The Two Non-Contiguous members of the United States – Part 1

The United States consists of 50 states, and of these 48 belong to the Contiguous United States, which means that they belong to the main land area of the country. This leaves two States that are not part of this group and they are Alaska and Hawaii.

Alaska was bought from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars and was known as a territory until 1959, when it became the 49th State of the country. It is the largest State with an area of 1,700,000 square miles much of which is desolate due to its far northern location. It only has a population of 740,000 people which makes it the least densely populated State in the country. This is hardly surprising as virtually the entire State lies to the north of the 60th parallel which has created a climate where the growing season is very short and snow covers the ground for much of the year.

The perfectly conically shaped Augustine Volcano in Alaska

It does, however, have a tremendous amount of resources that are extremely valuable to the country. It has plentiful supplies of oil, natural gas and wood. It also has a thriving fishing industry and with the abundance of wilderness, there is a thriving tourist industry that is growing every year. The State is actually only three miles from Russian territory at its closest point, and the coastline is so vast that it is longer than all of the other States coastlines put together. The area is vast and experiences great geomorphological activity with mountain building still occurring which triggers earthquakes. The climate in Alaska is wetter and warmer the further south one travels. In the south east, the day time average temperature actually rises above region’s average and this area benefits from both its southerly location and also the influence of the sea.

Juneau, one of the most isolated State capitals

The largest city in Alaska is Anchorage which has a population of just over 290,000 people. It is by far the biggest city in the State, with the next two Fairbanks and Juneau just having around 30,000 people each. Although a great deal smaller than Anchorage, Juneau is in fact the capital of Alaska. There are no roads connecting Juneau with the rest of the State with people coming in and out either by air or by water. The surrounding terrain is so steep that it is virtually impossible to build any roads out of the city. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906 and all of the government buildings are located there. Anchorage dominates the country in terms of population size containing over 40% of the State’s population. If the metropolitan area of Anchorage is included, then over 50% of all Alaskans live in this area. The reason for its popularity is due to its location. It is at the foot of the Cook Inlet which makes it accessible for the people arriving by water and it is also home to the State’s main international airport. It is the best location for many businesses to operate in the State, as it is easier to transport goods in and out of the region.

Alaska is emerging as an increasingly popular State with Anchorage regularly voted as one of the most popular US cities to live in. As modern technology overcomes many of its remote issues, more people will want to live there as a result of the many economic opportunities that are starting to emerge.