The Geography of Alaska
Click here for a few definitions.
|Latitude / Longitude
||Latitude: 54° 40' N to 71° 50' N
Longitude: 130° W to 173° E
|East to West
North to South
|2,350 miles: greatest distance East to West.
1,350 miles: greatest distance North to South.
|The geographic center of Alaska is located approximately 60 miles northwest (NW) of Mt. McKinley.
Latitude: 64° 43.9'N
Longitude: 152° 28.2'W
||Most of Alaska is surrounded by water. To the north is the
(the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea).
To the south is the Gulf of Alaska and
Pacific Ocean. To the west is the
Alaska's land borders Canada to the east and south.
||Alaska covers 656,425 square miles, making it the largest of the
50 states and more than twice the size of
Texas, the second largest state.
||570,374 square miles of Alaska are land areas.
||86,051 square miles of Alaska are covered by water.
||The highest point in Alaska is Mt. McKinley
(Denali) at 20,320 feet above sea level. In fact, Mt. McKinley is the highest point in North America.
||The lowest point in Alaska is sea level where at the state meets
the Pacific Ocean, the
Bering Sea, and the
||The Mean Elevation of the state of Alaska is 1,900 feet above sea level.
||Yukon River (Longest river in Alaska; 1,875 miles.), Kuskokwim River, Colville River, Copper River
||Iliamna Lake, Aleknagik Lake, Becharof Lake, Clark Lake, Minchumina Lake
(Alaska has over 3 million lakes that are more than 20 acres in size.)
|NOTE: Because there is no generally accepted definition of a geographic center and no completely satisfactory method of determining it, there may be as many geographic centers of a State or county as there are definitions of the term.
The geographic center of an area may be defined as the center of gravity of the surface, or that point on which the surface of an area would balance if it were a plane of uniform thickness.
Curvature of the Earth, large bodies of water, irregular surfaces, and other factors affect the determination of center of gravity.
In determining the centers of the States, islands adjacent to their coastlines and large bodies of water were excluded.
The geographic centers and positions listed below should be considered as approximations.
Alaska's geography can be categorized into four main areas including two mountain ranges, a central plateau, and the
Arctic slope or coastal plain.
Pacific Mountain System: In the south and southeast, the Pacific Mountain system is a major feature and is divided into
many subdivisions. In general, the Pacific Mountain System runs from the Aleutian Islands down through south central
Alaska down the Pacific coast to southern California. In southeast Alaska, a strip of land about 400 miles long and
about ten to 150 miles wide comprises what is known as the Alaska Panhandle bordering the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of
Alaska. The Pacific Mountain System includes, from the south, the Saint Elias Range, the Wrangell Mountains, the
Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Mountains (West to the Kenia Peninsula and Kodiak Island), the Talkeetna Mountains,
and the Alaska Range home of Mt. McKinley.
Extending southwest from the southern Alaska mainland and the Alaska Range, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian
Islands are supported by the Aleutian Mountain Range. The Aleutians include 14 large islands and about 55 small islands. The largest islands
are Unimak, Unalaska, and Umnak. The Aleutian Range extends 1,600 mile, from Mount Spurr, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage,
to Attu Island near the Asian continent and contains many active volcanoes. This range is home to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, created when
Novarupta erupted in 1912. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was named for the numerous fumaroles in the area. Fumaroles are holes in the earth that
release hot gas steam into the air.
Within the Pacific Mountain System are two distinct lowland areas; the Copper River Basin and the Susitna-Cook Inlet lowland. The Copper River
Basin lies between the Chugach and Wrangell mountains and during the ice age was once the site of a large lake. Today it is a forested woodland. The
Susitna-Cook Inlet extends north and east from Anchorage and is mostly forested. It also includes the fertile farmland known as the Matanuska Valley.
Central Uplands and Lowlands: This area is sandwiched between the Alaska Range of the Pacific Mountain System in the south and the Brooks
Range of the Rocky Mountain System of Alaska in the north. Its geography makes up the largest land area in Alaska. Bordered on the west by Canada,
the Central Uplands and Lowlands region extends westward to include the Seward Peninsula and the Kuskokwim River area of southwestern Alaska.
The Central Upland and Lowlands area is marked by low, rolling hills and swampy river valleys such as the those of the Koyukuk, Kuskokwim, Tanana,
and Yukon rivers.
Rocky Mountain System of Alaska: North of the Central Uplands and Lowlands area is the Rocky Mountain System of Alaska. This area is comprised
of the Brooks Range and the Brooks Range foothills. The Brooks Ranges is comprised of glacier-made mountain peaks that rise to 9,000 feet above sea level in the
east with lower elevations in the west.
Arctic Coastal Plain: The northernmost geographic area of Alaska is called the Arctic Coastal Plain. This area lies north of the Rocky Mountain System
and slopes gradually toward the Arctic Ocean. This is the land of permafrost (Permanently frozen ground) and no trees can manage to grow in this area. The surface
of the ground does thaw enough in the spring to allow the growth of grass and wildflowers however. This area is called the tundra.
( Alaska Close-up )
|Climate (All temperatures Fahrenheit)
||The highest temperature recorded in Alaska is 100°, Fahrenheit. This record high
was recorded on June 27, 1915 at Fort Yukon.
||The lowest temperature in Alaska, -80°, was recorded on January 23, 1971 at Prospect Creek Camp.
||Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 71.8 degrees to a low of -21.6 degrees.
||Mean yearly precipitation for Alaska, from 1961 to 1990, is shown on
this chart from Oregon State University.