America is known for its love of oversized things: an extra large fry, a giant SUV, houses bigger than European villages, and don’t forget, the largest state in the U.S., Alaska. Alaska is not only the biggest but also perhaps the most mysterious and beautiful state in the country.
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With stunning and vast landscapes, towering mountains and forests, rivers and tundras, the state is home to Denali National Park and countless grizzlies, moose, caribou, and fish—and what else? We don’t really know, because it’s that big.
You might know about the animals of Alaska, but here are 10 facts we bet you didn’t know about Alaska.
10. It’s So Big, You Could Fit Almost Half of the Other U.S. States Inside
Despite being sparsely populated, Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. in terms of land area. It’s so vast that you could fit the 22 smallest U.S. states within its borders. It’s bigger than Texas, too. In fact, you could fit Texas, Montana, and California inside Alaska.
9. Alaska Has Over 100,000 Glaciers
One glacier is never enough. Alaska has more than 100,000 glaciers, ranging from massive ice fields to smaller valley glaciers, but it’s important to note that experts count glaciers in different ways. Needless to say, melting glaciers is kind of a big deal. (You may have heard about Alaska’s glaciers dumping 75 billion tons of water into the sea each year.)
8. It Used to Be Russia
Before becoming a U.S. territory, Alaska was under Russian control. In 1867, the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in the “Alaska Purchase.” Alaska is approximately 50 miles from Russia. If they ever build a bridge, you could commute to Russia in just under an hour. So Sarah Palin was’t lying about seeing Russia from her house.
7. Sled Dogs Mush 1,000 Miles
We all love an Alaskan sled dog story, but did you know those heroically tough dogs were traveling over 1,000 miles? The town of Nome, Alaska is famous for its annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a grueling competition that covers nearly 1,000 miles of treacherous terrain. The state’s official sport is dog mushing, and it has historical significance. Traditionally, it was for transportation and communication.
6. Temperatures Have Reached -79°F
Yes, you knew it’s cold in Alaska, but did you know it was this cold? Alaska is often associated with extreme cold temperatures, and parts of the state have a subarctic climate. In places like Fairbanks, winter temperatures can plummet to well below freezing, with temperatures as low as -50°F. The lowest temperature ever recorded was in 1971 and was -79.8° F at Prospect Creek, 180 miles north of Fairbanks. No Canada Goose down is going to help you with those temps.
5. There Is a Village Named Chicken
Alaska is known for having some unique and charming town and place names, such as Unalaska, Chicken, Eek, Lost Temper Creek, Coldfoot, Wiseman, and Deadhorse—each with its own intriguing backstory. Apparently, Chicken is not named after the animal; it was a rather last-minute dash to have a town name that was easily spelled to avoid embarrassment. Not sure if that worked.
4. Alaska Is 14.2% Water
According to the United States Geological Survey, Alaska has 94,743 square miles of water in the state, meaning the state is 14.2% water. Does that mean Alaska is cheating for the largest state? No, it’s still the largest in terms of land area, but it’s food for thought.
3. Alaska Doesn’t Have Sales Tax
Can you say, yes please? Alaska is the only state that does not collect state sales tax or individual income tax. Some cities may have sales tax, but for the most part, if you’re looking to maximize your money and avoid the tax man, Alaska is for you.
2. Mysterious Giant Vegetables Are Normal
Giant vegetables are common in Alaska. The Alaska State Fair is a world-record breeding ground. Scott Robb still holds the world record for his 138-pound cabbage. At one point, Scott and Mardie Robb also held the record for the world’s largest turnip at 39 pounds.
1. Alaska Has Giant Animals, Too
The Alaskan wilderness is wild and dangerous and you never know what you might encounter. If you’re unlucky or lucky—we aren’t sure—you might even see a Kodiak bear that can weigh 1,500 pounds and stand 10 feet tall on its hind legs. Moose in Alaska can grow to 1,600 pounds and their antlers can be 6 feet wide. It’s probably a good idea to keep a nice distance from those.