Alaska Facts

Alaska is the 49th state in the United States, joining in 1958. Its admission, along with the 50th state, Hawaii, caused the need for a new flag of 50 stars, replacing the previous one with 48. Alaska's capital is Juneau, whose name comes from an Aleut word that means "great land." The state runs on Alaska Standard Time, one hour behind the West Coast.

History of Alaska

The first people to settle the area we know as Alaska were ancestors to many native American tribes. It is thought that they crossed a land bridge that existed between 25,000 and 9,000 years ago between Alaska and Siberia. Thousands of miles wide, some people lived on the bridge and many more used it to find game and trade goods. Three different migrations created the permanent residents of Alaska. The first was between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago, and those travelers were the ancestors to many of North America's and South America's native tribes. Relocating from Siberia between 9,000 and 14,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Tlingit, Eyak and Athabaskan tribes of today's Alaska arrived, as did the Apache and Navaho people. Between 6,000 and 10, 000 years ago, the ancestors of the Aleuts and the Eskimos arrived in the northeast coast of Siberia. When the first Europeans arrived, they encountered the Aleuts in the far west, the Eskimos near Kodiak and east to the Yukon River, and the Inupiat, who lived in the Colville basin and the Canadian Arctic. The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million in gold. Any private property remained with the owners, and the Russian Orthodox Church kept title to any buildings built by the Russian government. Alaska became a state in 1958.

Geography of Alaska

Seventeen of the highest mountains in the United States are located in Alaska. The highest is Mt. McKinley, rising more than 20,320 feet above sea level. The Native American name for the mountain is Denali, meaning "The Great One." The Yukon River is the third longest river in the United States. It travels more than 2,000 miles. Alaska also has more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes, including Lake Iliamna, covering more than 1,000 square miles. One hundred thousand glaciers cover 5 percent of the state: 29,000 square miles. The largest is named Malaspina and occupies more than 800 square miles. The northernmost spot in Alaska is Point Barrow. The states coastline stretches for more than 66,000 miles with more than 33,00 miles of shoreline. Seventy volcanoes are potentially active within Alaska's borders.

Weather in Alaska

The average daily temperature in the state varies from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. In the height of the summer, parts of the state have 24 hours of sunshine, and in the winter, 24 hours of darkness for at least one day. At Point Barrow, the most northern area, the sun doesn't rise for two months. High temperatures in Anchorage average 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit between November and February.

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