Alaska, the 49th U.S. state admitted to the union in 1959, is located to the extreme northwest of the North American continent (bounded by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north; Canada’s Yukon Territory and British Columbia province to the east; the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south; the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west, and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest).
Alaska (a third of the size of the European Union) was originally a Russian possession (gaining it during the 1700s in the Russian Empire’s efforts to expand into North America at that time). However, the Crimean War of the 1850s left the Russian government nearly bankrupt, compelling it to dispose of that distant territory. By 1867, the U.S. government (under President William Seward) bought Alaska from the Russians.
Due to its harsh weather (with daytime temperatures frequently going well below zero during the winter), Alaska’s population has never reached a million (making it one of the least populated states in America – currently at 737,438 residents as of 2018). The largest populated Alaskan city is Anchorage (with just under 300,000 residents).
Aside from the state’s legendary arctic weather (especially in its northern half), Alaska is known for its natural beauty (with much of the state still untamed wilderness). The state has 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. (including Mt. McKinley – at 20,320 feet, it’s the tallest mountain in North America). Alaska is also known for its natural resources – in particular petroleum (billions of barrels of oil reserves exist there). That, along with whale oil, fur, copper, gold, timber, fish, platinum, zinc, and lead. The state is also reputed to be the most seismically active in USA – the Alaska Earthquake Information Center reports that the state has around 22,000 earthquakes a year.
Alaska’s legendary wilderness makes it an ideal destination for eco-tourists, backpackers and visitors looking for nature-driven destinations. What await first-time visitors are rolling tundra, river valleys, ocean fjords, glacial lakes and rivers, as well as wildlife like moose, bears, Dall sheep, and bald eagles.