The center part of Alaska is known as the
Interior. Largely wild and undeveloped, this is the State's
frontier. About 100,000 people live in the Interior, most of them
centered around Fairbanks. In the early days this part of Alaska was
the home of the Athabaskan people, and many of them still call this
region their home.
also bush Alaska, with few roads and only one major city—Fairbanks, the
Golden Heart of Alaska. Second in size only to Anchorage, Fairbanks
still retains the feel of a frontier town and takes pride in its Gold
Rush history. Fort Yukon is the major community in the Yukon
Flats and Bethel the largest settlement on the Lower Kuskokwim River.
Interior boasts spectacular mountain vistas, berry-laden tundra and an
abundance of wildlife including caribou, moose, Dall sheep and grizzly
Most Alaskans settled on the southern coast, a more
lenient landscape. The Interior is a land of short trees and long
It's one of the most inaccessible on earth because of the rugged,
inhospitable terrain. Scores of unclimbed peaks exist, but a rugged
topography limits travel within the area to mountaineers with technical
climbing skills. A majority of Alaska’s
heartland only can be reached by dog sled or bush plane.
The Rocky Mountains extend from the western
Lower 48 northwestward through Canada into Alaska. Here they form
the Alaska Range of the Interior, the southern boundary of this region,
and the Brooks Range which separates the Arctic region from the
Territory is on the eastern border, and the Bering Sea is on the west. North of the Alaska Range is the
complex Central Highland and Basin Region, sometimes called the Yukon
Plateaus. In the west, elevations are low, and extensive areas
flood with the spring thaw. The elongated Kuskokwim Mountains, a low
range here, separates the Yukon and Kuskokwim valleys.
Once the Kuskokwim River passes through the mountains, it forms the
southern edge of a vast lake-studded alluvial plain bounded on the
north by the Yukon River. This water-logged lowland is a major summer
nesting area for birds. This district is drained by the Yukon River
with its large tributaries including the Tanana, Koyukuk, and Porcupine.
Interior region, vegetation must adapt itself to short, warm summers
and long, cold winters. The
country is generally covered by taiga, or
northern forest, with trees giving
way to alpine vegetation in the hills and mountains and to the
north. Trees grow slowly, and
their root systems must be shallow because they cannot penetrate the
permafrost. These forests are slow growing and
of limited commercial value. Toward
the west the trees become sparse and are replaced by wet tundra.
Similarly, the mountain slopes contain tundra in the Interior. Cleared
areas are often brilliant with fireweed in the summer months. Principal
trees found in this region are black and white spruce, paper birch,
tamarack, aspen, Alaskan larch, and balsam poplar. There are expanses
of bogs called muskeg, and grasslands, where many species of wild
flowers, berries, and shrubs occur.
Lowlands are marshy, while highlands have moss, grass, and brush.
glaciated Brooks Range separates Interior from Arctic Alaska. Its
highest elevations are in the east near the border with the Yukon
Territory, and it extends almost to the Chukchi Sea in the west. The
western Brooks Range consist of two ranges, the Baird and DeLong
Mountains, and is drained by the Noatak River. The Dalton Highway,
connecting Fairbanks with Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean, crosses the
Brooks Range at Atigun Pass.
The Alaska Range rises up through
the clouds to the peak of Mt. McKinley, Alaska's best known landmark.
At 20,320 feet above sea level, it is the highest peak in North America
and the northernmost peak that reaches over 20,000 feet. The
Athabascans called the mountain Denali, which means very simply, "the
great one" or "the high one." The Russians called it Bolshaya, which
has a very similar meaning. The mountain received its present
name from William H. Dickey, a reporter for the New York Sun, who made
a trip to Alaska in 1896 to report on the gold rush that was getting
under way. While on the trip, he got into an argument with a prospector
about the gold standard - something the prospector opposed but Dickey
favored. As a way of getting in the last word, Dickey referred to the
mountain as Mount McKinley, for William McKinley, then a candidate for
President of the United States, who also favored the gold standard.
Because of the number of people who read his writing in the Sun, that
was the name that stuck. Most climbers and other people familiar with
Alaskan history and culture strongly prefer to call it Denali
regardless of what Congress decrees. Denali is a highly appropriate
reflection of the mountain's stature, whereas William McKinley never
traveled to Alaska and is not known to have had any interest in the
mountain. Some are even offended by the mountain's present official
environment of the Interior is drier and less fertile than that in
Southeast or Southcentral. Generally, this region has an average annual
rainfall of about about 24 inches. The State’s greatest extremes
of temperature are here - mild, brief summers and harsh winters.
Alaska’s highest temperature, 100°F, was recorded at Fort Yukon in
1915. The Yukon flats, northeast of Fairbanks, form a large
depression surrounded by highlands and have the coldest winter and
hottest summer temperatures in Alaska. Summer temperatures have reached
100°F on occasion, though 70° to 80° is more common.
winters are cold and clear with icefog over populated, low-lying areas
and can drop to temperatures of 50 to 60° below zero - some of the
lowest recorded in the state. The lowest recorded temperature for
Alaska (and for the US) was -80°F, observed in 1971 at Prospect Creek,
north of Fairbanks on the Arctic Circle. For half of the year the
ground is covered with powdery snow that accumulates to depths of
several feet. Invasions of warmer maritime air from the Gulf of Alaska
may break the extreme winter cold for a week or so at a time.
Permafrost here is discontinuous and easily disturbed by fire or human
subarctic regions, the months from May to July in the summer have no
night, only a twilight during the night hours. The months of November
through January have little daylight. Interior receives an average 21
hours of daylight between May 10 and August 2 each summer, and an
average of less than 4 hours of daylight between November 18 and
January 24 each winter.
all naturally occurring heavenly phenomena, few come close to a night
with a magnificent northern lights display. Flickering curtains of
dancing light against the dark skies - northern lights is certainly one
of the most spectacular of nature's phenomena.
The aurora borealis or "northern lights" may be seen from late August
through April. Ancient Inuit believed that the northern lights were the
torches of spirits guiding souls in these shimmering bands of lights to
a land of happiness and plenty. Turn of the century gold rush
prospectors believed the colors were rising from the Mother Lode. The
Interior is considered one of the best spots on earth to view the
aurora borealis. On clear winter nights, the aurora borealis can
often be seen dancing in the sky.
sun gives off high-energy charged particles (also called ions) that
travel out into space at speeds of 300 to 1200 kilometers per second. A
cloud of such particles is called a plasma. The stream of plasma coming
from the sun is known as the solar wind. As the solar wind interacts
with the edge of the earth's magnetic field, some of the particles are
trapped by it and they follow the lines of magnetic force down into the
ionosphere, the section of the earth's atmosphere that extends from
about 60 to 600 kilometers above the earth's surface. When the
particles collide with the gases in the ionosphere they start to glow,
producing the spectacle that we know as the auroras, northern and
southern. The array of colors consists of red, green, blue and
violet. The Northern Lights are constantly in
motion because of the changing interaction between the solar wind and
the earth's magnetic field. The solar wind commonly generates up to
1000,000 megawatts of electricity in an auroral display and this can
cause interference with power lines, radio and television broadcasts
and satellite communications.
See an animated aurora borealis movie Aurora
Movie 1 - ©Dick Hutchinson, movie by D.C.
Spensley (748k, QuickTime Player is required. Download it here free).
the sounds made by an aurora borealis "Listening
to the Northern Lights" - from National Public
Radio (RealAudio is required. Download it here free).
in the Interior are:
Chena Hot Springs
Circle Hot Springs
Manley Hot Springs