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Carving your own slice of wilderness Standing on the bank of an arctic river, you gaze down into water so clear you can see char ghosting at the bottom of a 10-foot pool. The river pours downstream, cutting its way through a valley hewn of rock and tundra—a hard, beautiful place cast in surreal light. Your inflatable raft lies skidded up on the gravel, and a pot of water steams over a fire. You’ll make a few casts for dinner and spend the night here, not far from fresh-edged tracks of wolf and grizzly. There’s no one but you in this valley; nor in the next, or the one beyond. It’s been six days since your bush plane drop-off, and another half dozen until the river swirls past an off-grid village. You’ll take your time as you go, making side hikes, pausing often to watch and listen, to feel yourself…

Alaskans rank at the top Alaska, as readers of this magazine know, is a dream travel destination as well as a fine place to live. What many might not know, however, is how quirky Alaskans can be. From various sources—and a little experience—I’ve discovered the following stats about my fellow northerners. Among all 50 states, Alaskans eat the most ice cream per capita. Perhaps that’s one reason Anchorage-ites were voted the worst dressed by a different magazine’s reader poll. It’s easier to hide the tummy roll under an old parka, right? Also, XTRATUFs are a staple on any real Alaskan’s boot rack, but add to that a pair of baggy Carhartt pants and a well-worn sweatshirt, and you’re ready for an evening out on the town for some…dessert wine? Yes, we Alaskans apparently like the sweet stuff, as we purchase, per capita, the most. Ruby port over “Crude Oil” (chocolate…

How they came to be by Jonathan B. Jarvis & T. Destry Jarvis The following excerpts from National Parks Forever: Fifty Years of Fighting and a Case for Independence (2022, University of Chicago Press), by Jonathan B. Jarvis and T. Destry Jarvis, are shared with permission. They are taken from chapter 2, “Alaska: Doing it Right the First Time.” Jonathan Jarvis was director of the National Park Service from 2009-2017. His brother, Destry, has worked in lands conservation for decades. While traveling thirty miles to another creek or valley in Virginia was an adventure, we vicariously visited wild country through the writings of Zane Grey, Sigurd Olson, and Wallace Stegner. We traveled west with Ward Bond on “Wagon Train” and experienced nature up close with Walt Disney. But Alaska called to us as the ultimate adventure. Little did we know that, one day, we would have the opportunity to not…

Important moments captured in print The images in this archival portfolio prove what we’ve always known: There’s no place on Earth like Alaska. The storied history of our state includes, well, statehood itself, along with catastrophic volcanic eruptions, record-shattering earthquakes, the gold rush, groundbreaking legislation, and the purchase of Alaska from Russia—to name a few. While we couldn’t include every monumental event, we hand-selected a few unique and compelling images to serve as a reminder of the people, places, decisions, and elements of the natural world that have shaped the Great Land. —Michelle Theall Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue looking east after the devastating earthquake of 1964 The massive 9.2 magnitude Good Friday earthquake occurred on March 27. The shaking and subsequent tsunamis and landslides caused more than 100 deaths, and the state sustained $311 million in damages. The quake was the most powerful recorded in North American history. A colossal 200,000…

How wild west homesteading spawned Denali’s tourism zone When traveling the 350-plus miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks on the George Parks Highway, there are very few pauses in the undeveloped wilderness. One such pocket of civilization is the half-mile swath of roadside businesses outside of Denali National Park and Preserve, commonly known as the Canyon. Since I live in the area and drive by the Canyon often, I became curious about the origins of the place. There had to be a story behind this flashy strip mall that sells Alaskan license plate keepsakes, beckons growling stomachs with a variety of food, and fills RV tanks with gas. Turns out, the Canyon began with three entrepreneurial hippies staking a claim on land for development. But to understand the evolution fully, we must dig deeper. First, let’s go back to pre-1923 when Denali National Park and Preserve (previously known as Mt. McKinley…

More than you see, fewer than you think peered around a boulder and there they were: a half dozen Dall rams bedded down, the nearest so close I could see my reflection in an amber eye framed by a curl of horn. They turned their heads to regard me but didn’t rise; instead, they gave what seemed to be a collective shrug as I settled in and raised my camera. I spent the next hours among them in the late August sun as they napped and grazed along the edge of that rock-strewn ridge, the air so still I could hear the echoing rush of the creek 2,000 feet below. That afternoon, still vivid after decades, explains as well as any why I came to Alaska: to meet wild animals in big, wild country. Pretty much everyone Alaska-bound hopes, even expects, the same. No doubt they’re out there, millions of…

10 Alaska summer music festivals that will get you groovin’  If winter has you restless, maybe it’s time to plan a roadtrip to one (or more) of Alaska’s summer music festivals. The lineup of multiday events has grown in recent years and offers both Alaskan and national acts exploring a range of genres. For Alaskans, the festivals are community celebrations that offer a break from summer’s busy pace. For visitors, they’re a chance to dive into a local scene, with great music against a backdrop of gorgeous scenery. Here’s a quick sampling of 2024 events. Alaska Folk Festival The music is mostly acoustic, but the atmosphere turns electric as hundreds of musicians descend on Juneau each April for this seven-day festival. It offers nine four-hour performances averaging 15 acts each, along with workshops. The music also runs late-night at bars, restaurants, and even street corners. If you come by ferry,…

Merry Christmas in Central Yup’ik By the first week of January, most Americans are taking down their Christmas decorations, but for Alaska’s thousands of Orthodox Christians, who, in keeping with the Julian calendar, celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7, the holiday season is just getting started. The Orthodox Church in America lists over 90 active Orthodox parishes in Alaska. Most are along the coast from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta southward through southeast Alaska. They are a legacy of early Russian Orthodox influence, with Alaska’s first Russian Orthodox mission established in 1794 at Kodiak. Today, Orthodox Christmas celebrations include the Ukrainian practice of “starring,” where groups travel among homes and villages to sing folk and religious songs while spinning a crafted star that represents the story of the Three Wise Men. These and other practices are often mixed with Alaska Native foods and traditions. On Saint Paul Island, for instance, Slavonic songs…

A hidden gem on the Middle Kuskokwim by John Chythlook Note: This article is reprinted with permission from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s ReelTimes newsletter. Additional species information is also from ADF&G. Ever thought of fishing a little-traveled river in the middle Kuskokwim River drainage? If so, a trip on the Hoholitna River should near the top of your list. The Hoholitna River is a tannic, clearwater river that flows 165 miles north from its headwaters in Whitefish Lake in the Nushagak Hills to eventually join the lower Holitna River. There is excellent fishing for Dolly Varden and arctic grayling, as well as large, voracious northern pike in the lower river and sloughs all summer long. King and chum salmon are available late June and July, while coho salmon are present during late August and September. Anglers normally access the lower Hoholitna by chartered boat from the village of Sleetmute.…

Reluctant Alaskan hero by Ray Cavanaugh Wrangel Island was never a place people would visit unless they had a really good reason. Technically part of Russia, it’s some 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle and almost as many miles away from the Alaskan coast. It tended to attract young men seeking adventure, danger, and perhaps some personal glory. For the first two, the island was a safe bet. The glory part, however, proved rather more elusive, often fatally so. This hostile piece of territory, with far more polar bears than people, had managed to become a source of international controversy, with Russians, Americans, and Canadians at different points making claims for their homeland. All this was far outside the thoughts of Ada Blackjack, until a set of life circumstances placed her directly on Wrangel’s icy surface and forever linked her name to its formidable legacy. An Alaskan Inupiat, Ada…