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.