101 Fascinating Facts About Alaska

Interesting and fun facts about Alaska state USA

Learn 101 fascinating facts about Alaska, America’s “Last Frontier.”

Alaska is known worldwide for its vast wilderness and abundant wildlife. It is America’s largest and second-youngest state.

General Alaska Facts

  • Alaska is a US state in the northwestern corner of North America. It is the northernmost and westernmost state.
  • Alaska is also technically the easternmost state because its long chain of Aleutian Islands extends in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere.
  • The westernmost island in the Aleutian chain is Attu Island, Alaska, which is further west than Hawaii. It is also the largest uninhabited island in the United States.
  • Alaska is considered a part of the “continental US”, but not a part of the “contiguous US” (Lower 48 states).
  • Nearly 1/3rd of Alaska is within the Arctic Circle.
Three ships on a calm sea in the Bering Strait of Alaska, with an island in the background
Ships on the Bering Strait, with St. Lawrence Island, an exposed part of the Bering Land Bridge
  • The narrowest distance between mainland Alaska and mainland Russia is only 55 miles (88.5 km). People first walked across the Bering Land Bridge that once connected the two around 16,500 years ago, populating the Americas.
  • The Alaskan Little Diomede Island and Russian Big Diomede Island are only 3 mi (4.8 km) apart.
  • At 663,268 m² (1,717,856 km²) in area, Alaska is by far the largest US state. Its total area comprises more than the next three largest states (Texas, California and Montana) combined.
  • If Alaska were a country, it would be the 17th largest in the world, between Libya and Iran.
  • The state is the 7th largest subnational division in the world.
The city of Juneau on a water channel, with mountains backing it
Juneau, Alaska’s capital, on the Gastineau Channel
  • Alaska is the 3rd least populous state in the US, with a population of 733,391 people. Only Wyoming and Vermont have fewer people.
  • Alaska has the lowest population density of any state, with only 1.1 people per mi2 (0.43 people per km2). If it were a country, it would have the lowest population density in the world (Greenland, Svalbard, and Falkland Islands are lower, but they aren’t countries).
  • Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, and it’s the only state capital that isn’t accessible by road. It has the 6th lowest population (32,255) of any US state.
  • Juneau is located in the Alaska Panhandle, a thin strip of islands and fjords that runs halfway down the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.
  • Two cities in Alaska are larger than Juneau: Anchorage (291,247) and Fairbanks (32,515). Together, these three cities are home to about half the people in the state. Hotels in Anchorage include some of the best in the country, and the city is the main transport hub for travelers.
The city of Anchorage on the coast of Alaska
Anchorage is the state’s largest city.
  • Alaska has the highest percentage of men of any state, at 52.5%
  • Alaska has the highest indigenous population of any state in the US, at 20%.
  • These include the Iñupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and several northern Athabaskan cultures. Collectively they are called Alaska Natives and have considerable influence in state and local politics.
  • The state’s name comes from the Aleut word Alyeska, which means “The Great Land”, or Alaxsxaq, meaning “Mainland”. Other Alaska Natives have similar names for it. The Russians were the first to call it “Alaska.”
A silhouette of an Inuit man holding up snowshoes in Alaska
Inuit man with snowshoes in Alaska
  • The abbreviation for Alaska is AK.
  • Residents of Alaska are called Alaskans. Alaskan Natives increasingly prefer to be known by names in their own language. The term “Inuit” broadly refers to all the indigenous people in the Arctic, including some groups in Alaska, while the term “Eskimo” has fallen out of use.
  • Alaska’s flag has a dark blue background, symbolizing the state’s sky and its ubiquitous forget-me-not flowers. The eight stars featured on the dark blue background are the Big Dipper constellation and the North Star. The flag design was made by Benny Benson, a 13-year-old orphan, in 1926.
  • Alaska’s official state nickname is “The Last Frontier”. Other common nicknames include “The Land of the Midnight Sun” and “The Great Land,” the latter of which appears on the state quarter.
The state flag of Alaska
The flag of Alaska
  • The state’s official motto is “North to the Future”.
  • Alaska’s state mammal is the moose, the same as Maine. The state dog is the Alaskan malamute, which are used as sled dogs.

Random Interesting Facts About Alaska

  • Alaska can be typed on one row of a keyboard.
  • Alaska has a longer coastline than the rest of the 49 states combined.
A distant view of Denali covered in snow, with trees and water in the foreground
Denali, the tallest peak in North America
  • 65% of Alaska is federally owned public land, including wildlife refuges, national parks, and national forests.
  • 9.10% of Alaska’s land consists of state and national parks, the second highest of any state, after Hawaii.
  • 7 out of 10 of America’s largest national parks are in Alaska. Wrangell-St. Elias sits in the top spot, at 20,587 square miles (53,321 square kilometers), similar to Vermont and Massachusetts combined.
  • The highest peak in North America is Denali in Alaska, at 20,320 ft (6190 m). Its name means “The Great One” in indigenous languages. The indigenous name, used for centuries, officially replaced the European name “Mount McKinley” in 2015. Denali National Park is one of the most popular things to do near Anchorage.  
  • Of the 20 highest peaks in the US, Alaska is home to 17 of them.
The Yukon River in Alaska, as it passes among various islands
The Yukon River, one of America’s longest
  • Alaska has over 70 potentially active volcanoes, of which several have erupted in recent times.
  • Alaska has more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes. Lakes and other bodies of water cover 14.2% of the state. The largest of which is Lake Iliamna, encompassing over 1,000 mi2 (2600 km2). The lake is thought to contain a monster, called the Illie, Gonakadet, or Jig-ik-nak.
  • The 3rd longest river in the US is the Yukon River, at 1982 mi (3190 km) long. It originates in Canada’s BC and flows through Yukon as well, but most of it is in Alaska.  
  • The state has an estimated 100,000 glaciers, with 29,000 mi2 or 5% of Alaska being covered by them.
  • The Bering Glacier in Alaska is the largest glacier in North America.  
A huge glacier in Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Forest
  • There are more bald eagles in Chugach National Forest, the second largest national forest in the US, than all the contiguous (Lower 48) states combined.
  • The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can be seen on average more than 200 days per year Alaska.
  • In Utqiagvik, at the northern tip of Alaska, the sun doesn’t rise at all for 67 days in winter, while in summer, there is an 80-day stretch of non-stop sunlight. It is the northernmost community in America.
  • One of the world’s largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm near Anchorage. The tides rise more than 35 ft (10 m). Note: the world’s largest tides are in the Bay of Fundy, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Aerial view of the Inuit community of Utqiagvik on the northern coast of Alaska
Utqiagvik at the northern tip of Alaska
  • The lowest temperature ever recorded in Alaska was -80°F (-62°C) in 1971, at Prospect Creek Camp, while the highest was 100 °F (37.8 °C) in Fort Yukon in 1915.
  • The state celebrates Seward’s Day on the last Monday of March each year. The day commemorates the purchase of Alaska from the Russians in 1867.
  • Another popular local celebration is Alaska Day on 18 October, the day Alaska was officially transferred to the US from Russia.
  • Despite being one of the smallest state economies in the US, the per capita income in Alaska is the highest. Oil, natural gas, mining, and fishing dominate Alaska’s economy, with tourism playing an increasing role.
  • The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is one of the largest oil pipelines in the world, and is capable of transporting more 2 million barrels of oil per day (it usually operates well below capacity, though).
A raised oil pipeline running across the ground in Alaska
An oil pipeline in Alaska
  • There are several armed forces bases in Alaska.
  • Alaska is one of only 9 US states with no income tax. However, some cities in Alaska do have sales tax.
  • The cost of goods and the general cost of living are very high in Alaska, especially in rural areas, due to their isolation and difficulty to access.
  • Alaska has more than 10,000 certified pilots, more than three times higher than the national average.
  • Despite being the largest state, Alaska has the 6th lowest total number of miles of roads and highways.
A float plane parked on a body of water in Alaska
Float plane in Alaska
  • In northern indigenous communities, there is a type of ice cream called akutaq. It is made with reindeer fat, seal fat, dried fish, and berries.
  • Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the US.
  • Alcohol is banned in many rural communities in Alaska due to abuse.
  • Along with Washington and Oregon, Alaska is one of the least religious states in the US.
  • The Alaska Independence Party, which favors the separation of Alaska from the US as an independent country, has nearly 20,000 members in Alaska.
  • The baseball pitcher Curt Schilling was born in Alaska, while musician Jewel, basketball player Carlos Boozer, and actress Holly Madison were born elsewhere but raised in Alaska.
A yellow farm field backed by mountains in Alaska
Farmland in Alaska
  • Unlike most states, Alaska is divided into boroughs, not counties.
  • Alaska is one of 14 states that only has one telephone area code, which is 907.
  • It’s common for giant vegetables to grow in Alaska. So, naturally, there’s a State Fair held where farmers can show off their giant vegetables and compete for world records.
  • Scott and Mardie Robb of Alaska hold the world records for the largest cabbage, weighing 138.25 lbs (62.7 kg) and the largest turnip, weighing 39.3 lbs (17.8 kg).
  • The largest salmon ever caught was in Alaska’s Kenai River in 1985. It weighed 94 lbs 4 oz (42.75 kg).
A brown Kodiak bear sitting on the ground
The Kodiak bear, second largest after polar bears, is unique to Alaska
  • There are around 100,000 black bears and 30,000 brown bears (including grizzlies and Kodiak bears) in Alaska. 98% of America’s brown bears live in Alaska.
  • The world’s largest sled dog race, the Iditarod Trail, takes place annually from Anchorage to Nome, a distance of 938 mi (1510 km).
  • On Upper Huffman Road on Gravity Hill, Anchorage, cars placed in neutral seem to roll up rather than down the hill due to an optical illusion.
  • Alaska has some unique laws. For instance, you can’t wake up a sleeping bear to take a selfie. You won’t get jail time for the offense though, but you will get a fine; that is, if you’re still alive after that selfie attempt.
  • In the city of Nome, it’s illegal for any person to have or discharge a bow and arrow, a slingshot, or airgun within the city limits.
A moose in Alaska
Hello moose!
  • Sometimes there’s a reason for strange laws, like stupidity. A local tavern keeper kept getting his pet moose drunk, resulting in the animal going on drunken rampages. In order to stop these rampages, it became illegal to give alcohol to a moose in Fairbanks.
  • In Soldotna, “attractive nuisances” are banned. Attractive nuisances include anything that attracts bears, including beef, fish, piles of garbage and so on. This ban has come into place in order to prevent dangerous encounters between humans and bears.

Historical Facts About Alaska

  • The first people to arrive in Alaska were the Amerind migration group. They crossed the Bering Land Bridge into Alaska around 16,500 years ago (but as early as 40,000 years ago, according to some estimates). The group eventually continued south and populated all of the Americas.
  • The second migration happened around 12,000 years ago when the Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene also crossed the Bering Land Bridge. They continued to move through the north and populated Canada and Alaska.
A map of Russia and Alaska where they meet in the Bering Strait
Russia and Alaska were once connected via the Bering Land Bridge
  • In 1741, Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering sighted the state of Alaska on his voyage to Siberia.
  • In 1775, Spanish explorers reached Alaska and claimed the region for Spain.
  • In 1784, the first official Russian colony was founded on Kodiak Island, Alaska’s largest island, by Russian hunters.
  • In 1784, the British and Spanish came into conflict over the area. In 1790-1794, the made agreements that allowed them to both use the area as a sailing passage, but Spain subsequently withdrew from the area. Several places on the Alaska coast retain Spanish names.
  • The British continued to explore the coast, while Hudson’s Bay Company set up fur trading posts in Alaska at Fort Yukon, Fort Durham, Fort Stikine, and more.
A canon pointed at the sea at Fort Abercrombie on Kodiak Island, Alaska
Fort Abercrombie on Kodiak Island
  • In 1799, the Russians acquired a monopoly on fur trade in America, but they never fully colonized Alaska. Over time, Russian influence in the area weakened.   
  • In 1865, Western Union laid a telegraph line from Russia to Alaska under the Bering Strait.
  • The US purchased Alaska from Russia in April 1867 for $7.2 million dollars in gold, which comes out to roughly two cents per acre.
  • In 1896, gold was discovered in neighboring Yukon, prompting the Klondike Gold Rush. Many arrived via Alaska.  
  • In 1899, gold was found in Alaska too. Over 100,000 hopeful gold miners arrived.
Houses dating to the gold rush in Alaska
Gold rush era houses in Alaska
  • During the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska, potatoes were so highly valued for their high content of vitamins that miners traded gold for them.
  • In 1903, Canada and the US settled the Alaska border dispute, which had been going on since 1821. Alaska officially gained the Alaska Panhandle area, due to some vague wording about the territorial line in an old agreement between Russia and England.
  • In 1912, the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century took place when the Novarupta Volcano erupted. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes resulted from the eruption. The Valley is now part of Katmai National Park.
  • The only World War II battle that was fought on American soil was the Battle of Attu. The battle lasted from May 11 to May 30 in 1943, when the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands.
A portion of the Alaska Highway in Yukon, Canada
The Alaska Highway in neighboring Yukon
  • In 1942, the Alaska Highway from Canada to Alaska was completed, starting near the Alberta-BC border and running through Yukon to Alaska.
  • The 1964 Alaska Earthquake was the 2nd most powerful earthquake in recorded history. 133 people died.
  • In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state of the US (Hawaii would follow later in the same year).
  • Oil was discovered in 1968 in Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast of Alaska, sparking an oil boom in Alaska. It is the biggest oil field in North America.  
  • The Trans-Alaska pipeline was built from 1969 to 1977. It took 77,000 workers to build the pipeline and over 18 billion barrels have moved through it. The pipeline stretches over 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
Antlers beside a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where oil drilling is taking place
  • In 1989, more than 11 million gallons of oil were spilled in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska when the Exxon Valdez ship hit a reef.
  • In 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ran for Vice President alongside John McCain.
  • In 2020, the British reality show Win the Wilderness was set in Alaska. The winners would take over a remote homestead in Denali National Park. The couple who won the show is now having issues actually getting the house.  
Floating icebergs in a bay of water at Prince William Sound in Alaska
Icebergs in Prince William Sound
  • For parts of 2021, Alaska had the highest rate of COVID-19 in the country. It is thought it was due to the return of tourists as well as a false sense of security after relative low rates the year before.
  • In early 2023, Alaska became one of over a dozen US states to ban TikTok on state devices.

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