MAT-SU AND THE COP­PER RIVER VAL­LEY

Where Alaska - - The Guide -

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.

MATANUSKASUSITNA 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.

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