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FAQ ALASKA - Frequently Asked Questions About Alaska

Bullet Superlatives

Bullet CAVES Bullet HOMES
Bullet GAME Bullet WEATHER


Farmers in the Matanuska Valley grow cabbages weighing more than 90 pounds, and turnips weighing over 30 pounds have been shown at local fairs.

About 15 million acres of soil in Alaska are suitable for farming. Land in farms covers .2% of the land in the state. In 1999 there were 910,000 acres of agricultural land used in farms. The number of farms in Alaska has increased from 290 in 1978 to 570 in 1999.

Alaska 's cash receipts from farm markets were approximately $53.4 million for 1997. Livestock and specialty products totaled $27.1 million. The value of crops was $26.3 million. The top five Alaskan commodities in terms of cash receipts are aquaculture, greenhouse and nursery production, milk production, hay production, and other livestock (equine, goats, honey, musk ox reindeer, poultry and eggs and other livestock). In recent years, cash receipts from aquaculture at $21.1 million have overtaken greenhouse and nursery production ($19.5 million) as the state's leading commodity.

Source : Alaska AReturn to SUPERLATIVES gricultural Service. http://www.nass.usda.gov/ak/homepage.htm



It's estimated Alaska has about six times as many pilots per capita and 16 times as many aircraft per capita as the rest of the United States.

Air commerce in Alaska carries the equivalent of four times the state's population each year, compared to about 1.7 times the U.S. population carried by air commerce in the other states.

Lake Hood, in Anchorage, is the world's largest and busiest seaplane base. It accommodates more than 800 takeoffs and landings on a peak summer day.

Alaska not only has the largest seaplane in the world, but is first among the states in number of seaplane bases with 102. This is 25% of the U.S. total. Minnesota ranks second with 66.

In 1992, Merrill Field in Anchorage was the 64th busiest general aviation airport in the nation with 225,713 flight operations during the year. On a peak day in April there were 1,379 takeoffs and landings.

Alaska ranks sixth in the number of airports (583 including heliports and seaplane bases). That is 3.5 percent of the total number of airports in the U.S. Texas is first with 1,662; Illinois is second with 924; California is third with 922, Pennsylvania is fourth with 752; Ohio is fifth with 752; and Florida is sixth with 698.

As of May 1999, Alaska had 10,605 registered pilots and 8,053 registered aircraft. This is about one pilot and one aircraft for every 61 Alaskans.

General aviation hours flown in Alaska annually are about 995,000, which is 3% of the U.S. total general aviation hours flown. Alaska averages 105 hours flown per pilot, while the U.S. as a whole averages 43 hours per pilot.

Source : Federal Aviation Administration, Public AReturn to SUPERLATIVES ffairs Office.


Bullet BIRDS

The largest known concentration of bald eagles in the world occurs each fall and winter along the Chilkat River near Haines. More than 3,500 bald eagles, our national symbol, gather along the river where late runs of salmon are accessible because of the unusual swelling of warm water that keeps sections of the river ice-free.

During the short Arctic summer, Alaska is host to nearly half of the entire world population of at least 12 bird species, the only North American populations of 24 species, and the only U.S. nesting populations of about 50 species.

Because Alaska is close to Siberia and has been connected to Asia by a land bridge in the past, Old World species occur in Alaska more frequently than anywhere else in North America.

Literally thousands of millions of birds of more than 440 different species occur in Alaska. About 95 percent are "nongame" species.

Over 20 million waterfowl and shorebirds, including almost the entire world population of western sandpipers, pass through the Copper River Delta between April 25 and May 20 each year. During that period, biologists have logged up to 20,000 birds an hour in the skies over the Copper River delta.

There are birds from all continents that nest in Alaska.

Some birds migrating to Alaska travel great distances. Our smallest bird, the rufus hummingbird, migrates over 2,000 miles. Several warblers travel 6,000 to 8,000 miles from the jungles of South American, flying mainly at night at altitudes of 2,000 to 12,000 feet. Pacific golden plovers find their way to Alaska from Hawaii and Polynesia, apparently making the 2,000 mile trip in a nonstop flight. Arctic terns that nest in the Arctic have been found wintering in the Antarctic, a 20,000 mile round trip.

Alaska has more seabirds than the rest of the United States put together. More than 80 to 124 millian seabirds occur in Alaska waters in summer.

There is little question the large number of migrant and resident birds affect the lives of humans living in Alaska. A great portion of the migrant birds are insect eaters, and though they do not decimate Alaska's insect population, they must consume literally tons of insects each year.

Source : Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

See also When do birds migrReturn to SUPERLATIVES ate to Alaska?


Bullet CAVES

Preliminary inventories by the U.S Forest Service suggest that hundreds of caves exist in the southern extreme of Tongass National Forest. Over thirty square miles of alpine and sub-alpine karst, irregular formations of limestone characterized by sinks, caverns and underground streams, have been found in this part of Southeast Alaska. El Cap Pit is the deepest known natural pit in the United States, an initial drop of 598.3 feet. Snowhole ranks thirds in the U.S. at 448.8 feet. The seven deepest known caves in Alaska and the five longest have been recorded in this area.

Source : U.S. ForReturn to SUPERLATIVES est Service. Karst and Cave Management and Research



Alaska is ranked eleventh in the nation in the level of incarceration per 100,000 population . As of December 31, 2000 the Department of Corrections held 2,757 inmates in state facilities, 826 in out-of state contract prisons, 590 in community residential centers.. The state's inmate population can be broken down into the following classes/offenses: Crimes against a person, 47%; Parole/Probation violation, 18.8%; Crimes against property, 9.4%; Alcohol offenses, 7.1%; Public administration offenses, 6.9%; Controlled substances offenses, 5.2%; Public order offenses, 3.2%, Miscellaneous offenses, 2.1%; Offenses against minors, 0.2%.

During 1996, the Alaska Parole Board held a total of 1644 parole hearings.

Source : Alaska Department Return to SUPERLATIVES of Corrections.



During the 20 th century, earthquakes occurring in Alaska released 25 percent of all earthquake energy released in the world.


Each year in Alaska there are more than 5,000 earthquakes recorded, including 550 that measure greater than 3.0 on the Richter scale. There were 37 earthquakes recorded with a magnitude greater than 7.25 in Alaska during the 20th century.


Of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded on the world, three have occurred in Alaska : The great earthquake of 1964 was 2nd strongest with magnitude 9.2; the central Aleutians earthquake of 1957 was 3rd with magnitude 9.1; and the western Aleutians earthquake of 1965 was 6th with magnitude 8.7. Alaska has had seven out of the ten largest earthquakes recorded in the United States .


Recent geologic data show that the previous great earthquake (larger than magnitude 8) in the Anchorage area was about 800 years ago. The average recurrence interval for the largest earthquakes in this region is 600 to 800 years, but damaging earthquakes in the 7-8 range can occur more frequently.

Source : Alaska DepReturn to SUPERLATIVES artment of Natural Resources, Division of Geological and Geophysical Services.
And the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, UAF.



Nationally ranked second in expenditures per pupil in average daily attendance: $9,290 compared to the national average of $5,526.

Alaska teachers' average 1994 salary of $47,500 compared to the national average of $35,800.

Public elementary and secondary school enrollment for 1993 was 125,000 compared to the national average per state of [805,020], 94.7% of persons 5-17 years old.

Source : Statistical Abstract oReturn to SUPERLATIVES f the United States, 1995.



Electricity generation in the state exceeded 7.5 billion kilowatt-hours in 1991. Natural gas is used to meet almost two-thirds of the state's electric generation requirements. Alaska's power requirements are also supplied by hydroelectric projects (14 percent), oil (13 percent), coal (7 percent), and 3.6 percent is produced by other means.

Source : Alaska Energy Return to SUPERLATIVES Authority.



Alaska leads the nation in quantity of commercial seafood landings. In 1991 Alaska's catch was over 4 times greater than that amount landed by fishermen in Louisiana, the second ranking state.

The twin ports of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska ranked number one in the nation for seafood landings in 1991, with total landings in excess of 731.9 million pounds.

United States commercial landings of salmon were 783.3 million pounds in 1991 - Alaska accounted for 93 percent of the total landings.

The 1991 United States pack of natural Pacific salmon was 4.1 million standard cases (195.7 million pounds) valued at $413 million. Alaskan plants accounted for 94 percent in quantity and 95 percent in value of the salmon pack. Canned salmon represents 59 percent of all retail salmon volume.

In 1991, 32,594 major commercial fishing permits were issued for Alaska fisheries. Over 78 percent of the permit owners were state residents. Alaska residents owned more than three quarters of the 17,580 vessels participating in state fisheries. In addition, nearly 35,000 crew members were licensed to participate in commercial fisheries in Alaska. There were 559 processors and buyers licensed in Alaska during 1991, providing approximately 17,400 jobs.

The 1992 season produced a record sockeye catch of over 58 million fist worth over $445 million. This record sockeye season included the second largest catch in Upper Cook Inlet's history, and the third largest catch in Bristol Bay's history.

The 1991 Alaska herring harvest was valued at approximately $27 million to commercial fisherman, while preliminary 1992 figures indicate earnings of about $32 million.

Halibut landings in 1992 were in the 48-50 million pound range.

Groundfish harvest continues to rise. Alaska pollock increased 34 percent to 3.2 billion pounds in 1990, more than three times higher than the 1985-1989 five-year average.

The 1991 shellfish harvest alone was nearly double the commercial harvests taken in 1990, which had been a record year with catches of 160 million pounds worth nearly $100 million.

Source : Alaska Department of Fish Return to SUPERLATIVES and Game, Division of Commercial Fisheries.



In 1991, 425,025 recreational anglers fished the state's waters. 252,116 of these lived in Alaska and 172,909 came from other states and nations to fish here.

Anglers spent a total of 2,456,328 days of sport fishing in Alaska and caught 5.4 million fish and razor clams.

Seventy-three percent of Alaska sport fishing is done in the Southcentral region of the state where most of the state's population resides. Eighteen percent of sport fishing is in Southeast, and ten percent is in the Interior area.

The 1991 season saw the smallest increase in numbers of anglers since a sport fish survey was begun in 1977. The number of resident anglers increased after 1990 by one percent, while the number of nonresident anglers declined by two percent, the first such decline since the survey began. Since 1981, however, the total number of anglers has increased seventy-one percent.

Source : Alaska Department ofReturn to SUPERLATIVES Fish and Game, Division of Sport Fish.



Alaska has 12 species of big game, including some not found (muskox, Dall sheep) or very rare (wold, wolverine, brown bear, caribou), in the other 49 states. Approximately 144,000-166,000 moose; 950,000 caribou; 60,000-80,000 Dall sheep; 32,000-43,000 brown bears;, over 100,000-200,000 black bears, 5,900-7,200 wolves, 2,100 musk-oxen; 13,000-15,000 mountain goats; 350,000-400,000 black-tailed deer, 1,400-16,00 elk and 850 bison inhabit the state.

Also abundant are 19 species of furbearers, three species of ptarmigan, four species of grouse, two species of hares and many species of waterfowl, migratory birds, raptors and marine mammals.

Source : Alaska Department of Fish and Game.Return to SUPERLATIVES



Alaska is one-fifth the size of the contiguous United States; 488 times larger than the state of Rhode Island; larger than the three largest states combined.

Alaska contains 586,412 square miles. A map of Alaska superimposed on a map of the lower 48 states would touch South Carolina, Mexico, California and the U.S.-Canadian border.

East to west (including the Aleutian Islands), Alaska measures 2,400 miles --roughly the distance between Denver and Mexico City.

Alaska is nearly equidistant from Japan, Europe and the east coast of the United States.

Little Diomede Island off the west coast of Alaska is only 2.5 miles from Russia's Big Diomede Island.

Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline (longer than that of all of the rest of the lower 48 states) and, including islands, 33,904 miles of shoreline.

The tallest mountain in North American, Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet, is located in Alaska.

Alaska has more than 5,000 glaciers. Both Bering and Malispina Glaciers, the largest glaciers in North American are approximately 2,900 miles, making each larger than the State of Delaware.

Ice fields cover 28,800 of Alaska's 586,412 square miles, or just 4 percent of the state.

Alaska has more than three million lakes over 20 acres each. One of these, Lake Iliamna, is America's second largest fresh water lake.

Alaska has over 3,000 rivers. The Yukon River discharges 240,000 cubic feet per second at the mouth making it the fifth ranked U.S. river. The Mississippi discharging 640,000 cubic feet per seconds is first. The Yukon River (2,300 miles total, 1,875 in Alaska) ranks third in length of U.S. rivers behind the Mississippi and Missouri.

The nation's two largest national forests are located in Alaska: Tongass in Southeast has 16.8 million acres, and Chugach on Southcentral has 4.8 million acres.

Barrow, the northermost city in the U.S., is only 800 miles from the North Pole. When the sun rises in Barrow on May 10, it doesn't set again for nearly three months. When it sets November, Barrow residents don't see the sun again for more than two months.

Source : U.S. Geodetic SurvReturn to SUPERLATIVES ey; Governor's Office



Alaska ranked first in 1993 general expenditures per person ($8,253 compared to a national average of $2,506); first in total revenues per person ($10,303 compared to a national average of $2,534); first in total federal aid ($1,755 compared to a national average of $811); and first in average earnings per month from state and local government employment ($3,258 and $3,590 compared to a national average of $2,621 and $2,559)>


Source : Statistical Abstract of the United StatesReturn to SUPERLATIVES , 1995.



Alaska has over 12,200 miles of public roads. Of these land miles, over 5,500 are under state jurisdiction, over 4,200 miles are under local government jurisdiction, with the remainder under the jurisdiction of various federal agencies.

Approximately one-half of the public roads are paved.

While Alaska is over twice as large as the next largest state (Texas), Alaska's population and land road mileage compare more closely with those of Vermont.

Source : Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.Return to SUPERLATIVES



Alaska was purchased from Russia on March 30, 1867 for $7,200,000. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959. The word Alaska comes from the Aleut term "Alyeska" which means "The Great Land". The 1,000 mile-wide continental shelf joining Alaska and Siberia was tReturn to SUPERLATIVES he path for America's first immigrants as the ocean level rose and fell during a time between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago



Alaska was second in the percent of change of total housing units between 1980 and 1990 (42.9 percent compared to a national average of 15.7 percent).

In 1990, Alaska's total of 77,500 occupied housing had a median value of $94,400 compared to a national median value of $79,100.

Alaska's 70,600 renter-occupied units had a median rental value of $503.00per month compared to a national median rental value of $374.00 per month.

Source : Statistical Abstract of the United Return to SUPERLATIVES State, 1995.



Alaska is the largest producer of zinc in the United States, responsible for over 50 percent of the 1992 domestic mine production. Recent Alaska zinc output has decreased U.S. net import reliance by about 22 percent (from 61-48 percent). Green Creek Mine on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska was the largest silver mine in the United States from 1989 through 1992. The total Alaska silver production for 1992 represented over 17 percent of the U.S. total mine output. Alaska has the largest placer mining industry in the United States producing over 262,000 ounces of raw gold in 1992. Developing hard rock gold mines are poised to raise Alaska's gold production to over 1,000,000 ounces. Alaska currently produces over 1.5 million tons of low sulfur coal annually. About half of this coal is used to fuel interior Alaska power plants, the remainder is exported to South Korea under long term contract.

Source : Alaska Department of ComReturn to SUPERLATIVES merce and Economic Development.



Alaska's oil production is 25 percent of the total United States production.

Alaska has the two largest producing oil fields in the United States (Prudhoe and Kuparak River).

The State of Alaska realizes 85 percent of its total income from oil and gas reserves.

Under Alaska's surface lies as estimated 30 percent of the total proven U.S. oil reserves.

Under Alaska's outer continental shelf lies an estimated 41 percent of U.S. offshore gas reserves and 29 percent of the U.S. offshore oil reserves.

Alaska produces about 1.8 million barrels of oil and 1.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily.

The 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) transports about 1.8 million barrels a day of crude oil from Alaska's North Slope to the seaport of Valdez for transport via tankers to the rest of the U.S.

Source : Alaska DepartmReturn to SUPERLATIVES ent of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas.



The Alaska State Park System with more than 3.2 million acres of land and water, and 100 park units is the largest state park system in the UnReturn to SUPERLATIVES ited States.



Among all states, Alaska ranks 48th in total population (586,900 in 1992); last in population per square mile (1.0 in 1991 compared to 71.2 for the whole nation); but first in land area.

Alaska ranked second among states in percent of change in the population between 1980-90 at 36.9 percent. For the same period the national rate of change was 9.8 percent. The percent change for 1990-91 was 3.7 for Alaska and 1.4 for the nation.

With 4.2 percent of its population over 65 years in 1991, Alaska ranked 50th among the states - the national average was 12.6 of the population. In 1991, 21,2 percent of the Alaska population were of school age (5-17 years). Nationwide, 18.2 percent were of school age.

Alaska's non-white population in 1992 was 23.7 percent of the total. Alaska Natives composed 15.8 percent of the state's population in 1991.

The median age of Alaskans in 1991 was 29.4 compared with the national average of 33.9


Source : Alaska Department of Labor, Research & Analyses.

Connect here for the 1990 U.S. Census State for Alaska by Borough.

Connect here for the 1990 U.S. CensusReturn to SUPERLATIVES for Alaska State Summary.



Alaska contains over 100 volcanoes and volcanic fields which have been active within the last one and a half million years. Over 40 of these have been active in historic time. These make up about 80% of all active volcanoes in the United States and 8% of all active above-water volcanoes on earth. Hardly a year goes by without a major eruption from a volcano in the Aleutian Arc. The series of 1989-90 eruptions from Mt. Redoubt was the second-most costly in the history of the United States, and had significant impact on the aviation and oil industries, as well as the people of the Kenai Peninsula.

The three eruptions of Mt. Spurr's Crater Peak in 1992 deposited ash on Anchorage and surrounding communities, closing airports and making even ground transportation difficult. Air traffic was disrupted as far east as Juneau. The 1912 Katmai eruption, which formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on the Alaska Peninsula, was the largest 20th century eruption on earth.

Source : The Alaska Volcano Observatory, a cooperative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey, The University of Alaska Geophysical Institute, aReturn to SUPERLATIVES nd the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey.



The eight vessels of the Alaska Marine Highway System sail over routes totaling more than 3,500 miles in length, serving 30 Alaskan ports, with links to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and Bellingham, Washington. More than 401,000 passengers and 110,000 vehicles are transported annually.

Source : AlReturn to SUPERLATIVES aska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Information Office.



The greatest annual precipitation (snow and rain) in Alaska occurred at MacLeod Harbor on Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska in 1976 where 332.29 inches were recorded,

The highest monthly precipitation in Alaska was also recorded at MacLeod Harbor in November 1976 where 70.99 inches fell.

The record maximum 24 hour precipitation in Alaska occurred on October 12, 1982, in Angoon with a measured amount of 15.2 inches.

Alaska snowfall records are all credited to a station at Thompson Pass (on the highway north of Valdez). The record measurements are: season (1952-53) 974.5 inches; month (February 1953) 298 inches; and 24 hour (December 1955) 62 inches.

The highest recorded temperature for Alaska is 100 degrees at Fort Yukon in June 1915. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records through 1977 show that Alaska and Hawaii hold the record for the lowest high temperature marks in the U. S. Both have 100 degree highs. Every other state has a highest temperature of over 100. California has the highest recorded temperature at 134 degrees.

The coldest Alaska temperature ever recorded was minus 80 at Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971. NOAA records (through 1977) show that to be the lowest temperature recorded in any of the 50 states. The state with the next lowest recorded temperature was minus 70 in Montana. Not surprisingly, Hawaii has the highest recorded low temperature at plus 14. Every other state has a minus temperature as their recorded low.

Shemya, on the western end of the Aleutian Islands, has experienced winds of an estimated 139 mph.

Precipitation ranges have a great variance in Alaska. Annual precipitation in amounts up to 200 inches occur in the southeast panhandle, and up to 150 inches along the northern coast of the Gulf of Alaska. Amounts decrease to near 60 inches on the southern side of the Alaska Range, in the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. Precipitation amounts decrease rapidly to the north, with an average of 12 inches in the continental zone and less than 6 inches in the arctic region.

Source : National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdReturn to SUPERLATIVES ministration Document 60, Climate of Alaska. Updated by National Weather Service.




Source : Alaska Blue Book 1993-94, 11th ed., Juneau, Department ofEducation, Division of State Libraries, Archives & Museums

Last Modified: 17 January 2005
For further information about Alaska, contact your nearest library. For comments or corrections about this site, contact:
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