"Anchorage - Summertime Beauty" Anchorage by AlbuqRay

Anchorage Travel Guide: 880 reviews and 1,680 photos

Alaska's Largest City

With more than 275,000 people, almost half of Alaska's population lives in Anchorage. In 1975, Anchorage merged with Eagle River, Girdwood, Glen Alps, and several other communities. The merger expanded the city, which is known officially as the Municipality of Anchorage and whose motto is "Live a Big Wild Life," to nearly 2,000 square miles, i.e., about the size of Delaware. Anchorage is in a beautiful location on a peninsula in the upper Cook Inlet with the Knik Arm to the north, the Chugach Mountains and National Forest to the east, and the Turnagain Arm to the south.

It's known history began ~4000 BC, when descendants of the first people to cross the land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska reached the area and established fishing and hunting camps. Eklutna, an Athabaskan Indian village on the upper end of the Knik Arm northeast of Anchorage, has been continually inhabited for 1000 years. Point Woronzof, near the airport, was the site of a battle between Pacific Eskimos and Tanaina Indians in the 1600s.

In the mid-1700s Russian trappers and hunters arrived, followed in 1778 by Captain James Cook on his third and final voyage seeking the Northwest Passage. The discovery of gold at Crow Creek in 1898, just 40 miles south of downtown Anchorage in Girdwood, sparked a rush that lasted well into the 20th century. With the rush came the Alaska Railroad which ran straight through Anchorage, bringing thousands of job seekers and eventual settlers.

In World War II the Japanese invaded American soil in the Aleutian Islands. As a result, Anchorage became such a key to the American war strategy that the military built a sizable Army post called Ft. Richardson and an airfield that became Elmendorf Air Force Base. The Anchorage population zoomed from 7000 to 43,000 during the war. To link these military installations with the rest of the nation, the Alaska Highway was built in an amazing nine months.

On Good Friday in 1964 a massive earthquake measuring 9.2 on the Richter Scale ripped through South-Central Alaska, releasing 80 times the energy of the historic San Francisco quake of 1906. The massive shock and the tidal waves it caused killed 131 people in Alaska and the upper Pacific coast. Thousands of people lost their homes and businesses, entire blocks crumbled and a whole subdivision slid into the sea near what is now Earthquake Park.

The next boom came 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. Subsequently, other North Slope oil fields were developed and their workers now make up a large part of the Anchorage economy.

Sleeping Lady Legend

Wikipedia tells us that Mount Susitna is a 4,140-foot (1,262 m) mountain located on the west bank of the lower Susitna River, about 33 miles (53 km) northwest of Anchorage across Knik Arm. The mountain is a prominent landmark in the Anchorage area and can be seen from most of the city, especially at higher elevations (try Elderberry Park or Resolution Park).

Mount Susitna is often called The Sleeping Lady for its resemblance to a recumbent woman. The name is sometimes said to derive from a Dena?ina legend, in which a woman named Susitna belonging to a race of giants vows to sleep until world peace is achieved, but no such legend actually exists. The Legend of the Sleeping Lady is a very recent legend, as legends go, and it probably was not created by the indigenous people of the area. Possibly it should be called a folk story.

The story begins by introducing a clan of peace-loving giants who lived in the Anchorage - Cook Inlet area many years ago. Among these giants were a young man and woman who were in love and were soon to be married. Before these young people could exchange their wedding vows, a band of warriors moved into the area. These warriors were so threatening that there was no choice for the peace-loving giants; they had to protect their home and their way of life by going to war. The men gathered together and went off to fight the invading warriors. The women and children stayed behind and waited for the men to return home. Mount Susitna, or Sleeping Lady, is the sleeping form of the young woman who was about to be married. To this day she lies sleeping and waiting for her husband-to-be to return.

Downtown Anchorage

The remark that Anchorage is "only twenty minutes from Alaska" has a very positive meaning to me. Downtown Anchorage looks like other clean US cities in the summertime. The fact that in 20 short minutes you can be in some amazingly wild and beautiful place is a very good thing. The same thing is true for where I live (Albuquerque), except everything is bigger in Alaska...brown bears vs. black bears, wolves vs. coyotes, moose vs. mule deer, Chugach Mountains vs. Sandia Mountains, Turnagain Arm vs. Rio Grande River, AK mosquitoes vs. NM mosquitoes, etc. Just remember though, Alaska has to get its green chile from New Mexico!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful, clean city
  • Cons:High prices and winter cold
  • In a nutshell:Twenty minutes from Alaska
  • Last visit to Anchorage: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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