Anchorage | South Central
Embraced by mountain ranges and warmed by a maritime climate, Anchorage, Alaska, is alive year round with adventure, recreation, seasonal festivities, sporting events and more.
Recognized as a four-time All-American City, it is Alaska’s largest city and is surrounded by spectacular wilderness.
Anchorage has much to offer the visitor and is an excellent place to headquarter as you explore the myriad of things to do nearby. In summer months, enjoy endless hours of fun under the midnight sun. Flightsee over snowcapped mountains, cruise cobalt waters to see Alaska’s abundant sealife, reel in a wild Alaska salmon right downtown or hike a mountain trail just a few minutes from your door.
Anchorage’s roots date back to about 4,000 BC when descendants of the first people to cross the land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska reached the area, establishing fishing and hunting camps. One expert believes that occupation of the Upper Inlet began by Athabascans, with Eskimos arriving about 1 BC and remaining through 1500 A.D. Eklutna, an Athabascan Indian village on the northeast corner of Anchorage, has been continually inhabited for 1,000 years. Point Woronzof, near the airport, was the site of a decisive battle between Pacific Eskimos and Tanaina Indians in approximately 1650 at which time the Tanaina established dominance of the Knik Arm area. The main settlement was called “Eydlughet” or “Ikluat,” and used only in winter.
In the mid-1700’s, Russian trappers and hunters arrived, followed in 1778 by Capt. James Cook on his third and final voyage. The discovery of gold at Crow Creek, just 40 miles south of downtown Anchorage, sparked a rush that lasted into the 20th century.
But it was coal, and later oil, that turned a sleepy settlement into a bustling town. Construction began in 1914 on a federal railroad from the port of Seward, 126 miles south of Anchorage, through the coal fields of Interior Alaska, to the gold claims near Fairbanks, 358 miles to the north. The midpoint construction headquarters was Anchorage, and by July of 1915, thousands of job seekers and opportunists had poured into the area, living in a tent city on the banks of Ship Creek near the edge of the present downtown.
That July produced the “Great Anchorage Lot Sale,” a land auction that shaped the future of the city. Some 655 lots were sold for $148,000 or an average of $225 each. A month later, the town voted to call itself Alaska City, but the Federal government refused to change its name from Anchorage.
The first train from Seward steamed into Anchorage in 1918, but it would take five more years of construction before President Warren G. Harding arrived to drive the golden spike that signaled the completion of the line. The railroad remained in federal hands until 1985 when it was sold to the State of Alaska. Today the Alaska Railroad serves an important transportation link through what is called the Railbelt of Alaska. Passenger service is provided to Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Seward and the community of Whittier. (Call 907-265-2494 for information). The railroad connects into the state ferry system at Seward and Whittier.
World War II brought a period of unprecedented growth to the Anchorage area. When the Japanese invaded American soil in the Aleutian Islands, Anchorage became so strategically important that the military built a large Army post called Ft. Richardson and an air field that became Elmendorf Air Force Base. To link these military installations with the rest of the nation, the Alaska Highway was pushed through in less than nine months, an engineering feat that ranks as one of this century’s greatest.
Anchorage entered the war years with a population of 7,724 and emerged with 43,314. The military remains an important part of life in Anchorage, creating about 16,000 jobs. Today Richardson is headquarters for U.S. Army Alaska and Elmendorf houses F-15s. Both installations have interesting wildlife museums and 18-hole golf courses open to the public. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of Richardson and visit the fish hatchery, national cemetery, museum and golf course. Ask for pass at the gatehouse. On Good Friday, 1964, a massive earthquake measuring 9.2 on the Richter Scale ripped through South-central Alaska. It was the largest tremor ever recorded in North America, releasing 80 times the energy of the historic San Francisco quake of 1906. The massive shock and seismic waves killed 131 people in Alaska and the upper Pacific coast. Thousands of people lost their homes and businesses as entire blocks crumbled and a subdivision fell into the sea. Residents rebounded in record time, and within a year, Anchorage’s first high-rise hotel started reshaping the skyline. The story of the Good Friday earthquake is recounted in interpretative displays at Earthquake Park near the airport.
Oil fueled a modern-day boom with the discovery and development of the Prudhoe Bay oil field, the largest in North America. On June 20, 1977, Prudhoe Bay oil started flowing through the $8 billion trans-Alaska pipeline, and today, with the development of other North Slope oil fields, just under two million barrels a day flow south to the pipeline’s terminus at Valdez.
Info on Anchorage’s past and present is available at the Visitor Information Centers operated by the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau, and at the Alaska Public Lands Info Center, 605 W 4th Ave. #105
National Alamo Car Rental has rental counters at the Anchorage International Airport. 800-327-9633 or 907-248-0088