Juneau (population 32,300) is the State Capital.
If you place Alaska, with all of its islands, on top of the “continental” United States, it spans from the Great Lakes to Texas and from Florida to California. At 591,000 square miles, Alaska is larger than Texas, California and Montana combined. The coastline of Alaska is longer than the coastline of the continental United States. Of Alaska’s 3 million lakes, the largest (Lake Iliamna) is the size of Connecticut. Alaska’s mainland is only 51 miles away from Russia. Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest mountains in North America (Mt. McKinley is the highest at 20,320 feet). Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867 for under 2 cents per acre. The name “Alaska” comes from an Aleut word meaning “The Great Land” Astronauts say they can see the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline from outer space. Due to long summer days in Alaska, giant vegetables are common, such as a 98-pound cabbage recorded in 1990. Alaska has two of the three biggest islands in the U.S. - Kodiak and Prince of Wales.
Population (1994): 626,278 ( 48th in size)
State size: 591,004 square miles (1st in size)
State Capital: Juneau (named after Joe Juneau a prospector who found gold in the area)
Major cities: Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks
Admission to union: The 49th State
Date entered the union: January 3, 1959
Origin of state name: Named from the Aleut word Al-ay-ek-sha meaning mainland.
Nicknames: The Great Land and the Last Frontier
Bordering states: Not bordering any states. The Arctic Ocean on the north, Canada on the east, Gulf of Alaska and Pacific Ocean on the south and Bering Straight on the west.
State bird: Willow Ptarmigan
State flower: Forget-me-not
State tree: Sitka Spruce
Motto: North to the Future Alaska State Flag
If mountains are what you’re looking for, Alaska is the place to find them. With 39 mountains ranges, Alaska offers a view of a summit from almost everywhere.
Alaska is well known for its dramatic landscape. Large mountainous, volcanic regions and wilderness. Mount McKinley is the tallest mountain in the U.S. at 20,320 feet.
The state’s mountain peaks are also the sites of the coldest temperatures in the United States. The Endicott Mountains in northern Alaska hold the record, with an observed temperature of -80ºF on January 23, 1971. Now that’s cold!
Each year, more snow falls in Alaska than melts. No wonder the state has almost 100,000 glaciers. A glacier is a frozen river of snow, ice, and rock. Pulled by gravity, it may “flow” from its origins high in the mountains to the ocean or to lower ground that is level. The Hubbard Glacier follows a 76-mile path to the Pacific–that’s almost twice the distance between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The Hubbard Glacier, shown here, is located in eastern Alaska as well as in parts of Canada.
The tropics is not the only place with rainforests. Alaska’s two national forests, which are the largest in the United States, are also temperate rainforests.
With more than 100 inches of rain each year, the Tongass National Forest is thick with Sitka spruce, hemlock, and other trees, which makes it an ideal habitat for the bald eagles, moose, bears, beavers and wolves that live there.
There are also plants that are adapted to survive in very cold climates, in windy climates, and in water. In Alaska, there are plants that are able to survive in cold weather because they grow very close to the surface of the soil. That’s where it is warmest because the dark soil absorbs heat from the sun. A plant known as Fireweed is adapted to surviving in very windy