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5 Facts About Alaska's Capital: How Well Do You Know Juneau?

By    |   Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:32 PM

Alaska got its name from the Aluet word “Alyeska” meaning “The Great Land,” but Juneau’s name came about in a much more prosaic manner. Here are five facts about Alaska’s capital:

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1. Juneau was named for gold prospector Joseph “Joe” Juneau, who, along with Richard Harris, found gold nuggets in Snow Slide Gulch. In 1880, mining engineer George Pilz rewarded Indian chiefs who helped him find gold, according to the Juneau Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Chief Kowee, an Auk Indian, urged Pilz to send Juneau and Harris to investigate near what is now Juneau. The pair found gold and a mining camp soon popped up. It grew into a town called Harrisburg, named after Richard Harris. The name was later changed to Juneau, and in 1906 Juneau replaced Sitka as the Alaska Territory’s government seat.

2. Don’t think road trip if you want to visit Juneau (population: 33,000) — unless you don’t mind driving your car onto a ferry to get there. The Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System is the “floating roadway” for Southeast Alaska and provides a scenic route as well as a practical mode of transportation, Travel Juneau reports. Flying is a quick and easy way to get to Juneau, which is located in the panhandle of Southeast Alaska, and is surrounded by Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts, and Gastineau Channel.

3. Once you get into Juneau’s compactly built town, it’s easy to get around on foot. The state capitol building, museums, the Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, and historic South Franklin Street, complete with shops and restaurants, are within walking distance of the cruise ship docks, according to Travel Alaska. The city is full of hiking trails, and Mendenhall Glacier is a short drive away in Tongass National Forest. The glacier, a popular destination, is about half a mile wide, with depth ranging from 300 to 1800 feet.

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4. Located on a thin strip of land between sea level and mountains peaks rising to heights of 3,800 feet, Juneau is just 45 miles from end to end, but has over 130 miles of hiking trails winding through it. Out of 3,248 square miles, urban development covers only 264 square miles; ice caps make up 928 square miles, water covers 704 square miles, and rainforest takes up a whopping 1,352 square miles, according to the Southeast Alaska Tourism Council.

5. Juneau has an abundance of wildlife, including almost 300 species of birds, five species of salmon, three species of whales, and brown and black bears, the state’s Department of Fish and Game said.

The Mount Roberts Tramway, which lifts visitors 2,000 feet into the air, is just one option for observing animals such as bears, deer, marmots, grouse, and mountain goats. Other opportunities for viewing wildlife exist at the Eagle Beach State Park, home to geese and gulls, Auke Bay, complete with harbor seals and bald eagles, Tracy Arm, which offers whale sighting cruises, to name a few.

A little known fact about Juneau is the number of bald eagles that reside there — around 20,000.

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Alaska got its name from the Aluet word “Alyeska” meaning “The Great Land,” but Juneau’s name came about in a much more prosaic manner. Here are five facts about Alaska’s capital.
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2015-32-23
Monday, 23 Feb 2015 11:32 PM
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