Alaska is the largest state in the United States. Two-thirds of this expansive country is covered by water, with the rest coming in at 663,267 square miles. It’s also home to 240 glaciers, 4 national parks, many active volcanoes, and 22% of all American fishing grounds. At its widest point it reaches 1,241 miles across to measure wider than California or Texas at 790 miles. The capital of Alaska state is Juneau, named after the gold prospector Joe Juneau who found gold near Douglas Island in 1880 on Gastineau Channel. The first Europeans to arrive were Russians who had landed on St. Lawrence island in 1741, claiming it for Russia. In 1867, they sold Alaska to the United States of America for $7.2 million dollars (roughly $123 million in today’s value) after the Czar received complaints about the horrors and atrocities committed by those working for the Russian American Company. This first purchase of Alaska was referred to as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox,” but has since proved to be one of the best purchases America ever made, with trillions worth of oil and natural gas found in Alaska.
Alaska became a state on January 3rd, 1959. Before that it was a district and before that a territory. The flag of Alaska was designed by 13-year-old student Robert Gautier at a state contest in 1927, and was adopted as the official flag of Alaska on May 2nd, 1927. The blue background represents the sky while the North Star symbolizes the northerly location of this United States territory. On top of the star is a golden brown oil derrick representing Alaska’s economy and its natural resources. This flag is similar to the one used by the Russian American Company, a joint Russian-American company that was established in 1799. Fort St. Michael was built in 1833 and is now operated as a state historical park. The St. Nicholas Chapel is located on this site and it’s the oldest standing building in Alaska that has been continuously occupied.
One of the most notable and distinctive features of Alaska is its vast number of glaciers. The Columbia Glacier near Valdez is 70-miles long and it moves up to 10 feet per day. It’s part of a 30-mile stretch that makes up Prince William Sound’s largest tidewater glacier system, and it has been receding since 1978. The Mendenhall Ice Caves are located within the Tongass National Forest near Juneau, and they’re the only year-round ice caves in North America – home to abundant lifeforms including bears, mountain goats, great blue herons, mink and eagles. Each summer an estimated 10,000 tourists visit this ice cave formation.
The highest mountain in the United States of America, Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), is found in Alaska on the 50th state’s border with Canada. At 20,320 feet high, Denali is also the tallest mountain on Earth. The Athabaskan people of Alaska called it “Denali” which means “the high one,” and it is the third most popular destination among Alaskan residents. Denali National Park is centered around this mountain with an area that spans more than six million acres. Open year-round, this park attracts over 500,000 visitors each year who go to view caribou, wolves, Dall sheep and grizzly bears. The park also has two active volcanoes including Mount Spurr (8,262 feet high) and Mount Tokinaga (6,005 feet high).