Largest in area of the United States but third smallest (exceeding only Vermont and Wyoming) in population, occupying the northwest extremity of the North American continent, separated from the coterminous United States by W Canada. It is bordered by Yukon Territory and British Columbia, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea, and the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
Area, 656,424 sq mi (1,700,135 sq km), including 86,051 sq mi (222,871 sq km) of water surface.
Pop. (2000) 628,932, a 14% increase since the 1990 census.
Largest city, Anchorage.
Motto, North to the Future.
State bird, willow ptarmigan.
State flower, forget-me-not.
State tree, Sitka spruce.
Nearly one fifth the size of the rest of the United States, Alaska is, at the tip of the Seward Peninsula in the northwest, only a few miles from the Russian Far East; the two are separated by the narrow Bering Strait. The Seward Peninsula, chiefly tundra covered, is sparsely inhabited. The Bering Strait widens in the north to the Chukchi Sea, which slices into Alaska with Kotzebue Sound; in the south the strait widens to the Bering Sea, which cuts into Alaska with Norton Sound and Bristol Bay.
Alaska has very little agriculture, ranking last in the nation in number of farms and value of farm products. The state's best arable land is in its S central region, in the Matanuska Valley N of Anchorage and the Tanana Valley (around Fairbanks). The state's most valuable farm commodities are greenhouse and dairy products and potatoes.
Alaska leads the nation in the value of its commercial fishing catchchiefly salmon, crab, shrimp, halibut, herring, and cod. Anchorage and Dutch Harbor are major fishing ports, and the freezing and canning of fish dominates the food-processing industry, the state's largest manufacturing enterprise. Lumbering and related industries are of great importance, although disputes over logging in the state's great national forests are ongoing. Mining, principally of petroleum and natural gas, is the state's most valuable industry. Gold, which led to settlement at the end of the 19th cent., is no longer mined in quantity. Fur-trapping, Alaska's oldest industry, endures; pelts are obtained from a great variety of animals.
*Information from Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition