August 21, 2012

Alaska – “The Last Frontier”


Alaska map

Just the Facts…


bird – Willow Ptarmigan
flower – Forget-Me -Not
tree – Sitkaspruce
capital – Juneau
union – 49th on January 3, 1959
population – about 750,000

The Basics 

Alaska is the biggest state in the Union – 22 of America’s smallest states could fit inside Alaska’s borders!  And, it is surrounded by either oceans or Canada – in fact, it has more coastline than any other state.

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.  The Russians thought that the land would be hard to defend from British advancements.  So, rather than take the chance on a war with Great Britain, it decided to sell it and let America deal with British advancement across Canada.  Lucky for us!

Alaska is the least densely populated state, which means that it has fewer people per square mile than any other state.  Interestingly, it also has the largest native population of any state.  The name, “Alaska” is from a Native American word meaning “great land.”


Its Claim to Fame

Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in North America – its summit is over 20,000 feet above sea level!  And, it is home to five glaciers.   Mount McKinley was named in honor of President McKinley, who was President around the time that the mountain was first explored.  It is called Denali by the native Alaskans, which means “great one.”  Mount McKinley is a popular challenge for mountain climbers.  It was first climbed successfully in 1913 and people have been attempting to climb it ever since.

Alaska is so far north that the number of hours of sunlight varies greatly between winter and summer.  In the summer, southern Alaska gets about 18 hours of sunlight per day!  And, it gets only 6 hours of sunlight in the winter!  Could you imagine it is dark when you go to school and dark when you come home?  The amount of sunlight varies even more as you travel north – in northern Alaska it is light for over a whole day during the summer solstice (June 21). And, the opposite occurs as well – northern Alaska experiences over 24 hours of darkness over the winter solstice (December 21).

The Aleutian Islands are off the coast of Alaska, – there are over 50 islands and many of them are active volcanoes.   In fact, the islands are part of the Pacific ring of fire – they are formed along the arc where two two teutonic plates within the earth meet.  They form a sort of bridge between North America and Asia, and some scientists think the first humans came to North America through these Islands.   They are the westernmost part of America.  Even though they are very close to Russia, there is a full day difference between them!  How can that be?  Well, the International Data Line goes around the Aleutian Islands in an effort to keep the Islands on the same day as the rest of Alaska.  The International Date Line is a line on the earth (it is not real!) that separates one day from the next.  Most of the time, it is at 180 degrees longitude, but it moves a little to one side of another to keep countries on the same day.


What Makes it Tick

Fishing is a major industry in Alaska – commercial fishermen catch everything from salmon to crab to halibut.  Sport fishing is also a big industry in Alaska – people come from all over the country to fish the streams and rivers of Alaska.

Alaska sits on top of huge oil reserves!  The problem is how to get at that oil – so much of the land is frozen!  And, how to get it to the rest of America – the coastline in northern Alaska is frozen with ice, making it difficult for ships to travel to the oil.  The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline makes its way from the northern part of Alaska (where the oil is) to the southern coast of Alaska.  Here, the oil can be loaded onto huge ships and transported to other parts of America, where it will be refined into gasoline.  Who knows, maybe when your parents filled the car up with gas last time, some of that gas came from Alaska!


If You Visited

If you visited Alaska, you might go to Denali National Park.  It is home to countless types of wildlife – grizzly bears, caribou, moose, polar bears, mountain goats, dal sheep and wolves.  Farther north is home to the polar bears, seals and sea lions!

Chances are that, if you visited, you would take a boat or plane somewhere!  Many places within Alaska are accessible only by boat or plane – there are many areas that are not accessible by road.  What would it be like to live somewhere where there is no road?  You would have to take a boat to do everything – get groceries, see friends and go to the movies!


Want to Know More? 

Check our Alaska state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Alaska? Or, maybe you have visited Alaska?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Alaska?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Alaska to share? Email them to: Or, post them to our Facebook page:

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Alaska.  Visit these websites to learn more: