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Alaska Geography

Alaska is the largest state of United States. The total land area measures 570,374 square miles. It has a longer coastline and is separated 800 km from Washington State by Canada. Thus Alaska forms an enclave of the United States. It is not a part of contiguous United State and is the only non- contiguous state located on continental North America. Most part of Alaska is surrounded by water. To the northern side there lies Arctic Ocean, the southern side is surrounded by the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean and the western side by Bering Sea.

It is situated at Latitude: 54˚ 40’ N to 71˚50’ N and Longitude 130˚W to 173˚ E. Alaska is approximately 1,500 miles long and 810 miles wide. Its total area measures approximately 656,425 square miles out of which the total land area is 570, 374 square miles and that of water area is 86,051 square miles. The ice glaciers cover about 16,000 square miles of the land and 1,300 square miles of the tidal zone. Nearly half of the world’s glaciers are seen in Alaska. Alaska is situated about 1,900 feet above the sea level. It has more than 3 billion lakes.

Alaska can be divided broadly into five main regions, these regions are:

South central Alaska

It mainly consists of shore lines, uplands, meandering trails, massive glaciers and the most attractive among all is the giant Sitka Spruce tree. The cities located here are Anchorage, Cordova, Homer, Kenai, Palmer, Seward, Valdez and Wasilla. Anchorage is the major and most populated city.  The world’s largest tides occur at Turnagain Arm situated south to the Anchorage. The areas included in South Central Alaska are the Kenai Peninsula, Copper River valley, Cook Inlet and the Matanuska-Susitna valley.

South East Alaska

It is also referred to as Panhandle. Pacific mountain system is the major feature of South East Alaska. Alaska’s south east region comprises a strip of land around 400 miles long and about 150 miles wide and it includes a vacation paradise of forests, wildlife, rock and water which is famous as the Inside passage. The major part of South East Alaska comes under Tongass National Forest, which is the largest national forest of United States. It has a land area of 35,138 miles.

South West Alaska

Most of the regions of South west Alaska are coastal. It also include Highlands, swamps, boreal forests and mountain barriers of the southern Alaska/Aleutian range. The Aleutian Range includes Alaska’s volcanoes like Mount Redoubt, Mount lliamna, Mount Katmai and Augustine volcano. It also includes 14 large island and 55 small islands.

Alaska Interior

Most of the United States Territory is covered by Alaska Interior. There is a gold mine in this region of Alaska. The important towns and cities located here are Fairbanks (it is the largest city), Tanana Valley, Anderson, Tok, North Pole, Eagle, Delta junction, Cantwell, Healy and Glennallen.  

Northern Alaska

It is also known as Arctic Alaska or North Slope. This region is present above the Arctic Circle. It is located along the coast of two marginal seas of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea. This region contains Alaska’s petroleum reserve. Northern Alaska is colder than the southern. 

Physical Geography of Alaska

The Landforms of Alaska includes four main physiographic regions. They are the Pacific mountain system, the Central plateau, Arctic coastal plain or slope and the Rocky mountain system. These physiographic regions are formed as a result of some forces that originate deep in the earth’s crust.

The Pacific mountain system is located to the south eastern side of Alaska and this mountain system includes Saint Elias range, the Chugach Mountain, Kenai Mountain, the Wrangell Mountain, the Alaska range home at Mount McKinley and the Talkeetna Mountain. Mt. McKinley is the highest point of Alaska and is about 20,320 feet above the sea level. The Pacific Mountain system also has two lowland areas within them. They are the Susitna-Cook Inlet lowland and the Copper River Basin.

The second mountain system of Alaska, the Rocky Mountain System is comprised primarily of the Brooks Range and the Brooks Range foothills. The Brooks Range consists of glacier made mountains which lies about 9,000feet above the sea level. The Alaska is often well known for the presence of its glaciers.

The central plateau lies between the Pacific Mountain system and the Rocky Mountain System. Thus central plateau is also known as Intermountain Basin. This region mainly contains high lands and river systems. Yukon is the river system found here and it is the largest river system of Alaska. The high land includes Yukon-Tanana upland, the Ahklun Mountain and the Kuskokwim Mountains.

The Arctic Slope or Arctic Coastal Plain lies in the northernmost part of Alaska. It is present in the north of Rocky Mountain System and then slopes to the Arctic Ocean. The land of Arctic slope always appears frozen hence there are no trees and vegetations in this area. During the spring season this froze ground gets thawed which allows the growth of some grasses and wild plants. This region is often referred to as Tundra.


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