Alaska (abbr.: AK), state of the United States of America, in the extreme northwest of North America, 1,518,775 km2, with 550,000 inhabitants; capital city: Juneau.
Alaska, by far the largest state in the United States (more than twice the size of Texas), also covers the 800 km long Alaska Peninsula, a narrow coastal strip along British Columbia (Canada), the Aleutian Islands and the Pribilov, Alexander and the Kodiak Islands. Parallel to the steep fjord-cut coast, the Coastal Mountains and the highly glaciated Alaska Range rise with Mount McKinley (6235 m), the highest in North America; further inland the Wrangell Mountains (up to 4940 m). A series of active volcanoes (including Mount Katmai), many earthquakes and seaquakes and a few newly formed islands testify to the tectonic activity of this area. Between the northern slope of the Coastal Mountains and the southern slope of the Brooks Range in the north, the central plateau extends and north of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean is a plain. The southern coastal area has a very humid climate; the growing season is longer than 140 days, so that even some agriculture is possible. The central plateau has a more continental climate; the northern plain has a polar climate and consists of tundras on a permanently frozen subsoil (permafrost). The main river is the Yukon (not frozen for only three months of the year).
Up to about 67° N. Br. Alaska is completely covered with coniferous forests (fur animals: beavers, foxes, bears, martens); the Pribilov Islands are a gathering and hunting ground for seals.
The population density is on average only 0.4 inhabitants. per km2 (lowest in the United States); the most densely populated is the southern coastal area. About 67% of the population lives in urban areas. The largest cities are Anchorage, Fairbanks, the capital Juneau and Ketchikan. See top cities in Alaska.
Fishing (eg herring, cod, halibut, shrimp, crab, but especially salmon) and the canning industry based on this have traditionally been important sources of livelihood. In the south, forestry is practiced, associated with a still growing wood pulp industry (Sitka and Ketchikan). The fur trade, which used to be very important, is stagnating. The mineral wealth is very great: in addition to some gold (Fairbanks, Nome) and copper, the soil also contains petroleum, natural gas, silver, mercury, lead, tin, antimony, tungsten, platinum, nickel, cobalt and coal. Petroleum extraction is on the rise. The main fields are in the far north. A 1,280 km pipeline (commissioned in mid-1977) connects the fields of Prudhoe Bay across Alaska to the ice-free harbor of Valdez to the south.
The only railroad is the approximately 800 km long Alaska Railroad (Fairbanks-Seward). Important for opening up is the Alaska Highway, built in 1942 between Dawson Creek in British Columbia (Canada) and Fairbanks in Alaska. Total length 2451 km. Air traffic and transport by boat are highly developed. Tourism is on the rise. Attractions include the eight national parks surrounding Mt. McKinley National Park with its wealth of game, Katmai, National Park with the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes (volcanoes), Glacier Bay National Park (tidal glaciers), Denali National Park with Mount Mckinley, Sitka, in the first half of the 19th century the capital of Russian America, and Tongass and Chugach national forests.
Alaska was discovered in 1741 by a Russian expedition led by the Dane Vitus Bering. Later in the 18th century British, Spanish and French expeditions also arrived on the coasts, but it was the Russian-American Company, led by the powerful Alexander Baranof, that established the first settlements. Fearing that the area would fall into British hands, the Russians sold it to the United States in 1867 for $7.2 million. In 1884, Alaska was organized as a territory with its own governor, but it was not until 1912 that the area was given its own legislative assembly. It played an important strategic role in World War II. A constitution was drawn up in 1955 and in 1959 the area was incorporated as the 49th state in the United States.
In 1964, the state was hit by one of the worst earthquakes in North American history. In 1989, the largest oil spill in North American history occurred in Alaska when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, loaded with petroleum, hit a reef just outside the port of Valdez and tore open. Almost 1800 km of coast became covered with a thick layer of oil, killing hundreds of thousands of the animals living in the area (including 250,000 seabirds and about 3000 sea otters). In 1999 it turned out that many animal species had not yet fully recovered.
Alaska National Parks
Denali National Park
The highest mountain in North America is located in Denali National Park. The mountain is 6194 meters high and the mountain also has its own climate. In 1897, the mountain was discovered by the explorer William A. Dickey. In 1917, the area around the mountain and the mountain itself was declared a national park. So it consists of Mount McKinley and the Denali National Monument. Mount McKinley belongs to the Alaska Range mountain range. Denali National Park is home to part of the largest fracture in North America’s crust. Due to this large fault line, many rock formations can be found in the national park. Due to all the erosion that the rocks have endured over time, large plains have been created with large mountains in between.
The large mountains function as a natural boundary between Anchorange and the interior of Alaska. Caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, lynx, wolves and moose are species found in Denali National Park. In the national park, narrow strips are covered with trees such as the silver fir, spruce, aspen, birch and balsam poplar. There is usually also a thick layer of moss between the trees. If you are going to visit this park you will have to watch out for the grizzly bears and black bears that roam free as they can get aggressive.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
This national park is one of the youngest in Alaska, but also one of the largest. The park is found in southern Alaska and extends from the Tetlin Plain to the Wrangell Mountains and St. Elias Mountains. Mount St. Elias is the third highest mountain in North America at 5489 meters. The landscape of the park consists of glaciers, mountains and ice fields. In the summer there is often a thick cloud cover over Alaska and therefore it is cool here. The months of July and August are usually the hottest. In winter there is an average of about 60 cm of snow and the temperature is also very low.
Gates of the Arctic National Park
This national park is located in the Arctic Circle and its name actually means the Gates to the Arctic Ocean. The park is almost completely unaffected by humans and the flora and fauna are therefore very different. Mountains and dozens of rivers and lakes can be found in the national park. Many types of trees can be found along the rivers. The park runs all the way from the Brooks Range to the North Slope. To get to the park you will have to walk or take a plane and be dropped off at the park.
The park is home to animals such as grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, wolverines, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, marmots, and ground squirrels. These animals have to take good shelter from the cold in the winter, because the winters are extremely long and very severe. The summers are not overly hot and the average temperature is about 18 degrees Celsius.
Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is where the Alaska Range and the Aleutian Range meet. The park is located in the middle of the Chigmit Mountains where two smoking volcanoes are located. Rivers, glaciers, mountain valleys and everything that belongs to a mountain range can be found in Lake Clark National Park. As the name of the park suggests, there is also a large lake in the park, Lake Clark. It is a lake that lies between glaciers and therefore consists of melted snow. These glaciers can reach heights of up to about 2400 meters. Mount Iliamna and Mount Redoubt are two active volcanoes located in the park.
In the summer months the temperature fluctuates between 10 and 18 degrees Celsius. In the interior of the park, the temperature can even rise to 27 degrees Celsius, but then it must be a very hot day. The winters are not really hard because there is always a warm wind from the sea to be expected and that ensures that the temperature increases again. Between mid-April and the end of May, crossing the park is made more difficult by thawing rivers. To get to the park you are also looked at by planes, snowmobiles or walking around.
Glacier Bay National Park
This national park is located 100 kilometers northwest of the large city of Janeau. There are 16 tidal glaciers in the park and bays with beautiful ice formations. Of course, there are also large forests and many species of wild animals that live in the park. In the plankton-rich waters in the national park, the humpback whale can be seen in the summer, when it goes to the bays to look for food. The park is only accessible by plane or boat, as there is no way to get there.
In 1794, Captain George Vancouver crossed the water in the Icey Strait. Then Glacier Bay was a cut in the shoreline. At the bottom of this water was a huge wall of ice with depths of 1200 meters. In 1879, John Muir discovered that the glacier had retreated 30 miles (48 km) from 1794 to 1879. This was nowhere else in the world and it attracted many scientists to investigate. Sometimes huge pieces of ice break off from the glaciers and they end up in the water at a fast pace. Then a fairly large tidal wave is created in the water.
Kobuk Valley National Park
The Baird Mountains and the Waring Mountains are mountain ranges that can be found in and around the national park. The park is located in a wide valley along the Kobuk River in northwestern Alaska. Ambler and Kiana are two villages located to the east and west of the park. Located 40 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, the national park is where the Arctic forests reach their northernmost points. Closer to the Arctic Circle, you’ll find low bushes common in many tundra climates. South of the Kobuk River are the Little Kobuk Sand Dunes and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes covering an area of 65 square kilometers. The Salmon River originates in the Baird Mountains and eventually ends up in the Kobuk River.
The winters are long and the summers very short. The temperature varies from 4 to 32 degrees Celsius in the months of June, July and August. These are some of the animal species found in the park: grizzly bears, black bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and lynx.
Katmai National Park
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is the biggest draw in the park, as it is a lunar-like territory created by a volcanic eruption several decades ago. There are many rivers, lakes, swamps and mountains in the park. The park was only granted national park status in 1980. The mountains in the Aleutin Range have snow-capped peaks and reach heights of up to 2100 meters. The mountains and valleys owe their shapes to the glaciers that also come before them. Some volcanoes in Katmai National Park still emit smoke or steam. In 1912, the Novarupta Volcano erupted, sending a lot of debris flying through the air. All life around the volcano was completely wiped out. The area is home to sea lions, sea otters, moose, brown bears, eagles and many more species.
Kenai Fjords National Park
This park was also declared a national park in 1980. It consists of a coastal area with mountain valleys, fjords, tidal glaciers and an extremely large ice field in which the Kenai Mountains have almost disappeared. The park is located 210 kilometers south of Anchorage. The islets in front of the Kenai Fjords are owned by the government and are not part of the national park. Every year, thousands of seabirds flock to the steep cliffs and islets off the Kenai Fjords to raise their young. The park has a maritime climate and the winters are extremely harsh, but the summer is warm again and this is the best time to visit the Kenai Fjords National Park.