Alaska is a state of the United States of America. Alaska is located in the extreme northwest portion of North America. It is by far the largest U.S. state in area, but one of the least populated. It is also one of the wealthiest and most racially diverse states.
Purchased from Russia on April 16, 1867, Alaska became the 49th US state on January 3, 1959. The name "Alaska" is derived from the Aleut Alaskax, alternately spelled Alyeska.
Alaska is one of the two U.S. states not bordered by another state, Hawaii being the other. It is the only non-contiguous state in North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of Canadian territory separate Alaska from Washington. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States that is part of the continental U.S. but is not part of the contiguous U.S. (The other two exclaves of the United States are the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, and Point Roberts, Washington.) Alaska is also the only mainland state whose capital city is accessible only via ship or air. No roads connect Juneau to the rest of the state.
It is bordered by Yukon Territory and British Columbia, Canada to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west, and the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north.
Alaska is the largest state in the United States in terms of land area (it is larger in area than all but 18 of the world's nations) at 570,380 square miles (1,477,261 km), over twice as large as Texas, the next largest state. If a map of Alaska were superimposed upon a map of the 48 contiguous states, Alaska would overlap Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado, and if the state's westernmost point were superimposed on San Francisco, California, its easternmost point would be in Jacksonville, Florida. Alaska also has more coastline than all of the contiguous U.S. combined.
One scheme for describing the state's geography is by labeling the regions:
The northeast corner of Alaska is covered by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which covers 19,049,236 acres (79,318 km). Much of the northwest is covered by the larger National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which covers around 23 million acres. The Arctic is Alaska's most remote wilderness. A location in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is 120 miles from any town or village, the geographic point most remote from permanent habitation in the USA.
With its numerous islands, Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,700 km) of tidal shoreline. The island chain extending west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula is called the Aleutian Islands. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. For example, Unimak Island is home to Mount Shishaldin, a moderately active volcano that rises to 9,980 ft (3,042 m) above sea level. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland.
One of North America's largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm just south of Anchorage. Tidal differences can be more than 35 feet (10.7 m). (Many sources say Turnagain has the second-greatest tides in North America, but it has since been shown that several areas in Canada have larger tides, according to an Anchorage Daily News article dated 6/23/03.)
Alaska is home to 3.5 million lakes of 20 acres (8 ha) or larger. Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover 188,320 square miles (487,747 km, mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands). Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice, covers some 16,000 square miles (41,440 km) of land and 1,200 square miles (3,108 km) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon, Canada, covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km) alone.
The Aleutian Islands cross longitude 180, so Alaska can be considered the easternmost state as well as the westernmost. Alaska and, especially, the Aleutians are one of the extreme points of the United States. The International Date Line jogs west of 180 to keep the whole state, and thus the entire continental United States, within the same legal day.
According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (350,000 km), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 24.5%; another 10% is managed by thirteen regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling less than 1%.
Alaska is administratively divided into "boroughs," as opposed to "counties." The function is the same, but whereas some states use a three-tiered system of decentralisation - state/county/township - most of Alaska only uses two tiers - state/borough. Owing to the state's low population density, most of the land is located in the Unorganized Borough which, as the name implies, has no intermediate borough government of its own, but is administered directly by the state government. Anchorage merged the city government with the Greater Anchorage Area Borough in 1971 to form the Municipality of Anchorage, containing the city proper, and the bedroom communities of Eagle River, Chugiak, Peters Creek, Girdwood, Bird, and Indian. Fairbanks, on the other hand, has a separate borough (the Fairbanks North Star Borough) and municipality (the City of Fairbanks).
|Metropolitan areas by population