Alaska is the 49th State – admitted to the Union in 1959. Our 586,412 square miles are bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined (sorry, folks). If you include all our islands – including Kodiak, our largest island – we have more than 47,300 miles of shoreline. That’s a lot of places to paddle!
We were a pretty good bargain. The Alaska Territory was bought from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million dollars, or $.02/acre. That’s roughly $124,585,300 in 2019 dollars. We think we were worth every penny! We even have our own holidays to celebrate – Seward’s Day (last Monday in March) commemorates the purchase itself, while Alaska Day (October 18) observes the day Alaska was officially transferred from Russia to the United States.
We don’t have many people living in our state. In fact, we rank 48th in the nation in population, with 735,720 residents - roughly 1.2 people per square mile. Our largest city is Anchorage (Southcentral, population 297,483), but our capital city is Juneau (Inside Passage, population 32,269). It’s also the only U.S. state capital that is not accessible by road – you’ll have to fly or take a boat to visit Juneau.
We’ve got mountains! Alaska has 17 of the 20 highest mountains in North America. Denali, at 20,310 feet, is the tallest mountain in North America (OK, Mt. Everest beats us on this one). And, contrary to popular belief, the mosquito is not our state bird. That honor goes to the willow ptarmigan.
And no…Alaska isn’t cold and snowy all year-round…unless you’re on a glacier, that is. Alaska has approximately 100,000 glaciers ranging from small cirques to the 122-mile long Bering Glacier, the largest glacier in North America. Alaska’s “hot,” too – our more than 130 volcanoes (primarily in the Southwest region) are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Fortunately, most of our volcanoes are inactive.