Q. Elaina and Tara both asked similar questions: I would like to know about the state’s landscape; and what are Alaska’s characteristics?
A. Alaska is very mountainous. One time I saw a 3-D topographical map in a book store and I stood and stared in amazement! I found myself asking, aloud, “But where is there anyplace for the people to live?” Shrunk down to about a 3 ft. x 2 ft. map, it looked to be all mountains. Truth is, the population centers are there, in the valleys between the mountain ranges, and in the case of Anchorage, in the bit of land between the mountain foothills and the inlet to the ocean. The city of Fairbanks lies in the Tanana River Valley.
We do have highways of course, but if you look at a map of the highway system, you will see that they all lie on the right hand half of the state. The rest is all fly in country. Even our capital, Juneau, is fly in, or by way of the ferry system. There are roads and cars in Juneau, of course, but you can only drive them within the city, as there are no roads leading out of the city, going anywhere. To put it into perspective, compare it with the country of Austria, which is 1/18th the size of Alaska…and yet Austria has twice as many highways!
Alaska has more per capita private airplanes than anywhere else in the world. In the winter we put skiis on our planes, and in the summer, floats. Lake Hood, in Anchorage, is a popular float plane base. It has more than 600 take offs and landings on a nice summer day.
Alaska comprises more than 570,000 square miles. That’s about 365 million acres, or 9/10 of a square mile per person. The state is divided into regions as follows: The Northern Arctic, Interior, Western Bering Sea Coast, South Western Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, South Central Gulf Coast, and Southeast Alaska. Fairbanks is located in the Interior; Anchorage in the South Central Gulf Coast, and Juneau is in Southeast.
About 29,000 square miles, or 5% of the state is covered by glaciers.
From east to west, our state is about 2400 miles. and from north to south about 1420 miles. We’re BIG! We have 33,904 miles of shoreline, and we border onto 4 seas or oceans. They are the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
We have lots of rivers, 3,000 in total. The Yukon is the longest, with over 1875 miles in Alaska. It ranks 3rd in the U. S. for length, coming behind the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. Alaska has over 2 million lakes which are larger than 20 acres in size and many, many ones smaller than that.
I guess you could describe us as mountains and water! And friendly people. I’ve heard it said that Alaska won’t be what you expect; it will be even better! -Bonnie J.