Trees are tapped each spring to produce a select supply of birch syrup. Poured on French toast and also fashioned into candies and used in marinades and glazes, birch syrup imparts a smoky, caramel flavor. It takes 110 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup – there are only about 5,000 gallons produced annually in the entire world, and Alaska produces a significant portion.
These moderately spicy links are the flagship street food in Anchorage, with vendors serving them up out of small carts on sidewalks and at festivals, fairs, and food truck roundups. Each vendor brings their own sauces and sides, so the combinations are limitless, but you’re missing out if you don’t add sautéed onions: the secret ingredient is cola.
Rich glacial soils and the midnight sun produce sweet carrots, crisp potatoes, and plenty of leafy greens, not to mention broccolini, rhubarb, radishes and Romanesco. Anchorage-area farmer's markets bring the best of the harvest to the table. Foraging is as important as farming. Local markets are also a great place to find spruce tip salts, fireweed honey and other foods fashioned from plants growing naturally.
Sourdough starter is such a staple in Alaska, longtime Alaskans are referred to as “sourdoughs.” Other yeasts were difficult to ship and keep alive in Alaska a century or more ago, so sourdough was a favorite. Alaska sourdough typically doesn’t have the sharper sour taste of other sourdough strains. Sourdough makes more than loaves. Look for it in the a.m. as broad, thin sourdough pancakes.
Alaska’s official state sport - dog mushing
Dog mushing was designated the official state sport of Alaska in 1972.
Northern people have used dogs to pull sleds for centuries; once a primary form of transportation in many parts of Alaska (in 2010, Alaska recognized the Alaskan malamute as the official state dog). From this tradition came sled dog racing. Today it is a worldwide sport for both professional competition and family recreation. People come from around the world to participate in Alaska's yearly Iditarod; "The Last Great Race."
Alaska Fun Stuff
- The temperature in northern Alaska dropped to -80ºF in 1971, marking the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States.
- Alaska is called the Land of the Midnight Sun because for over two months in the summer, in the northernmost part of the state, the sun doesn’t set at all!
- The aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, are bands of brightly colored light that dance across the night sky. They’re caused by electrically charged particles from the sun that collide with gases in our atmosphere.
- Try a bite of aqutak, or Eskimo ice cream—a mix of seal oil, animal fat, snow, and wild Alaskan berries.
Best Destinations In Alaska
Denali National Park
In the northern part of the Alaska Range, Denali is the third largest National Park in the United States, encompassing North America's highest mountain. Denali is the 20,320-foot peak's traditional name, but modern explorers dubbed it Mount McKinley. The name of the mountain remained a controversy for over 100 years, and in 2015, “Denali” became the official name for North America’s highest peak.
Names aside, the six million acres of wide river valleys, tundra, high alpine ranges, and glacier-draped mountains are purely spectacular. A single road leads into the park, and only park-approved buses are permitted to travel beyond Savage River. Views of Denali can be enjoyed from the park road, weather permitting.
Located midway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Denali is the home of grizzly bears, wolves, reindeer, elk, and other animals. More than 167 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Another favorite among the park's many things to do are the Sled Dog Kennels, which offer demonstrations and are home to dozens of energetic huskies.
Address: Milepost 240, George Parks Hwy, Denali National Park, Alaska
Tracy Arm Fjord
A fjord edged with glaciers, Tracy Arm is located south of Juneau and is a popular destination for cruise ships and boat tours. Waterfalls tumble down the sharp rock walls, and glaciers calve, creating small icebergs.
The scenic setting lies within the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness of the Tongass National Forest. At the head of the fjord sit the twin Sawyer Glaciers. Wildlife sightings are common on tours, whether it's a brown bear or moose on land, or the whales and seals that inhabit these waters.
Tracy Arm offers just a small slice of glacier viewing in Alaska. Other tourist favorites include Glacier Bay National Park, northwest of Juneau, and Prince William Sound, near Anchorage. Several guiding companies in Juneau, like Adventure Bound Alaska, offer affordable day trips and unobstructed views of the beauty.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Visiting the Kenai Fjords National Park is like stepping back in time to the ice age. Glaciers and ice caps still exist and touch the edge of the ocean, creating dramatic and unforgettable views.
Half of the park is covered in ice year-round, and there are deep fjords that have resulted where the water valleys are formed. These fjords are the ideal home to a lot of aquatic wildlife, and you’ll easily spot migrating whales as well as birds swooping down to feed on the fish in the water.
Because of the icy conditions, many visitors choose to visit the Kenai Fjords National Park on a guided day tour, although there are limited accommodation choices in the park itself.
Just a short drive from the city of Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, an enormous glacier that is calving, or separating, into its own adjacent lake. There are a number of different ways to experience the glacier, ranging from a simple shuttle ride to see it up close or a helicopter ride to truly appreciate the sheer size of the glacier.
The fittest visitors may want to try out the Mendenhall Glacier West Glacier Trail, which is very challenging but provides incredible opportunities for photography. Also worth a visit is the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which includes exhibits about the glacier as well as several viewing platforms.
Best Ways To Visit Alaska
Renting a Car
Car rentals are easiest in Anchorage; all the major rental agencies have offices in Anchorage, often in multiple locations. Rent here, and you’ll have the best selection. The best road trips in Alaska start in Anchorage.
Leave the Driving to Us
If you’d rather let someone else take care of transportation, no problem. Anchorage is at the heart of rail and road travel for Alaska and there are more small aircraft and pilots in Anchorage than anywhere else in the state.
The Alaska Railroad has its largest depot is in Anchorage, and trains depart the city daily all summer long for Denali, Kenai Fjords National Park, and hidden gems like Spencer Glacier whistle stop.
Independent travel doesn’t mean going it alone. Many tour companies start day trips and multi-day excursions in Anchorage. Go out for wildlife viewing, take a guided hike, spot glaciers, and leave all the driving to an expert guide.
You can also use flightseeing companies to get to great places off the road system. The best wilderness bear viewing, remote day fishing, and even a visit to Denali are all possible on a flight out of Anchorage.
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