Alaska, the largest state (in terms of area) of the United States, lies at the extreme northwest of the continent of North America. It is flanked by the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort Sea to the north; the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska to the south; Canada’s British Columbia province and Yukon Territory to the east; by the Bering Sea and the Bering Strait to the west; and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. Juneau, the capital of Alaska, lies in the panhandle region in the southeast.
Alaska State History
The first inhabitants of Alaska came to the region approximately 13,000 years ago, from what is now known as Russia. It is speculated that they sailed or walked through a 600-mile-wide patch of land, known as the Bering Land Bridge, that connected Russia to Alaska. Many indigenous tribes including the Inuit, Haida, Yup’ik, Tlingit, Aleuts, Haida, and Athabascans still inhabit the region. The region was populated by Russian settlers from 1784 to 1867, when the United States purchased it at the rate of 2 cents an acre. The territory of Alaska was acquired by the United States in 1867 but was not admitted to the union until 1959. The purchase of Alaska from Russia was initially thought to be a huge mistake; many thought the harsh habitat was a bad buy that America would regret. Critics even called the territory “Seward’s Folly” after William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State who was primarily responsible for the purchase. The discovery of gold in 1872 turned the tide and enticed hordes of prospectors and settlers to Alaska and significantly enhanced the value of the land. Alaska became the 49th state to join the Union in 1959.
Just the Facts
|Abbreviation||AK Source: United States Postal Service – Abbreviations|
|Population||728,903 Source: 2020 Alaska Population Estimates – Department of Labor and Workforce Development|
|Governor||Mike Dunleavy (Republican, in office since December 3, 2018)|
|Entered the Union||January 3, 1959 as the 49th state|
|Motto||North to the Future|
|Nicknames||The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun|
|Professional Sports Teams||No NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, or NHL teams. (sports listing policy)|
|Origin of Name||From the Aleut word meaning “great land,” or “that which the sea breaks against”|
|Major Industries||Oil, Tourism, Fishing Source: Alaska.com – Business in Alaska|
|Historical Sites||Sitka National Historical Park Totem Pole Collection|
|Points of Interest||Denali National Park, Mendenhall Glacier in North Tongass National Forest, and the active volcanoes in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes at the Katmai National Park|
|Bordering States||Alaska does not border any U.S. states. However, it does border the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, as well as Canada, specifically Canada’s Yukon territory, and the Canadian province of British Columbia!|
Encyclopedias and Almanacs
Follow these links to read articles about Alaska from Encyclopedias and Almanacs:
- Alaska!: The State of Alaska https://alaska.gov/ This is the official website for the State of Alaska.
- Alaska State Library https://library.alaska.gov/ Here is the homepage for the Alaska State Library.
- Alaska Historical Society https://alaskahistoricalsociety.org Here is the homepage for the Alaska State Historical Society.
- Alaska State Museum https://museums.alaska.gov/asm/asmhome.html Here is the homepage for the Alaska State Museum.
- Alaska State Archives https://archives.alaska.gov/ Here is the homepage for the Alaska State Archives.
- Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/ Here is the homepage for Alaska State Parks.
- Travel Alaska https://www.travelalaska.com/ Here is the official state tourism website for Alaska.
- Alaska Road Traveler Information Service http://511.alaska.gov Here is the official state website for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Safety. Use it to check on driving conditions, construction projects, urgent messages, ferry locations, and current and forecasted weather reports.
- Alaska Division of Economic Development https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded/ Here’s a list of official Alaska state sites for kids.
- Roadside America: Alaska Attractions https://www.roadsideamerica.com/location/ak Roadside America describes itself as an online guide to offbeat attractions. This site offers reviews of “weird sites along the highway” in Alaska.
- The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race http://www.iditarod.com/ Learn more about what some call “The Last Great Race on Earth,” the Alaskan Iditarod, the world’s most famous dog sled race, which covers more than 1,150 miles!
- The Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race http://www.yukonquest.com/ Known for its excellent care of sled dogs, this incredible race of a 1,000 miles follows a historic trail between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory.
Did You Know
- The state flag was designed by a 13-year-old student named Benny Benson from Chignik, Alaska. The design was chosen from 142 entrants and was adopted as the territorial flag in 1927. (See University of Alaska – UA Journey – Benny Benson.)
- One-fifth the size of the United States, Alaska has an area of 665,384.04 square miles. This makes it larger than Texas and the next three largest states combined. In fact, if Alaska was cut into two states, each state would still be larger than Texas! (See States Ranked by Size and Population.)
- The tallest mountain in North America is Mt. McKinley. (See Elevations and Distances in the United States – online edition – U.S. Geological Survey.)
- There are at least two world-famous dog sled races that occur in Alaska: the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the Yukon Quest International Dog Sled Race. The Iditarod is the longest and most famous. It starts off in Anchorage (south central Alaska) and finishes over 1,150 miles later in Nome, Alaska on the coast of the Bering Sea. The Yukon Quest follows the Yukon river and runs 1,000 miles between Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory and Fairbanks, Alaska. Which city is the start and which city is the end of the race alternates each year. Both races are run outdoors in temperatures well below freezing. Look under Other State Links above for links to more information about these races.
Some Famous People from Alaska
- Aleksandr Baranov, first governor of Russian America. (See Encyclopedia of World Biography at Encyclopedia.com.)
- Benny Benson, designed the Alaska state flag at age 13. (See University of Alaska – UA Journey – Benny Benson.)
- Jewel, singer and musician was raised in Alaska but born in Utah.
- Holly Madison, model and actress.
- Sydney Lawrence, painter in the American Romantic tradition.
- Carlos Boozer, professional basketball player and two-time NBA All-Star.
- Curt Schilling, baseball player and commentator.