Un­spoiled beauty, wide-open spa­ces

Where Alaska - - The Guide -

The area is a ge­o­graphic med­ley of wet­lands, tun­dra, sil­ver-blue glaciers and end­less miles of streams, rivers and lakes. It also of­fers scenic views of the Chugach, Alaska, Tal­keetna and Wrangell-St. Elias moun­tain ranges. Hun­dreds of public-use trails of­fer ac­cess for hik­ing, hunt­ing, fish­ing, skiing, snowshoeing, ATV and horse­back rid­ing. Mat-Su golf cour­ses have the Chugach Range as a back­drop. MATANUSKASUSITNA VAL­LEY is a place with un­spoiled beauty, wide- open spa­ces and pas­toral charm. Com­monly called the Mat- Su or Mat- Su Val­ley (or just the Val­ley), the re­gion cov­ers more than 25,000 square miles across the val­leys of the Matanuska and Susitna rivers.

This area 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 at­tracts those who seek more af­ford­able hous­ing, a ru­ral set­ting and a 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 you may grow 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) is a 42-mile drive from down­town An­chor­age and sprawls along the Parks High­way.

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 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, the 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 im­pres­sive Wrangell-St. Elias moun­tains con­tain the great­est col­lec­tion of peaks over 16,000 feet on the con­ti­nent, topped by the 18,029-foot Mount St. Elias—sec­ond tallest peak in the U.S. The 300-mile-long Cop­per River—highly prized for its boun­ti­ful wild salmon runs—winds through this re­gion. 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 is wildly pop­u­lar here but other fa­vorite pas­times in­clude boating, ca­noe­ing, snow ma­chin­ing (or snow­mo­bil­ing, as its known down south), skiing, back­pack­ing and camp­ing. Ex­plore the his­toric Ken­necott Mine at small-town Ken­ni­cott or hike the Ken­ni­cott Glacier

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