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Juneau: Alaska's State Capital

Alaska's state capital sits at the edge of Gastineau Channel in the northern portion of the Inside Passage. Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau form a dramatic backdrop to this coastal city that some have called Little San Francisco. People come by boat or plane since there are no roads into Juneau. If you are flying from Anchorage southeast to Juneau, it will take you a little less than two hours. From Seattle, the trip takes a little more than two hours.

Tlingit Indians first used the area as a fish camp. They helped gold prospectors explore the region. In 1880 miners Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau finally discovered gold at nearby Gold Creek. They mapped out the city on the beach of the channel. Harris wrote out a few city laws and named the new town Harrisburg. At one point, the rest of the miners decided to throw out Harris's laws and renamed the town Rockwell for a naval officer who had helped set up the camp. Then Joe Juneau started feeling overlooked. He was a good fellow, and the miners asked to rename the town Juneau. The government said they would only make the change if the miners promised not to change it again in another two months. The miners agreed and the name stuck.

Juneau was not always the capital. When Russia owned Alaska, Sitka was the headquarters for the Russian American Company. After the United States bought Alaska in 1867, it didn't make any changes for several years. Then in 1900, Congress voted to move the capital to Juneau, but the legislature did not meet there until 1912.

Nearly 31,000 people call Juneau home today. Most people who live in Juneau work in government, tourism, fishing, and mining. Each January the town grows as state legislators come to town to set the state's budget and pass new state laws. In the summer nearly a million people come to visit and tour the area around Juneau.

There are four Juneau Creeks located throughout Alaska, but none are even close to the capital city. Can you find out where they are located?

Gallery of Images

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Juneau from Douglas Island

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Mendenhall Glacier

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Mt. Roberts Tramway

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