The first humans probably arrived in what is now Alaska about 13,000 years ago. They either came from modern Russia, which was connected to Alaska by a piece of land up to 600 miles wide called the Bering Bridge, or they sailed. Russians settled here in 1784, and in 1867 the United States purchased the land for two cents an acre. Many thought the harsh habitat was a bad buy until gold was struck in 1872.
Alaska became the 49th US state in 1959. Indigenous peoples still live here, including the Inuit, Tlingit, Haida, Aleut, Athabaskan and Yupik. Alaska’s name comes from the Aboriginal Aleut word Alyeska, or Aláxsxaq, which roughly means “great land”.
Geography of Alaska
Head north through the contiguous (meaning united) United States, cross the border into Canada, and then head west to Alaska, the largest state (by area) in the Union. According to itypetravel.com, the state borders Canada in the east, the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea in the west, and the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska in the south. Alaska deserves its cold reputation. Much of the state is covered in a layer of permafrost—permanently frozen soil—and is home to the largest glacier in North America. Called the Bering Glacier, it covers 2,250 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Delaware. The northern and western coasts are tundra landscapes: flat and treeless with gusts of wind. Brr! Visit Denali National Park to see its snowy celebrity Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. The taiga forest in the center of the state is full of evergreen trees, lakes and meadows. Along the southeast coast you will even find rainforests. But be careful! Alaska has over 40 active volcanoes.
Wildlife of Alaska
On the northern and western coasts of Alaska, you can spot polar bears, beluga whales, and walruses. Larger mammals include black bears, elk, Dall sheep, musk oxen, caribou, and the world’s largest brown bear, Kodiak. Alaska is also home to birds such as the albatross, eagles and loons. You can see trees including hemlock, pine, cedar, and sitka spruce, the state tree of Alaska. The state flower is the forget-me-not, which only releases its scent at night.
Population: 32.164 thousand people (2011)
Area: 8430.4 sq. km
City status since: 1900
Time zone: UTC-9
Altitude: 17 m
The capital of Alaska is Juneau. It is a port city in the southeast of the state, located on the shores of the Gastineau Strait. Juneau itself is small in population, but the territory subordinate to the municipality is quite extensive – it is the largest state capital in the United States by area. However, more than 90% of the territory of Juneau falls on the taiga, mountains of the Coast Range, glaciers and surrounding islands. The municipality’s eastern border is in contact with the Canadian province of British Columbia. See Alaska cities.
Juneau is a city of gold diggers. Thanks to the “gold rush” it arose, and it was named after one of the gold diggers – Joseph Juneau. Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Tlingit tribes hunted in Juneau territory. Intertribal auctions were also held here: people from the Tsimshians and Haida tribes converged here. The first “white” explorer of the area was George Vancouver in the 1790s. But only in 1880 a settled settlement appeared here. Gold nuggets were found in the district, and adventurers were drawn to ships in search of wealth. At first it was a campground near the mines, called Harrisburg. Soon it was renamed Rockwell, but already in 1881 the name Juneau was fixed. In 1959, the city was assigned the status of the capital of Alaska.
The economic life of Juneau is provided by the public sector, fishing and tourism. Among the local attractions are the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas (it is called “Russian”) and the Museum of Alaska. The remaining objects of tourist attention are outside the territory of urban development. These are the beauties of two national parks, the majestic views of the Tracy Ann fjord, hiking trails through the mountains, gorges and forests.
Sitka National Historical Park
In 1910, the Sitka National Historical Park was declared the oldest park in the country on an area of 43 hectares. In the past, the Tling Indian tribe lived in the area and was defeated in 1804 by Russian immigrants. Sitka thus became the capital of Russian Alaska.
Sitka is located in the southeastern part of Alaska, on the mountainous island Baranof Island. It is surrounded on all sides by small but densely forested islands. Mount Edgecumbe and Mt. Fuji. The original Indian population left behind a large number of monuments, especially historic dwellings. Here you can find a large collection of Native American totems as well as demonstrations of Native American dances and rituals. The oldest Native American products can be seen at the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This museum is housed in the oldest concrete building built in Alaska.
After the arrival of the Russians, various secular buildings began to be built here, such as the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michel from 1844 – 1848 or Castle Hill. St. Michel is without a doubt the most photographed monument in the town, it was the first building of its kind in the United States. In 1966, the cathedral was destroyed by fire and later renovated.
The territory of Sitka was subsequently bought by the Americans from the Russian government. Nevertheless, a number of Russian buildings have been preserved here to this day, and Sitka is thus full of Russian history. The oldest undamaged building in the city is the Russian Bishop’s House, built in 1842 for the local bishop.
Thanks to its great location, Sitka is also attractive for its beautiful surrounding landscape and rich underwater life. The area around Sitka has thus become home to many species of wild animals, such as otters, seals, eagles or seagulls. The nearby island of St. Lazaria is a refuge for numerous species of wild birds, which nest here in the summer months and later produce young. The whole island was therefore declared an animal reserve by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.