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  Clickable Map of Alaska's Regions

Geography and climate play a larger part in the history of Alaska than in that of many other regions. Their importance lies in the great amount of misinformation that has been and still is accepted as fact. The common fallacies of regarding the Klondike as a part of Alaska (it isn't; nor was it ever), and referring to Alaska as an ice-bound land (it isn't) are examples in point.  Having said that...

Alaska is a rugged, wild, beautiful land of majestic mountains and deep, high-walled fjords; of slow-moving glaciers and still-active volcanoes; of dense, coniferous forests and desolate, treeless islands; of hot springs and icy streams. It is a land of contrasts, with extremes of wind and sun, snow and rain, heat and cold.

Despite its rugged appearance, Alaska is a young land, geologically speaking. Composed of fragments of the earth's crust that rafted from the Pacific area on the backs of crust plates and then "docked" together, the entire region is actually still in the process of coming together.  America's largest state has arctic tundra, 5,000 glaciers, ice fields, four mountain ranges (including Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet), broad valleys, immense forests, active volcanoes, 12 major river systems, three million lakes and countless islands.

Alaska covers more than twice the land area of its closest competitor, Texas, and it has 33,900 miles of coastline - 50 percent more than the continental United States. With approximately 622,000 residents, there is an average of about 1 sq. mile of land for each of them.

In truth, Alaska is not one land, but many.  Distances are immense, and the diversity of terrain and climate is so extreme that Secretary of State Seward predicted in an 1869 speech in Sitka that this Great Land could be admitted to the Union as several separate states.  Today, some Alaska residents - far removed from the hub of state government in Juneau - might complain that his advice should have been heeded.

Alaska is a land that has undergone tremendous change. Since becoming a United States territory in 1912, it has significantly developed its mineral, fishery, forest, and petroleum resources. The state now has a stable and self-sufficient economy based on its rich and varied natural resources above all, oil and natural gas. Today's Alaska is a composite of old and new, with fur trappers, traditional sea mammal hunters, and dog teams living in a state with modern cities connected to the world by all the modern means of communication.

Most geographers identify five distinct regions in the state: the Far North, the Interior, Southwestern Alaska, Southcentral Alaska, and the panhandle of the Southeast.  The island-studded panhandle, home to such southeastern cities as Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau, enjoys a mild, maritime climate similar to that of Seattle and the Puget Sound.  In this northern rain forest, temperatures range from 20 degrees in winter to 60 degrees in summer, and annual rainfall in some places reaches 200 inches.  Ketchikan receives an average of 13-1/2 FEET of rain a year!

The tundra steppe of the Arctic (Far North) represents Alaska's other extreme.  Lying north of the Brooks Range, the vast area's soil never thaws below a few inches, and precipitation totals less than 10 inches yearly.  Between the two extremes lies the semi-arid, broken forest of the Interior taiga, where the thermometer can dive to -60 degrees or more in winter and killing frosts occur as early as August.  Yet Interior summer temperatures in the Tanana Valley around Fairbanks may reach 90 degrees. 

The map below is hyperlinked.  Click directly on the name of the region of interest; or if you'd prefer, below the map is a listing of each region and the boroughs/census areas found in each.  Clicking directly on the region name will also take you to the page.  The geography of Alaska is extensive and I've not gone into great detail here choosing rather, to give you a general idea of the land area of your ancestors.

Below the map you'll find small bits of information regarding each region, including the county equivalents in each.

 

 

 

    ALASKA'S REGIONS and her county equivalents
  • Interior
    Denali Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Nome Census Area, Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Wade Hampton Census Area, Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area

    In Alaska’s heartland is the continent’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley, and wide expanses of tundra. Forests teem with wildlife ranging from the formidable grizzly to stately herds of caribou to the state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan. Interior is the original home of Alaska’s Athabascan Indians. Gold miners, farmers and fur trappers later discovered the riches of this region.

     

  • Far North
    North Slope Borough, Northwest Arctic Borough

    Northern Alaska is Arctic Alaska, a remote land of extremes, where traditional people follow ancient calendars and where national politics plays a prominent role.  Alaska’s Arctic is home to the Inupiat Eskimos, many who still live a subsistence lifestyle and still preserve their history verbally from generation to generation. This area above the Arctic Circle -- without large summer runs of salmon and facing months of twilight and bitter cold every winter -- is alive in the summer with millions of migratory waterfowl.
     

  • Southcentral
    Anchorage Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Valdez-Cordova Census Area

    Home to over half of Alaska’s population with mountains and lakes, Southcentral offers the advantages of remote wilderness, but is linked via roads. World-class rainbow trout and salmon shimmer in the rivers.

     

  • Inside Passage - otherwise known as the Southeast Region
    Haines Borough, Juneau Borough, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Prince of Wales-Outer Ketchikan Borough, Sitka Borough, Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon Census Area, Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area, Yakutat Borough

    Shaped by the staggering force of massive glaciers millions of years ago, Alaska’s Inside Passage boasts wildlife-filled fjords and lush island scenery — habitat for bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and whales. Its mountains are carpeted with majestic forests.  Inside Passage is home to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians whose history is reflected in towering totem poles. Russian settlers left a legacy of onion-domed churches gleaming with icons.

     

  • Southwest
    Aleutians East Borough, Aleutians West Census Area, Bethel Census Area, Bristol Bay Borough, Dillingham Census Area, Kodiak Island Borough, Lake and Peninsula Borough

    Few places on earth compare with the wonders of Southwest Alaska. Brown bears amble along the hills and plains, and nearly 230 bird species live here. The region’s terrain ranges from a landscape of volcanoes in Katmai National Park to the windswept Aleutian Islands that make an 1100-mile sweep toward Asia.