Alaska, United States

About Alaska

Alaska is the largest state of the United States by area; it is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. Approximately half of Alaska's 698,473 residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. As of 2009, Alaska remains the least densely populated state of the U.S. Alaska has a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states combined. It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of British Columbia (Canada) separate Alaska from Washington state. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States. It is technically part of the continental U.S., but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of the contiguous U.S., often called the Lower 48.

Alaska Tourism and Recreation

With thousands of miles of unspoiled scenery and hundreds of mountains and lakes, Alaska has vast tourist potential. In fact, tourism has become the 2nd-largest private-sector employer in the state. Alaska's tourism industry is estimated at over $1 billion per year. The industry, directly and indirectly, generates an annual average of 30,700 jobs and $640 million in payroll (not including employment on cruise ships).

Cruise travel along the Gulf of Alaska is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourist trade. Sportsfishing and outdoor adventure opportunities have also become popular. Millions of visitors travel to the state's national parks, preserves, historical parks, and monuments, which totaled 52.9 million acres. Denali State Park is home to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Another popular tourist destination is Glacier Bay National Monument.

Alaska Climate

Temperatures in Alaska during the summer range from 60°F-80°F. Nighttime and early mornings are cooler, from the 40's - 50's. Late August and September departures could encounter cooler temperatures and slightly fewer hours of sunlight, as fall arrives early at these latitudes.

Temperatures in Interior Alaska usually get higher than in Anchorage or other coastal areas. Fairbanks' average high is 70 degrees in June, 72 degrees in July and 66 degrees in August.

In the summer, all of Arctic Alaska gets 24-hour sunlight for at least one day at the solstice. Barrow has continuous daylight for 85 days. South of the circle, every town has a night every day, even if it's quite brief. This summer, solstice occurs at 3:28 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time on June 21. The winter solstice occurs at 2:38 p.m. Alaska Standard Time on Dec. 21.

Alaska Transportaion

Alaska has few road connections compared to the rest of the U.S. The state's road system covers a relatively small area of the state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway, the principal route out of the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by road, only a car ferry, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system, or building a road connection from Haines. The western part of Alaska has no road system connecting the communities with the rest of Alaska.

Cities not served by road, sea, or river can be reached only by air, foot, dogsled, or snowmachine accounting for Alaska's extremely well-developed bush air services—an Alaskan novelty. Anchorage itself, and to a lesser extent Fairbanks, are served by many major airlines. Because of limited highway access, air travel remains the most efficient form of transportation in and out of the state. Anchorage recently completed extensive remodeling and construction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to help accommodate the upsurge in tourism.