Alaska is known for beautiful summers, dramatic winters, breathtaking (and dangerous) wildlife, and dramatic landscapes of rugged, unique, untamed terrain that takes up most of the state.
Let’s learn more about the state that was given the nickname the “Final Frontier.”
Alaska is easily the largest state in the United States, measuring at 571,951 square miles of land mass.
Alaska flaunts the tallest mountain peak in North America: Denali (formally known as Mt. McKinley) at over 20,000 feet high at the summit.
Despite its immense size, Alaska ironically is the third least populated state (with just over 730,000 in 2021) and the most sparsely populated of all the states.
With so few people and so much land, Alaska may seem something like a wilderness; and it most certainly is.
The Native People of Alaska
Alaska has the largest Native American population of all the states at just under 15%.
No other state in America presents as broad and rich a variety of Native cultures as Alaska, and this Native diversity remains a hallmark of the state.
Many Alaska Native people live in villages peppered along Alaska’s rivers and coastlines, where they still practice traditional hunting and fishing lifestyles.
Perhaps one of their most recognized cultural pieces are the intricately carved totem poles, some of which stand as high as a hundred feet tall.
The Wildlife of Alaska
Most of Alaska’s land belongs to Mother Nature. Alaska is roughly 365 million acres in land mass, but modern society has only ever encroached upon about 160,000 of those acres.
I don’t feel like doing that kind of math but suffice to say that most of Alaska is untouched wilderness.
Alaska boasts some of the most awe-inspiring and terrifying wildlife on the North American continent. Some of the largest land animals live in Alaska, including but not limited to moose, elk, caribou, eagles, wolves, and bears. And salmon. Lots and lots of salmon.
Remember that just as the wilderness dwarfs the populated Alaskan areas, so too do the members of Alaska’s wildlife community greatly outnumber members of the human community.
Not only that, but Alaska’s animals are known, just like the state itself, for their large size.
Most of the wildlife found in Alaska is found elsewhere in other parts of the mainland United States, but Alaska’s versions are much, much bigger, and there are many of them. Remember: this is the final frontier we are talking about.
Example: we all know the grizzly bear. Big, fluffy, can and will squash you like a grape if your existence annoys it.
Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of grizzlies in the United States…except for Alaska, that is!
About 32,000 grizzlies call the Alaskan wilderness their home. That’s roughly one giant cranky bear for each two dozen human citizens, give or take.
And let’s not forget about the size! Remember, everything is bigger in Alaska. The average grizzly in Yellowstone is 700 pounds at most, while an Alaskan grizzly can weigh up to 1,200 pounds. Sure, that first one is big, but yikes!
Fear of the intimidating wildlife is no reason to avoid Alaska. In fact, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring natural features that it has to offer. Just remember to listen to your park rangers about safety precautions, especially where the wildlife is concerned.
Travel to Alaska
Alaska’s tourism economy offers a large variety of reasons to explore this one-of-a-kind land. Most of the state’s activities are of the outdoor nature such as camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing.
Alaska also offers a rich collection of native cultural history, and there are museums displaying them proudly for us to see and learn about.
The Alaskan waters are also the site of massive whale migrations, perfect for whale watching orcas to humpbacks.
Interesting Facts about Alaska
- Alaska contains more than 100 volcanoes and volcanic fields which have been active within the last two million years. But don’t stress – according to the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaskan volcanoes have produced only one or two eruptions since 1900. That doesn’t sound terribly active.
- Alaska has more coastline than the remaining United States combined (more than 34,000). However, I would not recommend going to Alaska to sunbathe at any point of the year, not even when it’s daylight forever (more on that in a bit).
- Of all the glaciers in the United States, the majority of them exist in Alaska.vBased on the most recent comprehensive survey in 2011, there were about 27,000 glaciers in Alaska. That is about 5% of its land.
- America’s two largest forests are located in Alaska. The Tongass in Southeast Alaska covers 16.8 million acres, and Chugach in Southcentral Alaska has 4.8 million acres.
- The lowest temperature recorded in Alaska was -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971. This is also the lowest temperature recorded in the entire history of the United States.
- Both the longest and the shortest days in Alaska exist in the town of Barrow due to its geographical positioning in relation to the earth’s rotation around the sun. On the morning of May 10th every year in Barrow, it doesn’t leave the sky for a good three months. Then just when you’ve gotten used to the sun never going away, it decides to set on November 18th only to not come back for nearly two months!
- We’ve already talked about the height of Denali, but Alaska also has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in America.
- One of Alaska’s most beloved activities is dog sledding. Not only is it Alaska’s official state sport, it was also at one point the main method of transportation in Alaska.
- Have you ever just really wanted to whisper right in a guy’s ear when he’s busy moose hunting? I’m sorry to tell you if you’re looking to expand your ear-whispering-whilst-hunting career, you can’t do that in Alaska. It is (apparently) illegal!