Alaska has so much more than ice and snow. The largest state in the USA also has a lot of history, too. There are so many fun facts about Alaska that end up attracting visitors from around the world. From its population of Kodiak brown bears to the largest glacier accessible by car in the USA, the Matanuska Glacier, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention, it has a rich, diverse, and culturally fascinating history behind it.
Why is Alaska such a popular travel destination in North America? Well, it has a bit to do with the outdoor activities and interesting Alaskan history. There are a plethora of fun facts about Alaska that spark curiosity.
If you’re considering a trip to Alaska, you might want to read some of the most interesting facts about Alaska below!
Interesting Facts About Alaska
Russia ended up with some serious regret after selling the land to the United States of America. Beyond its marvelous visual appeal, the territory also came with a slew of essential and valuable natural resources that help the American economy to this day. So are you ready to get some cool and fun facts about Alaska here? Let’s go!
Population of Alaska
While it’s not very populated, the population of Alaska grows consistently year by year. Some of the cities are quite large, but they maintain a homely and classic feel. It balances a fascinating history, modern conveniences, and an incredible set of natural landmarks.
Recently, an 80-foot-deep avalanche cut off residential areas in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. Natural events like this are quite common in the state. Regardless, it manages to attract millions of tourists and thousands of new residents every year. As of 2021, the population of Alaska was 732,673.
Alaska is Big
Alaska looks deceptively small on a world map or globe. The truth is, Alaska is an enormous state, sizing in at over 600,000 square miles of land. Texas, and its 260,000 square miles of land, would fit in Alaska twice. It’s also larger than the size of Montana, Texas, and California put together.
Alaska is actually so large, it’s divided into and formed into six regions. These regions of Alaska include:
- Southeast Alaska
- South-Central Alaska
- The Interior
- Alaska’s Arctic
- Southwest Alaska
- Western Alaska
Alaska’s coastline takes the cake, though, in terms of size when compared to the rest of the country. Its 6,640 miles form a little over 50% of the entire coastline of the United States of America. It’s so vast, that there are a ton of fun things to do in Alaska.
Two of the Largest Forests in the United States of America
Alaska, as a state, is enormous. However, it’s also home to a few of the largest forests in the country, The Tongass National Forest and the Chugach National Forest. The first is spread across 16.7 million acres, and the latter sits at a much smaller 700,000 acres.
The Tongass National Forest is host to an impressive number and variety of wildlife. It’s home to the largest concentration of bald eagles in the United States. You can also find seals, mountain goats, moose, deer, beaver, fox, porcupine, sea lions, whales, and sea otters throughout the forest and along the adjacent coastline.
The Tongass National Forest is also, of course, a major part of the tourist attraction in the state. Millions of visitors travel along the rivers in this forest every year. The rivers are the primary form of travel, as it’s quite difficult to traverse without resorting to sailing, kayaking, and motor boating. It’s considered one of the best places to visit in Alaska
Alaska’s Seismic Activity
Alaska has some intense seismic activity. This is typical of regions with large mountain ranges. And, since Alaska has 17 of North America’s tallest mountains, this might come as no surprise.
It’s worth noting that, in North America, the highest peak is around 20,000 feet above sea level. This peak is known as Denali, and it resides in Alaska.
The intense seismic activity might have a more understandable cause. There are more than 100 volcanic fields and volcanoes in the state. Luckily, though, it’s usually just rumbling and quakes, as the volcanoes have erupted only twice in the last century.
In terms of earthquakes, residents have experienced around 30 quakes above the 6th magnitude. Under that, though, there have been more than 160,000. And that’s just in the last 5 years!
An Interesting Purchase
Alaska was originally owned by Russia, as far back as the 17th century. However, the United States of America ended up buying Alaska from Russia for approximately $7 million. The celebration for the purchase took place on October 18th, 1867. Soldiers lowered the Russian flag while raising the American flag at the governor’s house at the time. Read more: 16 Interesting and Surprising Facts About Russia
It wasn’t just a simple sale, though. In fact, the land was part of a treaty with Russia that entered negotiations via the Russian Minister, Edouard de Stoeckl, and Secretary of State William Seward. Many actually opposed the trade, believing that the land wasn’t worth the proposed $7 million.
Funnily enough, the United States didn’t express real interest in Alaska until 30 years later. While it sat idle, Americans had some competition with the Russians around the coastline. Over time, though, the Russians in the area had to leave, as they lacked resources and funding from their government.
In 1884, the US government set up a civil government to impose mining laws, followed by various fishing and hunting laws. Supposedly, residents didn’t take any restrictions too seriously and felt that the consequences were quite lax. The truth is, these were set in place to further limit the capacity of prior Russian residents to compete with local Americans.
The Iditarod trail is a sled dog race that started in 1925. The event is based on happenings of the time, where 20 dog teams had to travel over 600 miles to deliver medicines to halt an epidemic in Nome. It’s a big deal, attracting tons of competitors every year!
Dog teams were used because the region had intense blizzards and storms that made it impossible for ground and air vehicles to travel. The first Iditarod race to represent the event took place in 1973. It now runs every year in March. The race is also referred to as The Serum Race and the Great Race of Mercy.
Dog mushing is now the official sport of the state. This includes sled dog racing, freighting, weight pulling, and carting. Many locals, due to accessibility and affordability, use dog sledding as their primary mode of transport.
Alaska Offers Huge Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables grown in Alaska are much larger than those grown elsewhere. They can ripen into sizes multiple times greater than in other regions. It’s one of the reasons why competitive farmers like to grow crops for competitions in Alaska.
The reason why vegetables and fruits grow so large in Alaska is due to the amount of sunlight the state experiences. In some parts of the year, residents can experience over 20 hours of sunlight per day!
Gray Wolves Thrive in Alaska
Alaska has the largest population of gray wolves in the US. It’s a wholesome fact, as they’re a protected species in the state. At the same time, though, they’re an essential component of the tourism industry in Alaska. People travel from countries around the world to see them.
A the moment, there are between 8,000 and 13,000 gray wolves in Alaska. Luckily, they have yet to be considered or categorized as an endangered or threatened species. And, it doesn’t look like they will be any time soon.
The Only WWII Battle on America Soil
In 1943, the first and only battle on American soil during WWII took place. Also known as the Battle of Attu, Americans and Canadians joined forces to defend against Japanese soldiers off the coast of Alaska. The conflict lasted less than two weeks, concluding in a hand-to-hand fight on the last day where Yasuyo Yamasaki, a Colonel in the Imperial Japanese Army, died while leading a banzai charge.
The Japanese Peace Monument now rests on Attu Island in memory of the battle.
Home to Kodiak Bears
The largest subspecies of brown bears in North America, and the world, reside on the Kodiak Island in Alaska. Males can stand up to 10 feet tall and 5 feet tall when resting on all fours. They can even weigh an impressive 1,400 pounds! They’re very similar to the now-extinct California grizzly bear regarding behavior patterns and diet.
Despite the negative stigma surrounding bears, there have been only three fatal encounters with Kodiak bears. Every other year, though, at least one person is injured by a Kodiak bear. While these low numbers of harm caused by the Kodiak bears can seem reassuring, the local government consistently pushes for reduced encounters between them and humans.
Sales and Income Tax
At a glance, Alaska has no sales tax. While it technically exists, it’s a fraction of what the rest of the country implements. There are four exceptions, though, including Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Delaware. It’s also worth noting that most of the cities in Alaska have no income tax.
Alaska Has Tons of Pilots
As you might know, Alaska has a very restricted number of roads that are accessible for common vehicles. It’s one of the states with the lowest number of miles of roads. This, of course, requires that people use alternatives like boats and planes.
This is probably why there are so many pilots in Alaska, more than 12,000 to be specific!
It Pays to Live in Alaska
Alaska is one of a few states that pays citizens to live there. It’s called the Alaska Permanent Fund and pays out a specific amount annually based on the state’s oil royalties. Citizens are required to register and sign up for the payout every year between January and March; payments are released at the end of the year.
In 2019, the annual payout sat at an estimated $1,800. Apparently, though, what most attracts new residents are the high job wages in the state.
The Story Behind the Alaskan Flag
A 13-year-old by the name of Benny Benson designed the Alaskan flag in 1926.
The dark blue background represents the state’s sky and local flowers. The eight stars represent the North Star and the Big Dipper constellation. It was first used, officially, in 1959.
The Matanuska Glacier
The Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier in the state. It’s well-known for its size, but tourists can also enjoy it thanks to its ease of access. There are direct roads leading to the glacier.
The glacier’s popularity is also, in large part, thanks to its color. The deep blue tint is eye candy, but there’s more to it. Onlookers can see deep into the glacier, as it’s mostly transparent!
Isolated State Capital
Alaska’s capital, Juneau, is a peculiar capital when compared to others. It’s not as populated as some of the other cities in the state and doesn’t match the size of those either. It gets a bit stranger, though. Juneau has no direct roads to other cities!
The surrounding terrain creates an impasse for common vehicles, meaning cars can’t reach the city via road or highway. People turn to ships or planes to go in and out of the city. Others prefer to take cruises to Alaska. Read more: 28 Amazing Things to do in Juneau, Alaska
There Are So Many Alaskan Lakes
It might be hard to believe, but Alaska has more than 3 million lakes; all of the lakes are at least 5 hectares. Add on the fact that there are an estimated 11,000 rivers, and you have a state that’s very boat-friendly. It’s also part of why seaplanes are so popular in Alaska.
Here’s a quick look at the largest lakes in Alaska:
- Iliamna Lake
- Lake Clark
- Naknek Lake
- Becharof Lake
- Selawik Lake
- Tustumena Lake
- Kenai Lake
Alaska is an amazing vacation destination. Known as the final frontier, it truly takes you on a trip out of the ordinary. Now that you are armed with some fun and interesting Alaska facts, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to visit Alaska.
Did you enjoy these facts about Alaska? Are you planning to visit Alaska, if so, learn everything you need to know about traveling to Alaska at our Alaskan travel guide.
Photo of Japanese Peace monument U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Kurt Fredrickson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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