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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

AbbreviationAK Source: United States Postal Service – Abbreviations
Population728,903 Source: 2020 Alaska Population Estimates – Department of Labor and Workforce Development
GovernorMike Dunleavy (Republican, in office since December 3, 2018)
Entered the UnionJanuary 3, 1959 as the 49th state
MottoNorth to the Future
NicknamesThe Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun
BirdWillow Ptarmigan
Song“Alaska’s Flag”
Professional Sports TeamsNo NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, or NHL teams. (sports listing policy)
Origin of NameFrom the Aleut word meaning “great land,” or “that which the sea breaks against”
Major IndustriesOil, Tourism, Fishing Source: – Business in Alaska
Historical SitesSitka National Historical Park Totem Pole Collection
Points of InterestDenali 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 StatesAlaska 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!
FlagAlaska's flag

Encyclopedias and Almanacs

Follow these links to read articles about Alaska from Encyclopedias and Almanacs:

State Links

Official Links

Other Links

  • Roadside America: Alaska Attractions 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 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 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

Related Resources

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