Nat­u­ral Won­ders Abound Here!

Where Alaska - - The Guide -

In the Alaska Range is North Amer­ica’s high­est peak, Denali, at 20,310 feet. In the night sky are the north­ern lights (au­rora bo­re­alis); watch for them from Septem­ber to April. At the end of the Steese High­way is the Yukon River, the longest river in Alaska. On the Dal­ton High­way, 200 miles north of Fair­banks, is the Arc­tic Cir­cle; along the way see a man­made won­der, the 800-mile-long trans-Alaska oil pipe­line. IN­TE­RIOR ALASKA In­te­rior Alaska is a great chunk of land in the mid­dle of the state that stretches from the Alaska Range in the south to the Brooks Range in the north. It is made up of wide-open val­leys of bo­real for­est or taiga, criss­crossed by big rivers (the Tanana, Chena and Yukon) and four of Alaska’s re­main­ing gravel high­ways (the Denali, Steese, El­liott and Dal­ton). The Parks High­way con­nects Fair­banks with An­chor­age. And Alaska’s first high­way—the Richardson—a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of the Alaska High­way, ends in Fair­banks, mak­ing the city Mile 1523 on the Alaska High­way (there’s a mile­post down­town).

Hot sum­mers with very long days, and cold win­ters with very short days, char­ac­ter­ize the cli­mate of Alaska’s In­te­rior. Sum­mer tem­per­a­tures rou­tinely climb to 80˚F, and some­times into the 90s. On sol­stice (June 21), the sun stays above the hori­zon for nearly 22 hours in Fair­banks, and locals cel­e­brate by play­ing base­ball with­out ar­ti­fi­cial lights (the game starts at 10:30 pm). At win­ter sol­stice (De­cem­ber 22) the sun comes up for only 3 hours and 37 min­utes.

Gov­ern­ment, tourism, ed­u­ca­tion and health care sec­tors, re­tail and ser­vice in­dus­tries pro­vide jobs. The In­te­rior is also home to dog mush­ers, gold min­ers, moun­tain climbers, river­boat cap­tains, bush pi­lots and long-haul truck­ers. The mil­i­tary has a ma­jor im­pact on the re­gion’s econ­omy, with 4 mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions adding peo­ple and jobs: Fort Wain­wright in Fair­banks, Eiel­son Air Force Base near North Pole, the Na­tional Guard’s Clear radar sta­tion at An­der­son, and Fort Greely near Delta Junc­tion. FAIR­BANKS (pop. 32,070) is the largest city and hub of the In­te­rior, at the cross­roads of 3 high­ways (Parks, Richardson, Steese), with a mod­ern air­port and pas­sen­ger rail ser­vice. It’s also the geo­graphic heart of the re­gion, dubbed the “Golden Heart City.” Fair­banks sits about 125 miles south of the Arc­tic Cir­cle and 360 miles north of An­chor­age.

Named in honor of Sen. Charles W. Fair­banks of In­di­ana, Fair­banks was in­cor­po­rated in 1903. Fair­banks’ past, present and fu­ture are closely linked to gold. Prospec­tor Fe­lix Pe­dro dis­cov­ered gold in the nearby hills in 1902, and gold min­ing con­tin­ues to­day. Jewelry stores carry dis­tinc­tive gold nugget jewelry, made from lo­cally mined gold.

Top at­trac­tions are the Uni­ver­sity of Alaska Mu­seum of the Nort, the River­boat Dis­cov­ery and the Foun­tain­head Auto Mu­seum. Pop­u­lar an­nual events in­clude the Ice Alaska ice carv­ing com­pe­ti­tion, the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race and the World Eskimo In­dian Olympics. The Trans-Alaska Oil Pipe­line View­point is about an 8-mile drive from town. DENALI NA­TIONAL PARK AND PRE­SERVE At 6 mil­lion acres, Denali Na­tional Park is one of the largest na­tional parks in the na­tion. The park’s best known fea­ture, Denali (for­merly Mount McKin­ley), may be the high­est peak on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent but it is not al­ways easy to see: sum­mer vis­i­tors have about a 30 to 40 per­cent chance of see­ing “the moun­tain.” But beau­ti­ful scenery, wildlife sight­ings and sled dog demon­stra­tions at the Park Ken­nels, can still be en­joyed on cloudy days.

The park en­trance is 125 high­way miles south of Fair­banks. By rail, Denali Park is 4 hours from Fair­banks.

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