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Curious about Juneau, the capital of Alaska? Maybe you’ve visited capital cities in other states and have an idea of what they’re like – big dome building, lots of government architecture, and bald eagles that outnumber residents… right? Okay, that last one is only true about Juneau – and that’s just one of the curious Juneau facts you’re about to learn.
Juneau is a capital city like no other – and a unique Alaska city too. Learn about Juneau’s history, geography, and what life is like in this part of The Last Frontier through this post. By the end, you’ll be able to wow your friends with your Juneau knowledge – including if they didn’t even know Juneau is Alaska’s capital. (Nope, it’s not Anchorage!)
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní of the Áak’w Ḵwáan (Tlingit) people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Juneau History Facts
As Alaska’s capital, Juneau obvious has a fascinating history. Here are some facts about Juneau’s history that help you understand how this city came to be – and became the state capital.
- Let’s start at the beginning: two tribes of the Tlingit Alaska Native people lived and fished along the Gastineau Channel near Juneau for thousands of years before Russians or Europeans arrived in Southeast Alaska.
- The first settlement that would one day become Juneau began in 1880. Prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris discovered gold nuggets “as large as beans” along what is now called Gold Creek.
- On October 18, 1880, Juneau and Harris marked a 160-acre townsite and a mining camp quickly developed. As the town recorder, Harris named the site Harrisburg (after himself!).
- Harrisburg was Juneau’s first name – but it also had another name! Juneau has been renamed twice.
- In early 1881, the town changed names to honor the naval lieutenant commander stationed there, Charles Rockwell. Harrisburg became Rockwell; this was Juneau’s second town name.
- By the end of that year, the prospector Juneau wanted something named for him – so the name mas changed again. The town was finally named Juneau in 1881.
- This gold discovery in the Juneau area was the first such discovery that resulted in the founding of a town in Alaska.
- Juneau was incorporated on June 29, 1900, one day after Skagway.
- In 1906, the capital of Alaska was moved from Sitka to Juneau.
- The Alaskan Hotel opened in Juneau in 1913. This makes it the oldest operating hotel in Alaska.
Juneau Geography Facts
In addition to a compelling history, Juneau has a unique geography. It’s located on the Alaskan mainland, but most people are surprised to discover how different Juneau’s geography is than big cities in other part of the state. Here are some Juneau geography facts worth knowing.
- Juneau is big, with a total area of 3,255 square miles. This makes Juneau one of the largest municipalities in the United States – and the largest capital by area.
- The Municipality of Juneau is larger than the state of Rhode Island and encompasses part of a glacier field.
- Speaking of that glacier field, the most famous glacier near Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier. It can be seen from the local road system and is less than 15 miles from Juneau.
- There are no roads that connect Juneau to the rest of Alaska or North America, even though it is located on the Alaska mainland.
- All goods arrive and depart Juneau by plane or boat. Cars arrive in Juneau on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System – the floating roadway for Southeast Alaska.
- Juneau shares its eastern border with the Canadian province of British Columbia, making it the only state capital to border another country.
- On the summer solstice (June 21), there are 18 hours and 18 minutes of full daylight in Juneau.
- On the winter solstice, there are just 6 hours and 25 minutes of daylight.
Facts about Juneau Life
As you might imagine based on this history and geography, life in Juneau is interesting in its own unique, Alaskan way. Here are some facts about life in Juneau – are you sold on moving there now?!
- Juneau is called the most wired capital in the U.S. Because Juneau is so isolated from the rest of the state, the capital invested in technology to help Alaskans observe and participate in government without having to take a flight or ferry.
- Juneau is home to 280 species of birds, brown and black bears, five species of salmon, and whales. People love seeing whales – so keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales and orcas.
- Juneau is one the best places in the world to see bald eagles. Estimates range from 15,000 to 30,000 of them within the Juneau area.
- There are over 130 miles of hiking trails in Juneau.
- The Juneau area experiences an extreme weather phenomenon called Taku winds. They occur 3-4 times per year, usually between October and March, and Juneau’s Taku winds can gust up to 100 miles per hour.
- Though it’s quite far south, you can see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) in Juneau. It’s possible between late August and April.
- Juneau’s temperatures fluctuate dramatically during the year, despite its generally temperate climate. The coldest ever recorded temperature in Juneau was -22°F in 1968 and the hottest ever recorded was 90°F in 1975.
Other Curious Juneau Facts
Lastly, here are a few other fascinating Juneau facts. As you can tell, Juneau offers its own slice of life in The Last Frontier.
- Juneau is home to roughly 32,000 people as of 2020. That makes it the second-largest city in Alaska, overtaking Fairbanks!
- In a given year Juneau can receive as many as 900,000 cruise ship passengers and an additional 100,000 independent travelers. That’s one million extra people or over 31 times the population of year-round residents
- The two major industries in Juneau are government and tourism, though the city still has a mining industry, as well as fishing and timber like other parts of Southeast Alaska.
- Juneau’s Mount Roberts Tramway is one of the most vertical tramways in the world. It takes visitors up 2,000 feet from the cruise dock in just six minutes, giving epic views along the way – which is why it’s one of the most popular things to do in Juneau!
Do you know any other facts about Juneau? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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