Alaska ( ) is the largest
state of the United States of America by area; it is situated in the northwest extremity
of the North American continent, with
Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west
across the Bering
Strait. Approximately half of Alaska's 683,478
residents reside within the Anchorage metropolitan area.
As of 2009, Alaska
remains the least densely populated state of the U.S.
The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million at about
two cents per acre ($4.74/km2).
The land went
through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory
on May 11, 1912, and
the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The name "Alaska"
(Аляска) was already introduced in the Russian colonial time, when
it was used only for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning "the
mainland" or more literally, "the object towards which the action
of the sea is directed".
It is also known as Alyeska
, the "great land", an Aleut word derived
from the same root.
Alaska has a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states
combined. It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North
America; about of British Columbia (Canada) separate Alaska from
Alaska is thus an exclave
of the United States. It is technically part
of the continental U.S.
but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of
the contiguous U.S., often called "the Lower 48." The capital city,
Juneau, is situated on the mainland of the North American
continent, but is not connected by road to the rest of the North
American highway system.
is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering
Strait, and Chukchi
Sea to the west and the Arctic Ocean to the
Alaska's territorial waters touch Russia's
territorial waters in the Bering Strait, as the Russian and Alaskan
islands are only apart. As it extends into the eastern hemisphere,
it is technically both the westernmost and easternmost state in the
United States, as well as also being the northernmost.
the largest state in the United States in land area at , much
larger than Texas, the next
Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign
territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the combined area of the
next three largest states: Texas, California, and Montana.
is also larger than the combined area of the 22 smallest U.S.
International Date Line was drawn west of 180° to keep the whole state, and
thus the entire North American continent, within the same legal
With its myriad islands, Alaska has nearly of tidal shoreline.
Islands chain extends west from the southern tip of the
are found in the Aleutians.
Unimak Island, for example, is home to Mount
Shishaldin, which is an occasionally smoldering volcano that
rises to above the North Pacific. It is the most
perfect volcanic cone on Earth, even more symmetrical than Japan's
Fuji. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.
has the most volcanoes of any of the fifty US states. Geologists
have identified Alaska as part of Wrangellia
, a large region consisting of multiple
and Canadian provinces in the
actively undergoing continent
the world's largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage – tidal differences
can be more than .
(Many sources say Turnagain has the
second-greatest tides in North America, but several areas in Canada
have larger tides.)
Alaska has more than three million lakes. Marshlands
and wetland permafrost
cover (mostly in northern, western and
southwest flatlands). Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice,
covers some of land and of tidal zone. The Bering
Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon
With over 100,000 of them, Alaska has half of
the world's glaciers.
Alaska has more acres of public land
owned by the federal government than any other state.
According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of
, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and
managed by the U.S. federal
as public lands, including a multitude of national forests
parks, and national wildlife
. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management
87 million acres (350,000 km²), or 23.8% of the state.
National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and
It is the world's largest wildlife
refuge, comprising .
Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns ; another are
owned by 12 regional and dozens of local Native corporations
created under the Alaska Native Claims
. Thus, indirectly, the 84,000 Eskimo, Aleut and
American Indian inhabitants of Alaska own one-ninth of the state.
Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about
one percent of the state.
The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is a mid-latitude
) in the southern sections and a
subarctic oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc
) in the northern
parts. On an annual basis, the panhandle is both the wettest and
warmest part of Alaska with milder temperatures in the winter and
high precipitation throughout the year. Juneau averages over of
precipitation a year, while other areas receive over . This is also
the only region in Alaska in which the average daytime high
temperature is above freezing during the winter months.
The climate of Anchorage and south central Alaska is mild by
Alaskan standards due to the region's proximity to the seacoast.
While the area gets less rain than southeast Alaska, it gets more
snow, and days tend to be clearer. On average, Anchorage receives
of precipitation a year, with around of snow, although there are
areas in the south central which receive far more snow. It is a
subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc
) due to its brief, cool
The climate of Western Alaska is determined in large part by the
Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. It is a subarctic oceanic
climate in the southwest and a continental subarctic climate
farther north. The temperature is somewhat moderate considering how
far north the area is. This area has a tremendous amount of variety
in precipitation. The northern side of the Seward Peninsula is
technically a desert with less than of precipitation annually,
while some locations between Dillingham and Bethel average around
The climate of the interior of Alaska is subarctic. Some of the
highest and lowest temperatures in Alaska occur around the area
near Fairbanks. The summers may have temperatures reaching into the
90s°F (the low to mid 30s °C), while in the winter, the temperature
can fall below −60 °F (-52 °C). Precipitation is sparse in the
Interior, often less than a year, but what precipitation falls in
the winter tends to stay the entire winter.
The highest and lowest recorded temperatures in Alaska are both in
the Interior. The highest is 100 °F (38 °C) in Fort
Yukon (which is just inside the arctic circle) on June
27, 1915, tied with Pahala, Hawaii as the lowest high temperature in the United
States. The lowest official Alaska temperature is
−80 °F (-62 °C) in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971, one degree above the lowest
temperature recorded in continental North America (in Snag, Yukon, Canada).
The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is Arctic
) with long, very
cold winters and short, cool summers. Even in July, the
average low temperature in Barrow is 34 °F (1
Precipitation is light in this part of Alaska, with
many places averaging less than per year, mostly in the form of
snow which stays on the ground almost the entire year.
The first European contact with Alaska occurred in the year 1741,
when Vitus Bering
led an expedition
for the Russian Navy
aboard the St. Peter
. After his crew returned to Russia
bearing sea otter pelts judged to be the finest fur
in the world, small associations of fur traders
began to sail from the shores of Siberia towards the Aleutian
islands. The first permanent European settlement was founded in
1784, and the Russian-American
carried out an expanded colonization program during the
early to mid-1800s. New Archangel on Kodiak Island was Alaska's
first capital, but for a century under both Russia and the U.S.
Sitka was the capital. The Russians never fully colonized Alaska,
and the colony
was never very profitable.
William H. Seward
, the U.S. Secretary of State
negotiated the Alaskan purchase
the Russians in 1867 for $7.2 million. Alaska was loosely
governed by the military initially, and was unofficially a
territory of the United States from 1884 on.
In the 1890s, gold rushes
Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners
and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was granted official territorial
status in 1912. At this time the capital was moved to
World War II, the Aleutian
Islands Campaign focused on the three outer Aleutian
Islands – Attu, Agattu and Kiska – that were
invaded by Japanese troops and occupied between June 1942 and
Unalaska/Dutch Harbor became a significant base
for the U.S. Army Air Corps and Navy submariners.
The U.S. Lend-Lease
program involved the
flying of American warplanes through Canada to Fairbanks and thence
Nome; Soviet pilots took possession of these aircraft, ferrying
them to fight the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The
construction of military bases contributed to the population growth
of some Alaskan cities.
Statehood was approved on July 7, 1958. Alaska was officially
proclaimed a state on January 3, 1959.
In 1964, the massive "Good Friday
" killed 131 people and destroyed several villages,
mainly by the resultant tsunamis
. It was
the second most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the
world, with a moment
of 9.2. It was 100 times more powerful than the
Luckily, the epicenter was in an
unpopulated area or thousands more would have been killed.
discovery of oil at Prudhoe
Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska
Pipeline led to an oil boom. In 1989, the
Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the
William Sound, spilling over 11 million gallons of crude oil over
1,100 miles (1,600 km) of coastline. Today, the battle
between philosophies of development and conservation is seen in the
contentious debate over oil drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge.
The United States Census
, as of July 1, 2008, estimated Alaska's population at
686,293, which represents an increase of 59,361, or 9.5%, since the
last census in 2000. This includes a natural increase since the
last census of 60,994 people (that is 86,062 births minus 25,068
deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 5,469 people out of
the state. Immigration
from outside the U.S.
resulted in a net increase of 4,418
people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of
9,887 people. In 2000 Alaska ranked the 48th state by
population, ahead of Vermont and Wyoming (and Washington D.C.).
Alaska is the least densely populated
state, and one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world,
at 1.0 person per square mile (0.42/km²), with the next state,
Wyoming, at 5.1 per square mile (1.97/km²). Alaska is the largest
U.S. state by area
the sixth wealthiest (per capita income).
Race and ancestry
According to the 2000 U.S. Census
made up 69.3% of Alaska's population. African Americans
made up 3.5% of Alaska's
population. In addition, American Indians
were the largest
minority group; they made up 15.6% of Alaska's population. Asian Americans
made up 4.0% of Alaska's
population. Pacific Islander
made up 0.5% of Alaska's population. Individuals from
some other race made up 1.6% of Alaska's population while
individuals from two or more
made up 5.4% of the state's population. In addition,
Hispanics and Latinos
made up 4.1% of Alaska's population.
In terms of ancestry, German
were the largest single ethnic group in Alaska; they
made up 16.6% of Alaska's population and they were the only ethnic
group in the state to number over 100,000 members. Irish Americans
made up 10.8% of Alaska's
population while English Americans made up 9.6% of the state's
population. Norwegian Americans
made up 4.2% of Alaska's population and French Americans
made up 3.2% of the state's
As of the 2005–2007 American
conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, White
Americans made up 68.5% of Alaska's population. Blacks or African
Americans made up 3.8% of Alaska's population. American Indians and
Alaska Natives made up 13.4% of Alaska's population; still
remaining the largest minority group. Asian Americans made up 4.6%
of Alaska's population. Pacific Islander Americans remained at 0.5%
of the state's population. Individuals from some other race made up
1.9% of Alaska's population while individuals from two or more
races made up 7.2% of the state's population. Hispanics or Latinos
made up 5.5% of Alaska's population.
In terms of ancestry, German Americans remained the largest single
ethnic group in Alaska; they made up 19.3% of Alaska's population
and were still the only ethnic group in the state with over 100,000
members. Irish Americans made up 12.5% of Alaska's population while
English Americans made up 10.8% of the state's population.
Norwegian Americans remained at 4.2% of Alaska's population and
French Americans made up 3.6% of the state's population.
St. Michael's Russian Orthodox
Cathedral in Sitka, Alaska
According to the 2005–2007 American Community Survey, 84.7% of
people over the age of five speak only English at home. About 3.5%
speak Spanish at home. About 2.2% speak another Indo-European language
at home and
about 4.3% speak an Asian language
at home. And about 5.3% speak other languages at home.
A total of 5.2% of Alaskans speak one of the state's 22 indigenous languages
known locally as "native languages". These languages belong to two
major language families: Eskimo-Aleut
. As the homeland of these two
major language families of North America, Alaska has been described
as the crossroads of the continent, providing evidence for the
recent settlement of North America via the Bering land bridge
Alaska has been identified, along with Pacific Northwest states
Washington and Oregon, as being the least religious in the U.S.
According to statistics collected by the Association of Religion
Data Archives, about 39% of Alaska residents were members of
religious congregations. Evangelical Protestants had 78,070
members, Roman Catholics had 54,359, and mainline Protestants had
37,156. After Catholics and Eastern
, the largest single denominations are The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons/LDS) with 29,460,
Southern Baptists with 22,959, and Orthodox with 20,000. The large
(with 49 parishes
and up to 50,000 followers) population is a result of early
work among Alaska Natives.
the First Russian Orthodox
Church was established in Kodiak.
Intermarriage with Alaskan Natives helped
the Russian immigrants integrate into society. As a result, more
and more Russian Orthodox churches gradually became established
within Alaska. Alaska also has the largest Quaker
population (by percentage) of any state. In
2003 there were 3,000 Jews in Alaska (for whom observance of the
mitzvah may pose special problems
Estimates for the number of Alaskan Muslims
range from 2,000 to 5,000. Alaskan Hindus often share venues and
celebrations with members of other religious communities including
The 2007 gross state product
$44.9 billion, 45th in the nation. Its per capita
for 2007 was $40,042, ranking 15th in the
nation. The oil and gas industry dominates the Alaskan economy,
with more than 80% of the state's revenues derived from petroleum
extraction. Alaska's main export product (excluding oil and natural
gas) is seafood, primarily salmon, cod, Pollock and crab.
Agriculture represents only a fraction of the Alaskan economy.
Agricultural production is primarily for consumption within the
state and includes nursery stock, dairy products, vegetables, and
livestock. Manufacturing is limited, with most foodstuffs and
general goods imported from elsewhere. Employment is primarily in
government and industries such as natural resource extraction,
shipping, and transportation. Military bases are a significant
component of the economy in both Fairbanks and Anchorage. Federal
subsidies are also an important part of the economy, allowing the
state to keep taxes low. Its industrial outputs are crude
petroleum, natural gas, coal, gold, precious metals, zinc and other
mining, seafood processing, timber and wood products. There is also
a growing service and tourism sector. Tourists have contributed to
the economy by supporting local lodging.
Alaska oil reserves peaked in 1978 and
have declined 60% thereafter
Alaska has vast energy resources. Major oil and gas reserves are
found in the Alaska North Slope (ANS) and Cook Inlet basins.
According to the Energy Information
, Alaska ranks second in the nation in crude oil
production. Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope is the highest
yielding oil field in the United States and on North America,
typically producing about . The Trans-Alaska Pipeline can pump up to of crude oil per day, more than any
other crude oil pipeline in the United States.
substantial coal deposits are found in Alaska’s bituminous,
sub-bituminous, and lignite coal basins. The United States
Geological Survey estimates that there are of undiscovered,
technically recoverable gas from natural gas hydrates on the
Alaskan North Slope. Alaska also offers some of the highest
hydroelectric power potential in the country from its numerous
rivers. Large swaths of the Alaskan coastline offer wind and
geothermal energy potential as well.
Alaska oil production peaked in 1988
and has declined 65% since.
Alaska's economy depends heavily on increasingly expensive diesel
fuel for heating, transportation, electric power and light. Though
wind and hydroelectric power are abundant and underdeveloped,
proposals for state-wide energy systems (e.g. with special low-cost electric
) were judged uneconomical (at the time of the report,
2001) due to low (<$0.50></$0.50>Gal) fuel prices, long
distances and low population. The cost of a gallon
of gas in urban Alaska today is usually
$0.30-$0.60 higher than the national average; prices in rural areas
are generally significantly higher but vary widely depending on
transportation costs, seasonal usage peaks, nearby petroleum
development infrastructure and many other factors.
Alaska accounts for 1/5 (20%) of domestically produced United
States oil production. Prudhoe Bay (North America's largest oil
field) alone accounts for 8% of the U.S. domestic oil
Alaska Permanent Fund is a
legislatively controlled appropriation established in 1976 to
manage a surplus in state petroleum revenues from the recently
constructed Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
From its initial principal of $734,000, the
fund has grown to $40 billion as a result of oil royalties and
capital investment programs. Starting in 1982, dividends from the
fund's annual growth have been paid out each year to eligible
Alaskans, ranging from $331.29 in 1984 to $3,269.00 in 2008 (which
included a one-time $1200 "Resource Rebate"). Every year, the state
legislature takes out 8 percent from the earnings, puts 3 percent
back into the principal for inflation proofing, and the remaining 5
percent is distributed to all qualifying Alaskans. To qualify for
the Alaska State Permanent Fund one must have lived in the state
for a minimum of 12 months, and maintain constant residency.
Cost of living
The cost of goods in Alaska has long been higher than in the
contiguous 48 states. This has changed for the most part in
Anchorage and to a lesser extent in Fairbanks, where the cost of
living has dropped somewhat in the past five years. Federal
government employees, particularly United States Postal Service
(USPS) workers and active-duty military members, receive a Cost of
Living Allowance usually set at 25% of base pay because, while the
cost of living has gone down, it is still one of the highest in the
The introduction of big-box stores
Anchorage, Fairbanks (Wal-Mart in March 2004), and Juneau also did
much to lower prices. However, rural Alaska suffers from extremely
high prices for food and consumer goods, compared to the rest of
the country due to the relatively limited transportation
infrastructure. Many rural residents come into these cities and
purchase food and goods in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco
and Sam's Club
have embraced the free shipping offers of some online retailers to
purchase items much more cheaply than they could in their own
communities, if they are available at all.
Due to the northern climate and steep terrain, relatively little
farming occurs in Alaska. Most farms are in either the Matanuska Valley, about northeast of
Anchorage, or on the Kenai Peninsula, about southwest of Anchorage.
100-day growing season limits the crops that can be grown, but the
long sunny summer days make for productive growing seasons. The
primary crops are potatoes, carrots, lettuce, and cabbage. Farmers
exhibit produce at the Alaska State Fair. "Alaska Grown" is used as
an agricultural slogan.
Alaska has an abundance of seafood, with the primary fisheries in
the Bering Sea and the North Pacific, and seafood is one of the few
food items that is often cheaper within the state than outside it.
Many Alaskans fish the rivers during salmon season to gather
significant quantities of their household diet while fishing for
subsistence, sport, or both.
Hunting for subsistence, primarily caribou
, and Dall
is still common in the state, particularly in remote
communities. An example of a
traditional native food is Akutaq
, the Eskimo
ice cream, which can consist of reindeer fat, seal oil, dried fish
meat and local berries.
Most food in Alaska is transported into the state from "outside",
and shipping costs make food in the cities relatively expensive. In
rural areas, subsistence hunting and gathering is an essential
activity because imported food is prohibitively expensive. The cost
of importing food to villages begins at 7¢ per pound (15¢/kg) and
rises rapidly to 50¢ per pound ($1.10/kg) or more. The cost of
delivering a seven-pound gallon of milk is about $3.50 in many
villages where per capita income can be $20,000 or less. Fuel for
snow machines and boats that consume a couple gallons per hour can
Alaska has few road connections compared to the rest of the U.S.
The state's road system covers a relatively small area of the
state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway
, the principal route out of
the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible
by road, only a car ferry, which has spurred several debates over
the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system,
or building a road connection from Haines.
western part of Alaska has no road system connecting the
communities with the rest of Alaska.
unique feature of the Alaska Highway system is the Anton
Anderson Memorial Tunnel, an active Alaska
Railroad tunnel recently upgraded to provide a paved roadway
link with the isolated community of Whittier on Prince William Sound to the Seward Highway about southeast of Anchorage.
At the tunnel
was the longest road tunnel in North America until 2007. The tunnel
is the longest combination road and rail tunnel
Alaska Railroad "Glacier Discovery"
Built around 1915, the Alaska
(ARR) played a key role in the development of Alaska
through the 20th century. It links north Pacific shipping through
providing critical infrastructure with tracks that run from
Alaska via South Central
Alaska, passing through Anchorage, Eklutna, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, and
Fairbanks, with spurs to Whittier, Palmer and
The cities, towns, villages, and region
served by ARR tracks are known statewide as "The Railbelt". In
recent years, the ever-improving paved highway system began to
eclipse the railroad's importance in Alaska's economy.
railroad, though famed for its summertime tour passenger service,
played a vital role in Alaska's development, moving freight into
Alaska while transporting natural resources southward (i.e., coal
from the Usibelli coal mine near Healy to Seward
and gravel from the Matanuska Valley to Anchorage.)
The Alaska Railroad was one of the last railroads in North America
to use cabooses
in regular service and still
uses them on some gravel trains. It continues to offer one of the
last flag stop
routes in the country. A
stretch of about of track along an area north of Talkeetna remains
inaccessible by road; the railroad provides the only transportation
to rural homes and cabins in the area; until construction of the
Parks Highway in the 1970s, the railroad provided the only land
access to most of the region along its entire route.
northern Southeast Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad
also partly runs through the State from Skagway northwards into Canada (British Columbia and Yukon
Territory), crossing the border at White Pass Summit.
This line is now mainly used by
tourists, often arriving by cruise liner at Skagway. It featured in
the 1983 BBC
television series Great Little Railways
Most cities, towns and villages in the state do not have road or
highway access; the only modes of access involve travel by air,
river, or the sea.
well-developed state-owned ferry system (known as the Alaska Marine Highway) serves the
cities of Southeast, the Gulf Coast and the Alaska Peninsula.
system also operates a ferry service from Bellingham,
Washington and Prince Rupert, British
Columbia in Canada via the
Inside Passage to Skagway. The Inter-Island Ferry Authority
also serves as an important marine link for many communities in the
Wales Island region of Southeast and works in concert with the
Alaska Marine Highway.
In recent years, large cruise ships began creating a summertime
tourism market, mainly connecting the Pacific Northwest to
Southeast Alaska and, to a lesser degree, towns along the north
gulf coast. Several times each summer, the population of
Ketchikan sharply rises for a few hours when two ships dock
to debark more than a thousand passengers each while four other
ships lie at anchor nearby, waiting their turn at the
Cities not served by road, sea, or river can be reached only by
air, foot, dogsled, or snowmachine accounting for Alaska's
extremely well-developed bush
services—an Alaskan novelty. Anchorage itself, and to a lesser
extent Fairbanks, are served by
many major airlines
. Because of limited highway access, air
travel remains the most efficient form of transportation in and out
of the state. Anchorage recently completed extensive
remodeling and construction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International
Airport to help accommodate the upsurge in tourism (in
2000–2001, the latest year for which data is available,
2.4 million total arrivals to Alaska were counted,
1.7 million via air travel; 1.4 million were
Regular flights to most villages and towns within the state that
are commercially viable are challenging to provide, so they are
heavily subsidized by the federal government through the Essential Air Service
Alaska Airlines is the only major airline
offering in-state travel with jet service (sometimes in combination
cargo and passenger Boeing 737-400s) from
Anchorage and Fairbanks to regional hubs like Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Kodiak, and other
larger communities as well as to major Southeast and Alaska
The bulk of remaining commercial
flight offerings come from small regional commuter airlines such as
, and Frontier Flying Service
smallest towns and villages must rely on scheduled or chartered
bush flying services using general aviation aircraft such as the
, the most popular
aircraft in use in the state. Much of this service can be
attributed to the Alaska bypass mail program which subsidizes bulk
mail delivery to Alaskan rural communities. The program requires
70% of that subsidy to go to carriers who offer passenger service
to the communities. Many communities have small air taxi services,
such as Hudson's Air Service, Kantishna Air Taxi, and Talkeetna Air Taxi
. These operations,
though now catering primarily to tourists, originated from the
demand for customized transport to remote areas. Perhaps the most
quintessentially Alaskan plane is the bush seaplane. The world's busiest
seaplane base is Lake Hood, located next to Ted Stevens Anchorage
International Airport, where flights bound for remote villages
without an airstrip carry passengers, cargo, and many items from
stores and warehouse clubs.
Alaska has the highest number of
pilots per capita of any U.S. state: out of the estimated 663,661
residents, 8,550 are pilots, or about one in 78.
Another Alaskan transportation method is the dogsled
. In modern times (that is, any time after
the mid-late 1920s), dog mushing
is more of
a sport than a true means of transportation. Various races are held
around the state, but the best known is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
1150-mile (1850 km) trail from Anchorage to Nome (although the
mileage varies from year to year, the official distance is set at
1049 miles). The race commemorates the famous 1925 serum run to Nome in which
mushers and dogs like Togo and Balto took much-needed medicine to the diphtheria-stricken community of Nome when all other means of transportation had
Mushers from all over the world come to Anchorage
each March to compete for cash, prizes, and prestige. The "Serum
Run" is another sled dog race that more accurately follows the
route of the famous 1925 relay, leaving from the community of
Nenana (southwest of Fairbanks) to Nome.
President Dwight Eisenhower
admitted in his autobiography that he pushed to have Alaska
admitted into the union as a state, partially because he wanted an
American win in the 1959 World Sled Dog Championships, held in
Finland. The previous W.S.D.C. titles had been won by
In areas not served by road or rail, primary transportation in
summer is by all-terrain vehicle
and in winter by snowmobile
machine," as it is commonly referred to in Alaska.
Law and government
Like all other U.S. states, Alaska is governed as a republic, with
three branches of government
an executive branch
the Governor of Alaska
other independently elected constitutional officers; a legislative branch
consisting of the
Alaska House of
and Alaska Senate
and a judicial branch
the Alaska Supreme Court
The State of Alaska employs approximately 15,000 employees
The Alaska Legislature
of a 40-member House of
and a 20-member Senate
. Senators serve four year terms and
House members two. The Governor of
serves four-year terms. The lieutenant governor
runs separately from the governor in the primaries
, but during the general election
, the nominee for governor
and nominee for lieutenant governor run together on the same
Alaska's court system has four levels: the Alaska Supreme Court
, the court of
appeals, the superior courts and the district courts. The superior
and district courts are trial courts
Superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction, while district
courts only hear certain types of cases, including misdemeanor
criminal cases and civil cases valued up to $100,000. The Supreme
Court and the Court Of Appeals are appellate courts
. The Court Of Appeals is
required to hear appeals from certain lower-court decisions,
including those regarding criminal prosecutions, juvenile
delinquency, and habeas corpus
Supreme Court hears civil appeals and may in its discretion hear
Although Alaska entered the union as a Democratic
state, since the
early 1970s Alaska has been characterized as a Republican
Local political communities have often worked on issues related to
land use development, fishing, tourism, and individual rights.
, while organized in and
around their communities, have been active within the Native corporations
These have been given ownership over large tracts of land, which
Alaska is the only state in which possession of one ounce or less
of marijuana in one's home is completely legal under state law,
though the federal law remains in force.
The state has an independence movement favoring a vote on secession
from the United States, with the Alaska Independence Party
as one of "the most significant state-level third parties operating
in the 20th century".
Most Alaskan governors have been conservatives, generally
Republicans, but some have not always been elected under the
official Republican banner. For example, Republican Governor
was elected to the
office for a second term in 1990 after leaving the Republican party
and briefly joining the Alaskan Independence Party ticket just long
enough to be reelected. He subsequently officially rejoined the
Republican party in 1994.
To finance state government operations, Alaska depends primarily on
petroleum revenues and federal subsidies. This allows it to have
the lowest individual tax burden in the United States, and be one
of only five states with no state sales
, one of seven states that do not levy an individual
, and one of two states that
has neither. The Department of Revenue Tax Division reports
regularly on the state's revenue sources. The Department also
issues an annual overview of its operations, including new state
laws that directly affect the tax division.
While Alaska has no state sales tax, 89 municipalities collect a
local sales tax, from 1–7.5%, typically 3–5%. Other local taxes
levied include raw fish taxes, hotel, motel, and bed-and-breakfast
'bed' taxes, severance taxes, liquor and tobacco taxes, gaming
(pull tabs) taxes, tire taxes and fuel transfer taxes. A percentage
of revenue collected from certain state taxes and license fees
(such as petroleum, aviation motor fuel, telephone cooperative) is
shared with municipalities in Alaska.
Fairbanks has one of the highest property taxes in the state
as no sales or income taxes are assessed in the Fairbanks North Star Borough
A sales tax for the FNSB has been voted on many
times, but has yet to be approved, leading law makers to increase
taxes dramatically on other goods such as liquor and tobacco.
In 2008 the Tax Foundation
Alaska as having the 4th most "business friendly" tax policy.
"friendly" states were Wyoming, Nevada, and
Presidential elections results
In presidential elections, the state's electoral college
have been won by the Republican
nominee in every
election since statehood, except for 1964. No state has voted for a
Democratic presidential candidate fewer times. Alaska supported
Lyndon B. Johnson
in the landslide year of 1964
, although the 1960
elections were close.
Republican John McCain
in Alaska, 59.49% to
37.83%. McCain's running mate was Sarah
, the state's governor and the first Alaskan on a major
party ticket. The Alaska Bush
city of Juneau and midtown and downtown Anchorage have been
strongholds of the Democratic party. Matanuska-Susitna Borough and
South Anchorage typically have the strongest Republican showing. As
of 2004, well over half of all registered voters have chosen
"Non-Partisan" or "Undeclared" as their affiliation, despite recent
attempts to close primaries.
Because of its population relative to other U.S. states, Alaska has
only one member in the U.S. House of
. This seat is currently being held by
Republican Don Young
, who was re-elected
to his 19th consecutive term in 2008.
On November 19, 2008, long time Republican senator Ted Stevens
was defeated by Democratic Anchorage
mayor Mark Begich
. Stevens had been
convicted on seven felony counts of failing to report gifts on
Senate financial discloser forms one week prior to the election.
The conviction was set aside in April 2009 after evidence of
prosecutorial misconduct emerged.
Republican Frank Murkowski
state's other senatorial position. After being elected governor in
2002, he resigned from the Senate and appointed his daughter, State
Representative Lisa Murkowski
successor. In response to a subsequent ballot initiative, the state
legislature attempted to amend the law to limit the length of
gubernatorial appointments. She won a full six-year term in 2004.
In 2006 Frank Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by
, who in 2008 became the
Republican nominee for Vice President of the United
Cities, towns and boroughs
Anchorage, Alaska's largest city
Alaska's capital city, Juneau
Alaska is not divided into counties
, as most of the other U.S.
states, but it is divided into boroughs
Many of the more densely populated parts of the state are part of
Alaska's sixteen boroughs, which function somewhat similarly to
counties in other states. However, unlike county-equivalents in the
other 49 states, the boroughs do not cover the entire land area of
the state. The area not part of any borough is referred to as the
Unorganized Borough has no government of its own, but the U.S. Census
in cooperation with the state divided the Unorganized
Borough into 11 census areas
the purposes of statistical analysis and presentation. A
is a mechanism for
administration of the public record
Alaska. The state is divided into 34 recording districts which are
centrally administered under a State
. All recording districts use the same acceptance
criteria, fee schedule, etc., for accepting documents into the
Whereas many U.S. states use a three-tiered system of
decentralization—state/county/township—most of Alaska uses only two
tiers—state/borough. Owing to the low population density, most of
the land is located in the Unorganized Borough
which, as the name
implies, has no intermediate borough government of its own, but is
administered directly by the state government. Currently (2000 census
) 57.71% of Alaska's
area has this status, with 13.05% of the population. For
statistical purposes the United States Census Bureau
divides this territory into census
. Anchorage merged the city government with the Greater
Anchorage Area Borough in 1975 to form the Municipality of
Anchorage, containing the city proper and the communities of Eagle
River, Chugiak, Peters Creek, Girdwood, Bird, and Indian. Fairbanks
has a separate borough (the Fairbanks North Star Borough
and municipality (the City of Fairbanks).
state's most populous city is Anchorage, home to 278,700 people in 2006, 225,744 of whom
live in the urbanized area. The richest location in Alaska by per
capita income is Halibut Cove ($89,895).
Yakutat City, Sitka, Juneau, and
Anchorage are the four largest cities in the U.S. by
- Cities of 100,000 or more people
- Towns of 10,000–100,000 people
- Towns of 1,000–10,000 people
- Smaller towns
- Alaska has many smaller towns, especially in the Alaska Bush. These latter are generally
inaccessible by road.
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development
administers many school districts
Alaska. In addition, the state operates a boarding school, Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka; and provides partial funding for other boarding
schools including, Nenana
Student Living Center in Nenana, and The
Galena Interior Learning Academy in Galena.
There are more than a dozen colleges and
universities in Alaska
. Accredited universities in Alaska include
the University of Alaska
Anchorage, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, University of Alaska
Southeast, and Alaska Pacific University.
43% of the population attends or
Alaska has had a problem with a "brain
". Many of its young people, including most of the highest
academic achievers, leave the state after high school graduation
and do not return. The University
has attempted to combat this by offering partial
four-year scholarships to the top 10% of Alaska high school
graduates, via the Alaska Scholars Program.
Public health and public safety
Alaska residents have long had a problem with alcohol use and
abuse. Many rural communities in Alaska have outlawed its import.
This problem directly relates to Alaska's high rate of Fetal alcohol syndrome
(FAS) as well
as contributing to the high rate of suicides and teenage
pregnancies. Suicide rates for rural residents are higher than
and other violent
crimes are also at high levels in the state; this is in part linked
to alcohol abuse.
Alaska's popular annual events are the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
that starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome, World Ice Art
Championships in Fairbanks, the Alaska Hummingbird Festival in
Ketchikan, the Sitka Whale
Fest, and the Stikine River Garnet Fest in Wrangell. The Stikine River features the largest springtime concentration
of American Bald Eagles in the
Native Heritage Center celebrates the rich heritage of Alaska's 11
- See also List of artists and
writers from Alaska
Their purpose is to enhance self-esteem
among Native people and to encourage cross-cultural exchanges among
all people. The Alaska Native Arts Foundation
promotes and markets Native art from all regions and cultures in
the State, both on the internet; at its gallery in Anchorage, 500
West Sixth Avenue, and at the Alaska House New York, 109 Mercer
Street in SoHo.
Alaska Natives – Inuit, Inupiaq or Yupik drummers and dancers –
give informal performances in the lobby of the Alaska Native
Medical Center in Anchorage on weekday evenings.
main libraries in the state are the Alaska State Library in Juneau, the
E. Rasmuson Library in Fairbanks, the Z. J. Loussac Library
in Anchorage, and the
, also in Anchorage. Alaska is one of three states (the others
are Delaware and Rhode
Island) that does not have a Carnegie library.
Influences on music in Alaska include the traditional music of
Alaska Natives as well as folk music brought by later immigrants
from Russia and Europe. Prominent musicians from Alaska include
, traditional Aleut
flautist Mary Youngblood
singer-songwriter Libby Roderick
Christian music singer/songwriter Lincoln Brewster
, metal/post hardcore band
and the groups Pamyua
There are many established music festivals in Alaska, including the
Alaska Folk Festival
Fairbanks Summer Arts
the Anchorage Folk
, the Athabascan Old-Time
, the Sitka Jazz Festival, and the Sitka Summer Music Festival
most prominent symphony
in Alaska is the
, though the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra
and Juneau Symphony
notable. The Anchorage Opera
currently the state's only professional opera company, though there
are several volunteer and semi-professional organizations in the
state as well.
The official state song
Alaska is "Alaska's Flag
", which was
adopted in 1955; it celebrates the flag
Movies filmed in Alaska
Alaska's first independent picture all made on place was in the
silent years. The Chechahcos
released in 1924 by the Alaska Moving Picture Corp. It was the only
film the company made.
One of the most prominent movies filmed in Alaska is MGM
's Academy Award
classic Eskimo/Mala The
starring Alaska's own Ray
. In 1932 an expedition set out from MGM's studios in Hollywood to Alaska to film what was then billed as "The
Biggest Picture Ever Made."
Upon arriving in Alaska, they
set up "Camp Hollywood" in Northwest Alaska, where they lived
during the duration of the filming. Louis
B. Mayer spared
no expense in making sure they had everything they needed during
their stay—he even sent the famous chef from the Hotel
Roosevelt on Hollywood Blvd (the site of the first Oscars) with them to Alaska to cook for them.
premiered at the famed Astor Theatre
in Times Square, New York, the
studio received the largest amount of feedback in the history of
the studio up to that time. Eskimo
acclaimed and released worldwide; as a result Inupiat Eskimo
actor Ray Mala
became an international movie star.
is significant for the following: winning the very
first Oscar for Best Film Editing
at the Academy Awards, for forever preserving Inupiat
culture on film, and for being the first
motion picture to be filmed in an all native language (Inupiat
The psychological thriller Insomnia
, starring Al Pacino
was shot in Canada, but was set in Alaska.
horror feature 30 Days of
Night is set in Barrow, Alaska but was filmed in New Zealand.
and television shows set in Alaska are not filmed there; for
, set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, was
actually filmed in Roslyn, Washington.
The 1983 Disney movie Never Cry Wolf
was at least
partially shot in Alaska. The 1991 film "White Fang
", starring Ethan Hawke
, was filmed in and around Haines,
Alaska. The 1999 John Sayles film Limbo
, starring David Strathairn, Mary
Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Kris Kristofferson, was filmed in
film directed by Sean Penn, Into The Wild was partially filmed and set in Alaska.
which is based on the novel of the same name, follows the
adventures of Christopher McCandless, who died in a remote abandoned bus in Alaska in
- State Motto: North to the Future
- Nicknames: "The Last Frontier" or "Land of the Midnight Sun" or
- State bird: Willow Ptarmigan,
adopted by the Territorial Legislature in 1955. It is a small
(15–17 inches) Arctic grouse that lives among willows and on
open tundra and muskeg. Plumage is brown in summer, changing to
white in winter. The Willow Ptarmigan is common in much of
- State fish: King Salmon, adopted
- State flower: wild/native Forget-Me-Not, adopted by the Territorial
Legislature in 1917. It is a perennial that is found throughout
Alaska, from Hyder to the Arctic Coast, and west to the
- State fossil: Woolly Mammoth,
- State gem: Jade, adopted 1968.
- State insect: Four-spot skimmer dragonfly, adopted 1995.
- State land mammal: Moose, adopted
- State marine mammal: Bowhead
Whale, adopted 1983.
- State mineral: Gold, adopted 1968.
- State song: "Alaska's Flag"
- State sport: Dog Mushing, adopted
- State tree: Sitka Spruce, adopted
- State soil: Estelle, adopted
- 36 Crazyfists, metalcore band from
- Marty Beckerman, author
- Irene Bedard, actress
- Benny Benson, designer of the flag
- Tom Bodett, author and voice
- Carlos Boozer, professional
- Susan Butcher, noted dog musher,
four-time Iditarod winner
- Craig Campbell, current
Lieutenant Governor of Alaska
- Mario Chalmers, professional
- Matt Carle, professional ice hockey
- Chad Carpenter, cartoonist and
creator of the comic strip Tundra
- Daryn Colledge, professional
football player for the Green Bay Packers
- Ty Conklin, professional ice hockey
- Brandon Dubinsky, professional
ice hockey player
- William Allen Egan, the first
Governor of Alaska
- Erik Ellington, professional
- Scott Gomez, professional ice hockey
- Mike Gravel, former U.S.
- Ernest Gruening, former U.S.
- Jay Hammond, former Governor of
- Walter Hickel, former two time
Governor and Secretary of the Interior under President Richard
- Jewel, singer/songwriter
- Joe Juneau,
Canadian-born prospector who co-founded the city of Juneau,
- Tony Knowles, former Governor of
- Trajan Langdon, professional
- Sydney Laurence, noted landscape
- Hilary Lindh, alpine ski racer
- Ray Mala, actor
- Lance Mackey, four time Yukon Quest
and three time Iditarod winner
- Holly Madison, model and
- Tommy Moe, won a gold medal at the
1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway
- Kelly Moneymaker, singer
- Margaret Murie, the Grandmother
of the Conservation Movement
- Frank Murkowski, former United
States Senator from Alaska and former Governor of Alaska
- Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican Vice
Presidential nominee, former Governor of Alaska
- Sean Parnell, former Lieutenant
Governor of Alaska, current Governor of Alaska
- Elizabeth Peratrovich,
civil rights activist
- Sean Rash, Professional Tenpin
- Libby Riddles, noted dog musher,
first woman to win Iditarod
Trail Sled Dog Race
- Curt Schilling, professional
- Don Simpson, noted film
- Soapy Smith, con artist and
- Nate Thompson, professional ice
- Khleo Thomas, Actor/Rapper
- Paul Varelans, UFC fighter
- Mr. Whitekeys, writer, musician,
commentator, and satirist
- Dave Williams,
professional baseball player
- Census Bureau
- Ransom, J. Ellis. 1940. Derivation of the Word
‘Alaska’. American Anthropologist n.s., 42: pp. 550–551
- The other three exclaves of the United States are the
Angle of Minnesota, Point
Roberts, Washington and Alburgh, Vermont.
- Alaska Facts
- Western States Data Public Land Acreage
- Mean Annual Precipitation in Alaska-Yukon.
Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. Last
accessed October 23, 2006.
- History for Barrow, Alaska. Monthly Summary for
July 2006. Weather
Underground. Last accessed October 23, 2006.
- these three Aleutian outer islands are about away from
continental USSR, from continental Alaska (U.S.), from Japan.
- Census Bureau
- Census Bureau
- Census Bureau
- Census Bureau
- Census Bureau
- Census Bureau
- "Believe it or not, Alaska's one of nation's least
religious states" Anchorage Daily News, 2008 July 13.
- Religious legacy lives on in Alaska, BBC
- Welcome to SLED: FAQ Alaska
- An early Russian Orthodox Church
- Association of Religion Data Archive
- 76 - Christian Church Adherents, 2000, and Jewish
Population, 2004 - States [Excel 27k]
- First Muslim cemetery opens in Alaska
- Engaging Muslim: Religion, Culture, Politics
- Alaskan Muslims Avoid Conflict
- Shri Ganesha Mandir of Alaska
- Hindu Temples in USA - Hindu Mandirs in USA
- Holi & Baisakhi celebrated by Alaskan Hindus
- Craft Brewing Industry Statistics
- Gas Hydrates on Alaska's North Slope.
- Screening Report for Alaska Rural Energy Plan,
- Alaska Permanent
- State of Alaska Permanent Fund Division
- Iglooalaska.com for examples of companies
offering free shipping to Alaska
- completion of the 3.5 mile (5.6 km) Interstate 93 tunnel as
part of the "Big Dig" project in
- State of Alaska Office of Economic Development. Alaska Visitor Arrivals and Profile-Summer
2001. November, 2002; retrieved September 11, 2006.
- State of Alaska Office of Economic Development. Alaska Visitor Arrivals and Profile-Fall/Winter
2001. November, 2002; retrieved September 11, 2006.
- Federal Aviation Administration. 2005 U.S. Civil Airman Statistics
Vaughan Serum Run
- State of Alaska
- About the Alaska Court System
- National Journal Alaska State Profile
- Doughtery, J. (2001, February 25). Alaska party stumps for
independence. World Net Daily. Retrieved from A Free Press for a Free People
- CNN Money (2005). "How tax friendly is your state?" Retrieved
from CNN website.
- Department of Revenue Tax Division
- The Tax Foundation - Educating Taxpayers Since
- State of Alaska
- Alaska ICE
- These are the only three universities in the state ranked by
US News and World Report.
- University of Alaska
- AK Dept. of Public Safety Alcoholic Beverage
- State of Alaska
- Alaska State Troopers FY 2008 Byrne Grant
- Alaska Conservation Foundation - State
Beckerman | America's Luscious Beacon of Truth
- State Government
- U.S. Government