Today, in our continuing tour of Alaska, we first visit Anchorage and then take a scenic highway on to Seward.
In 1914, a site at the end of the Cook Inlet in south central Alaska was selected for unloading materials for building the Alaska Railroad. A tent city sprang up, which was incorporated as Anchorage in 1920. The city grew rapidly, first because of the railroad, then because of military installations, and finally because of oil discovered at Prudhoe Bay. Today, Anchorage, with a population of nearly 300,000, is by far the largest city in Alaska. About 40 percent of all Alaskans live there. Covering 1,706 square miles, about five times the size of Indianapolis, Anchorage is the United States’ fourth-largest city by area. The modern and vibrant city includes a number of important statewide cultural institutions, including the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and the 170,000 square-foot Anchorage Museum.
The 127-mile Seward Highway, connecting Anchorage and Seward, provides some of the most scenic views in the country. Running along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet, the highway passes the picturesque and glacier-covered Chugach Mountains and offers numerous places to stop for hiking, whale watching, moose and bear sightings, kayaking and the like. Seward, named for former U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, who arranged for the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867, is between the mountains and the Gulf of Alaska on Alaska’s southern coast.
With fewer than 3,000 permanent residents, the number of people in Seward swells dramatically during the summer with the arrival of large cruise ships. Seward is the site of an important annual salmon run in July and August. It is also the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, where more than 40 flowing glaciers have created some of the most spectacular fjords in the country.