MAT-SU AND THE COPPER RIVER VALLEY
Unspoiled Beauty to Explore
The area is a geographic medley of wetlands, tundra, silver-blue glaciers and endless miles of streams, rivers and lakes. It also offers an extraordinary view of the Chugach, Alaska, Talkeetna and Wrangell-St. Elias mountain ranges. Hundreds of public-use trails offer access to hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, fourwheeling and horseback riding. Mat-Su golf courses have the Chugach Range as a backdrop.
MATANUSKASUSITNA VALLEY The Matanuska-Susitna Valley is a place with unspoiled beauty, wide- open spaces and pastoral charm. Commonly called the Mat-Su Valley (or the Valley), the region covers more than 25,000 square miles across the valleys of the Matanuska and Susitna rivers.
The Mat-Su Valley is distinctive on many levels. It’s the official start of two of Alaska’s most celebrated events: the historic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race out of Willow, and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, departing from nearby Big Lake.
The area is also well known for having a rapidly expanding population. It’s the fastest-growing region in the state. An easy 45-minute drive from Anchorage, the Valley is highly attractive to people wanting more affordable housing, a rural setting and relaxed lifestyle. The local landscape reflects an assortment of modern subdivisions and log cabin homes.
The Valley is also the center of Alaska’s agriculture industry, containing the largest concentration of farms in the state. Thanks to a 100-day growing season, the area produces more vegetables than anywhere else in Alaska. It’s also one of the few places in the world where someone has grown 125-pound cabbages.
Wasilla and Palmer are the most prominent communities in the Valley. Perched near the northern edge of Knik Arm, Wasilla (pop. 8,064), stretches along the Parks Highway a 42-mile drive from downtown Anchorage.
Palmer (pop. 6,087), has a densely populated downtown and miles of outlying farmland. It’s the site of the Alaska State Fair, an event that draws half a million people each year. Palmer holds several world records for its oversized vegetables and raises locally sold, supermarket produce.
In 1935, Palmer became the site of the Matanuska Colony where 202 Midwest farm families were sent to “settle” the Matanuska Valley and bring agriculture to Alaska. This history may be viewed in the Colony House Museum.
Wasilla and Palmer may be rural communities, but they have their share of amenities. Residents and visitors enjoy a variety of ethnicities in restaurants in addition to typical restaurant chains, a multi-plex movie theater, major retail stores, world-class golfing and unlimited options for other outdoor recreation. COPPER RIVER VALLEY Alaska’s Copper River Valley is an expansive area that encompasses more than 20,000 square miles of breathtaking scenery. The region—also called the Copper Valley or Copper Basin—is bound by Prince William Sound to the south, Alaska Range to the north, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to the east, and the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains to the west.
The Copper River Valley is home to the impressive Wrangell-St. Elias mountains, which contain the greatest collection of peaks over 16,000 feet on the continent and is topped by the 18,029foot Mount St. Elias—second tallest peak in the U.S. It also includes the 300-mile-long Copper River—highly prized for its bountiful wild salmon runs. Other rivers in the area include the Gulkana and Klutina, which are highly regarded for their king and red salmon. These waters have some of the best salmon fishing in the world.
Fishing, of course, is one of the most popular activities in the Copper River Valley. Other favorite pastimes include boating, canoeing, snow machining (or snowmobiling, as its known down south), skiing, backpacking and camping.
The Knik Glacier is one of several to
explore in the Mat-Su Valley.