Fact Box

Anchorage, Alaska
Population (2010) 291,826
Metro area (2010) 374,553
Consolidated city-borough area- 1,961.1 square miles

Anchorage is a consolidated city-county in the state of Alaska. It has a population of 300,950, making it Alaska's most populous city, containing nearly half of the state's population. Anchorage is located in the South-central portion of Alaska at the terminus of the Cook Inlet on a peninsula. The city's area is 1,968 square miles, and larger than Rhode Island. Anchorage is very isolated from the rest of the world, as a 9.5 hour flight is required to reach 90% of the industrialized world. Main attractions in Anchorage include the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and the Anchorage Zoo. The foothills of the nearby Chugach Mountains are a popular spot for wildlife viewing.


Anchorage was established in 1914 as a railroad construction port for the Alaska Railroad, which was built between 1915 and 1923. It was mostly a company town for the railroad for the first few decades of its existence. Merrill Field, Anchorage's first airport opened in 1930. It would soon become one of the busiest airports in the United States, until the building of Anchorage International Airport in 1951. Many military facilities were built in Anchorage during World War II, such as Elmendorf Air Force Base (1940) and Fort Richardson (1941). This heavy military presence continued past the second World War into the Cold War in the 1950s. The 1950s was a decade of rapid growth for Anchorage, with its population increasing from 11,000 to 44,000 between 1950 and 1960. In 1964, Anchorage was hit by the Good Friday Earthquake, which caused tremendous destruction. It was the second largest earthquake in the recorded history of the world. It took the remainder of the 1960s to recover from the disaster. In 1968, oil was discovered near Anchorage, and construction began on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974, at a cost of more than 8 billion dollars. This sparked an oil boom in the late 70s and 80s, where many oil companies set up headquarters in Anchorage. The revenue from the oil industry allowed the government to build new public facilities in Anchorage, including a new library, a civic center, a theater, and a sports arena. Despite a 1989 crash in oil prices, Anchorage has continued to grow into the new century.


Anchorage is located in South-central Alaska. It is more north than several Scandinavian cities like Oslo and Helsinki, but not as far north as Murmansk or Reykjavik. The city is on a strip of coastal lowland and extends up the slopes of the Chugach Mountains. Anchorage has an area of 1968 square miles, of which 1704 square miles is land, and 264 square miles is water. 

Anchorage is governed by an elected mayor and eleven member assembly. The eleven members are elected from districts known as sections, and the mayor is elected in a citywide vote. The Anchorage area sends 16 representatives to the 40-member Alaska House of Representatives. The current mayor of Anchorage is Dan Sullivan, a member of the Republican Party. 


Alaska's economy has continued to grow steadily while the US economy has declined. In the beginning, Anchorage's economy was centered around the Alaska Railroad, and during World War II, military became a part of its economy. The discovery of oil in and the subsequent building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline six years later brought thousands of workers to the Anchorage area and increased service industries. Alaska's oil production accounts for over one fifth of the nation's oil reserves, and Anchorage serves as the administrative center of for the industry. The military is a large employer in the Anchorage area, with nearly ten thousand people employed by the Elmendorf Air Force Base, Fort Richardson, and Kulis National Air Guard Base. Transportation is a major part of the economy in Anchorage, with Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport employing thousands and offering hundreds of passenger and cargo flights. The Alaska Railroad transports cargo and passengers as well. Being the most populated city in Alaska, Anchorage serves as a gateway for tourists visiting Alaska. The Alaska tourism industry employs 30,000 people.


50,000 students attend 98 schools in the Anchorage School District , the 87th largest in the United States. Higher-education facilities in Anchorage include University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Pacific University, and Charter College.

Cool Facts
  • Anchorage contains over 40% of Alaska's population. The only other city in America which contains over 40% of its state's population is New York City
  • Anchorage's shortest winter days contain about 5.5 hours of daylight
  • 60 of Alaska's 100,000 glaciers are located within 50 miles of Anchorage