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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Alaska!

General Alaska Facts

  • Outsiders first discovered Alaska in 1741 when Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering sighted it on a voyage from Siberia 
  • Russian whalers and fur traders on Kodiak Island established the first settlement in Alaska in 1784.
  • In 1867 United States 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. Many Americans called the purchase "Seward's Folly."  
  • Alaska officially became the 49th state on January 3, 1959. 
  • Joe Juneau's 1880 discovery of gold ushered in the gold rush era.
  • The discovery of gold in the Yukon began a gold rush in 1898. Later gold was discovered at Nome and Fairbanks
  • Juneau is the only capital city in the United States accessible only by boat or plane.  
  • The state's largest city is Anchorage; the second largest is Fairbanks.
  • Nearly one-third of Alaska lies within the Arctic Circle
  • Alaska is a geographical marvel. 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. When a scale map of Alaska is superimposed on a map of the 48 lower states, Alaska extends from coast to coast. 
  • Alaska is the United State's largest state and is over twice the size of Texas. Measuring from north to south the state is approximately 1,400 miles long and measuring from east to west it is 2,700 miles wide. Alaska is 586,400 square miles.   The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times. Alaska is larger than the next four largest states combined! 
  • The state boasts the lowest population density in the nation. 
  • One half of Alaska's population lives in the Anchorage area.

    The native peoples of Alaska include Aleuts, Inupiat Eskimos, Yupik Eskimos, and the Athapaskan, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes. The term Alaska native refers to Alaska's original inhabitants including Aleut, Eskimo and Indian groups 

  • There are more private airplane pilots per capita in Alaska than in any other state.

  • Alaska is less than 3 miles from Russia! This is the distance between Big and Little Diomede Island. The rest of Alaska is 55 miles east of Russia.
  • Alaska is the only state to have coastlines on three different seas; the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, has 33,904 miles of shoreline. Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the United States combined!  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.  Becharof - 458 square miles Teshekpuk - 315 square miles  Naknek - 242 square miles  

  • 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.

  • Agattu, Attu, and Kiska are the only parts of North America occupied by Japanese troops during World War II.  

    Of the 20 highest peaks in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, is 20,320 ft. above sea level. Denali, the Indian name for the peak, means "The Great One."  The Alaska Range is the largest mountain chain in the state. It covers from the Alaska Peninsula to the Yukon Territory.  

    Mount 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

  • In 1986 Mount Augustine erupted near Anchorage.  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 Smokes which is now part of Katmai National Park 


    Alaska's wildlife is a big attraction

    Kodiak Bear; 1,400 pounds, 11 feet tall

    Polar Bear; 1,400 pounds, 11 feet tall

    Grizzly Bear (Brown Bear); 800 pounds, 9 feet tall

    Moose; Average 1,350 pounds, 5 feet high to shoulder

    Antlers span; 72 inches

     The moose is the largest member of the deer family and can weigh over 1500 pounds.

    The polar bear rarely goes onto land. It prefers to hunt seals on the ice pack. The polar bear is the largest carnivorous animal on earth.

    The musk ox is a long-haired oxen that is a holdover from the Ice Age.

    The Kodiak bear is the largest bear in the world.

  • Alaska's fish are another big attraction 

     The largest king salmon caught by rod and reel weighed over 100 pounds!

    Halibut live on the bottom of the ocean floor off Alaska's coast and can weigh over 400 pounds.

    The arctic grayling has a large dorsal fin and can live only in cold, clearwater streams and lakes.

    Alaskan commercial fisherman earn hundreds of millions of dollars each year catching salmon, halibut, and cod. Southwest Alaska features some of the finest wild rainbow trout fishing in the world! The sheefish is the largest member of the whitefish family and looks like a tarpon. 

  • The fishing and seafood industry is the state's largest private industry employer.  
  • Most of America's salmon, crab, halibut, and herring come from Alaska

     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.

    The Malaspina Glacier near Yakutat is larger than the state of Rhode Island

  • Alaska's Parklands are unique

     Wood-Tikchik State Park near Dillingham is the largest state park in the United States.

     Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States.

     Denali National Park is home to Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet above sea level.

    Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve near Gustavus features 16 tidewater glaciers and excellent whale watching opportunities.

     Tongass National Forest near Juneau is the largest in the United States.

     The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are both over 19,000,000 acres in size.   

  • Alaska's most important revenue source is the oil and natural gas industry.
  • Alaska accounts for 25% of the oil produced in the United States  
  • Prudhoe Bay, on the northern Alaskan coast, is North America's largest oil field.
  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline moves up to 88,000 barrels of oil per hour on its 800 mile journey to Valdez. .
  • The wild Forget-me-Not is the official state flower. The Territorial Legislature adopted it in 1917.
  • The Willow Ptarmigan is the official state bird. It can change its color from light brown to snow white. The Willow Ptarmigan was named Alaska's state bird in 1955.
  •  The Sitka Spruce is the official state tree. The evergreen is found throughout the southeastern and central areas of Alaska. The Territorial Legislature adopted it in 1962. 
  • State Marine Mammal: Bowhead whale 
  • State Fish: King 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 1962.
  • 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 an big mountain filled with dark green jade on the Seward Peninsula 
  • 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 in 1968.
  • State Insect: Four spot skimmer dragonfly
  • An unnamed draftsman created the state seal in 1910. It consists of a rising sun shining on forests, lake, fishing and shipping boats, and agricultural and mining activities.
  • The state motto is North to the Future. 
  • In 1926 13-year-old Bennie Benson from Cognac, Alaska designed the state flag.
  • Alaska has been called America's Last Frontier. .
  • The Alaska Highway was originally built as a military supply road during World War II.   
  • Oil is the state's most valuable natural resource. The area includes what is thought to be the largest oil field in North America.
  • Alaska's geographic center is 60 miles northwest of Mount McKinley.
  • Alaska's weather:  The average snowfall in Valdez exceeds 300 inches per year. Nearby Thompson Pass averages over 500 inches of snow each year! The average high temperature for Fairbanks in the month of January is -1 degree F. The highest ever recorded temperature in Alaska was 100 degrees F in Fort Yukon.

    The coldest ever recorded temperature in Alaska was -80 degrees F at Prospect Creek in the Brooks Range! Coastal Alaska winters are much milder than Interior Alaska winters due to Pacific Ocean influences.In 1915 the record high temperature in Alaska was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Fort Yukon; the record low temperature was -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971. Summer tourist season averages low to mid 60's in the daytime and low 50's at night.

  • The Alaskan malamute sled dog is strong and heavily coated. It was developed as a breed by a group of Eskimos named the Malemiuts.
  • Alaska's name is based on the Eskimo word Alakshak meaning great lands or peninsula.
  • Alaska has areas that get 24 hours of daylight and 24 hours of night 
  • 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. 

  • Islands (largest)  Kodiak - 3,588 square miles Prince of Wales - 2,770 square miles  Chichagof - 2,062 square miles 

The Towns and Cities of Alaska (For more information refer to Gulf of Alaska Cruise Page)


Barrow - locate on the Beaufort Sea, is the northernmost settlement in the United States, and has 82 days between May and August when the sun never drops below the horizon.


Prudhoe Bay - is the origination of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The insulated pipeline pumps about 1.2 million barrels of oil a day from the North Slope fields to Valdez. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska population - 7


Kotzebue - on the northwest coast, lies just above the Arctic Circle, as does nearly one-third of Alaska. Kotzebue, Alaska population - 3,107


Nome - was a gold-fever boom town in 1900. Today Nome is the finish line for the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Nome, Alaska population - 3493


Bethel - in the largest community in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, most of the population is Yup'ik Eskimos. It is the regions commercial and air transportation hub. The Kuskokwim 300, the world's premier middle-distance sled dog race, begins and ends here. Bethel, Alaska population - 5,736


Dutch Harbor (Unalaska) - set amid the stunning scenery of the Aleutian Islands, is a top commerical fishing port renowned for its unique history, plentiful bird watching and world-class sport fishing opportunities. Dutch Harbor, Alaska population - 4,051


Fairbanks - has the widest temperature spread of any city on earth, from -66 to 99 degree F. Fairbanks, Alaska - population - 29,670


Dillingham - began life as a Russian trading center in 1818. Located on Bristol Bay, it is now a commercial and sport fishing center and the gateway to Wood-Tikchik State Park. At 1.6 million acres, it is the largest state park in the nation. Dillingham, Alaska population - 2,475


King Salmon - on the Alaska Peninsula, is a fishing hub and gateway to Katmai National Park, a 4-million-arce protected area since 1918. Nearby Bristol Bay is home to the world's largest red salmon fishery. King Salmon, Alaska population - 392


Anchorage - is Alaska's largest city, located on Cook Inlet which has the second-highest tidal range in the country. Thanks to long daylight hours, the nearby Matanuska Valley raises giant vegetables, such as cabbages the size of basketballs. Anchorage, Alaska population - 269,070


Valdez - is the southern terminus for the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and the northernmost ice-free port in the Western Hemisphere.Valdez, Alaska population - 4,171


Cordova- takes its name from a nearby strait, named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Dan Salvador Fidalgo in 1970. The town's fishing fleet is the source for much of the famed Copper River salmon that gourmet seafood lovers anxiously await each spring. Cordova, Alaska population - 2,434


Alaskan Words

  • Alaskan Horse Mosquitoes, big ones and lots of them
  • Blue Cloud Southern term for a break in a cloudy sky.
  • Breakup The time in spring with ice begins to melt and the rivers start to flow, signaling the end of winter.
  • The Bush Any part of Alaska inaccessible by road.
  • Bush Pilot A pilot who services remote areas in a small plane, which is commonly equipped with floats or skis.
  • Cabin Fever The state of being housebound, typically in cramped quarters, due to inclement weather and darkness.
  • Cache Small structure built on stilts to protect food from animals; also used colloquially to refer to small corner stores.
  • Calve The action by which glacial ice breaks off, or calves, from a glacier to form icebergs.
  • Cheechako A newcomer to Alaska; the opposite of a sourdough or old-timer.
  • Chum Another name for dog salmon.
  • Iditarod The thousand-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome held annually in March. 
  • Lower 48 Local reference to the continental United States minus Hawaii, which is also normally excluded in special shipping rates.
  • Midnight Sun The sun above the horizon at midnight on the longest day of the year.
  • Mukluks Sealskin or reindeer-skin boots traditionally worn by the Inuit.
  • Outside Any place not in Alaska.
  • Pay Dirt A mining term referring to placer gold that was sure to bring a profit to a miner.
  • Quiviut Wool from the Alaskan musk ox.
  • Southeast A local term for Southeast Alaska.
  • Southeast Sneaker Brown rubber boots residents tend to wear often; whether it is raining or just in case.
  • Sourdough This term applies to anyone who has managed to weather an Alaskan winter, or an old-time resident who is "sour on the country but without enough dough to get out."
  • Taku Wind A sudden, powerful wind gusting up to 100 mph, which can cause rain to fall sideways.
  • Termination Dust The first snowfall marking the beginning to winter.
  • Ulu A fan-shaped knife used for chopping meat.    

Biggest MISCONCEPTIONS About Alaska


Most visitors have pleasant surprises in store when they come to Alaska. Three common misconceptions concerning Alaska are weather, road conditions, and prices.


Weather is the #1 misconception. 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.


Road conditions are usually better than expected. Almost the entire length of the Alaska Highway is asphalt-surfaced, and approximately half of the roads in the state’s highway system are paved.

The third misconception is price. Contrary to popular belief, prices throughout Alaska are generally quite reasonable. To help illustrate the cost of a vacation, the following chart provides high and low prices for a few of the basics. More specific pricing may be obtained in the Official State Vacation Planner.


MEALS  Expect variety in price and in menu.

Deluxe Hamburger

Salmon Dinner

Breakfast $5.00-9.95




ACCOMMODATIONS Rates reflect the low tariff in the off season the high in the summer months.

Hotel/Motel, Standard

Hotel/Motel, Deluxe

Bed & Breakfast

Wilderness Lodge

Private Cabins  $40.-90.






CAMPING Reservations suggested.


RV Hookup From $5.00/day

From $10.00/day



Half-Day City Tour


Whale Watching

3- and 4-Day Cruises From $9/person

From $90./hour

From $90./day

From $300./day


FISHING  Alaska sportfishing licenses for nonresidents are available in Alaska sporting good stores or from an outfitter.

3-Day Nonresident License

14-Day Nonres. License

Charter Boat Fishing From$120.00/day


Alaska Humor

Please! No Offense Intended...Just Sharing Some Smiles


Funny State Slogans (Rejected State Mottos)

Alaska:  11,623 Eskimos Can't Be Wrong!

Alaska!  Come freeze your butt off!




     Sam had been in business for 25 years and is finally sick of the stress.  He quits his job and buys 50 acres of land in Alaska as far from humanity as possible.

     Sam sees the postman once a week and gets groceries once a month.

     Otherwise it's total peace and quiet. After six months or so of almost total isolation, someone knocks on his door.

     He opens it and there is a big, bearded man standing there. "Name's Lars...Your neighbor from forty miles away.... Having a party Friday to celebrate the new Millennium.... Thought you'd like to come. About 5..."

     "Great," says Sam, "after six months out here I'm ready to meet some local folks. Thank you." As Lars is leaving, he stops. "Gotta warn you... There's gonna be some drinkin'." "Not a problem... after 25 years in business, I can drink with the best of 'em."

     Again, as he starts to leave, Lars stops. "More 'n' likely gonna be some fightin' too." Sam says, "Well, I get along with people. I'll be there.

     Thanks again."

     Once again Lars turns from the door. "I've seen some wild sex at these parties, too."

     "Now that's really not a problem," says Sam. "I've been all alone for six months! I'll definitely be there. By the way, what should I wear?"

     Lars stops in the door again and says, "Whatever you want, just gonna be the two of us."




According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen - had to be a female. We should've known. Only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.


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