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Wonders of Alaska

Mount Shishaldin at sunset, Aleut Islands - one of the wonders of Alaska
Mount Shishaldin at sunset / Erik Beach, 2007, / public domain

WorldBlue  Highlights

This far northern land is very diverse and its landscape is spectacular. Alaska though is not very rich with separate, specific landmarks – this is a land that brings a very special emotional experience as a whole. Singling out some specific landmarks here feels somehow out of place – Alaska is magnificent with its wast glaciers, supertall mountains, numerous active volcanoes, endless forests, deep canyons.

The most amazing wonders of Alaska are:

  • Volcanoes and geothermal features. Alaska has more than 130 volcanoes! And some 50 of them are active or have been recently active! Some volcanoes are unusual – like the perfectly symmetrical Mount Shishaldin. There are interesting geothermal fields, f.e. Mount Recheshnoi Geyser Field has 5 active geysers.
  • Archaeological heritage. Alaska most likely has the most ancient man-made heritage in Americas – people came here from Eurasia some 16,500 – 13,000 years ago… or – maybe much earlier. Those people hunted mammoths and other extinct animals. People have lived here since then, developing adjustments to harsh climate – e.g. partly subterranean villages.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Alaska

Geological wonders

Brooks Falls

Some 1.8-2 m tall and approximately 80 – 100 m wide waterfall that is world-famous thanks to a large group of brown bears catching salmon and other fish. Sometimes up to 50 bears can be seen on this waterfall.

Brooks Falls with bears, Alaska
Brooks Falls with bears / Mila Zinkova, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Hubbard Glacier

Large, 122 km long glacier that is advancing. Step by step it is blocking the outlet of Russel Fjord, causing massive outbursts of water.

Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier./ Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Ruth Glacier

A spectacular glacier that flows for 16 km among cliffs that rise up to 1,600 m high.

Ruth Glacier, Alaska
Ruth Glacier / anujd89, / CC BY 2.0
Mount Shishaldin

The most symmetrical cone-shaped and glacier-clad mountain in the world. This 2857 m high volcano is continuously active and emits a plume of steam.

Shishaldin Volcano
Shishaldin Volcano./ naql, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Mount Douglas crater lake

Approximately 160 m wide, highly acidic crater lake with pH of its water reaching 1.1.

The acidic crater lake of Mount Douglas
The acidic crater lake of Mount Douglas / U.S> Geological Survey, Wikimedia Commons / public domain
Mount Cleveland

Near symmetrical stratovolcano, 1 730 m high. Almost constantly active. Nearby from the sea rise several more symmetrical volcanic cones – such as the beautiful cone of Mount Carlisle and Herbert Island.

Mount Cleveland, Aleut Islands
Mount Cleveland / NOAA Photo Library, / CC BY 2.0
Mount Martin

Volcano with a very active fumarolic activity. The crater contains an intermittent acidic lake and thick sulfur deposits.

Mount Martin, Alaska
Mount Martin with its crater lake, Alaska / U.S> NPS, GoodFreePhotos / public domain
Mount Recheshnoi Geyser field

The only location in Alaska with true geysers: three closely located geyser fields with 5 active geysers (the highest – 2 m tall) and 9 natural fountains.

One of geysers in Mount Recheshnoi Geyser Field, Alaska
One of geysers in Mount Recheshnoi Geyser Field / © Susan Ott Ralph
Mount Dickey east face

1,600 m tall granite wall that rises over a horizontal distance of 800 m.

Mount Dickey
Mount Dickey / Ross Fowler, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0
Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves

Beautiful ice caves in the deep blue Mendenhall Glacier. Caves are formed by streams leaving the glacier. As the glacier is dynamic and, mostly receding due to global warming, the caves also are constantly changing and every year could be in different locations.

Mendenhall Glacier Ice Cave
Mendenhall Glacier Ice Cave / Joseph, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Falls Point Fall

Some 60 – 80 m tall vertical plunge – a waterfall discharging directly into the sea.

Falls Point Fall, Tanaga Island
Falls Point Fall on Tanaga Island / USGS, GoodFreePhotos / public domain
Indecision Creek

A stream with waterfalls that flows down from Mount Chiginagak volcano. Stream is very acidic, with a pH of 1.2, and its water has a sulfuric odor.

Kasnyku Falls

Some 150 m tall waterfall flows down along the cliff face. Some 40 m wide. The waterfall looks very picturesque from the fiord as it is seen flowing among the trees.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

Valley that is filled with volcanic ash from an eruption in 1912. The layer of ashes is up to 210 m deep. After the eruption there formed thousands of fumaroles from this ashfield, and most are extinct by now. Rivers have formed deep canyons in this ashfield.

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Alaska
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes / R. McGimsey, / public domain
Nugget Falls

Powerful, 115 m tall and some 30 m wide waterfall that slides down along the cliff.

Nugget Falls
Nugget Falls / Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Devil Mountain Lakes

Possibly the largest maar in the world – two joined round lakes formed by a volcanic eruption some 21 000 years ago. The diameter of lakes reaches 8 km. Several more maar lakes are nearby.

Devil Mountain Lakes
Devil Mountain Lakes / Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Biological wonders

Qagnax Cave

A lava tube where have been found remnants of unique dwarf mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) who lived here around 3700 BC. The cave – a 12 m deep pit – was discovered in 1999. Only in Wrangel Island mammoths lived more recently (2590 BC), as far as it is known.

Punuk Islands

A large number of bones – including human bones – are found on these islands. Bones are washed out in other places and are transported by the sea currents here.

Skulls in Punuk Islands
Skulls in Punuk Islands / Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps, Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Archaeological wonders

Petroglyph Beach

Some 40 different signs and symbols have been hewn in the boulders and rock outcrops at sea. It is possible that these symbols are even 8000 years old.

Petroglyph Beach in Alaska, stone with a carving of spiral
Petroglyph Beach, stone with a carving of spiral / J Brew, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Architecture wonders

HAARP Research Station, Alaska

Ionospheric research facility – high-power radio frequency transmitter that is able to excite the ionosphere above it. This is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

HAARP Research Station
HAARP Research Station / U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB
Miles Glacier Bridge (Million Dollar Bridge)

470 m long railway bridge, built in 1910. This expensive bridge currently stands almost without use, but it is cheaper to maintain it than to remove it.

Miles Glacier Bridge, Alaska
Miles Glacier Bridge / Fish and Wildlife Services, / public domain
Salty Dawg Saloon

Bar built of wooden logs, the structure includes a lighthouse. The walls of this bar are pinned with thousands of dollar bills, signed by visitors to the bar.

Inside the Salty Dawg Saloon
Inside the Salty Dawg Saloon./ Ovedc, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
Ukivok Stilt Village

Abandoned Inupiat village on an inhospitable cliffside. Houses are built on stilts above the sea.

Ukivok Stilt Village
The abandoned Ukivok Stilt Village / Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Church of the Holy Ascension in Unalaska

Old Russian Orthodox church, built in 1826.

Church of the Holy Ascension in Unalaska
Church of the Holy Ascension in Unalaska./ James Brooks, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Alaska: A Visual Tour of America’s Great Land

An amazing tour through its history, culture, and landscape, Alaska’s stunning imagery and informative text make it the perfect book for those who dream of visiting the 49th state and those who want to celebrate its singular beauty and expansive history. From the lush rainforest of the Inside Passage to the desolate beauty of the far north, Alaska’s natural wonders never cease to enthrall and amaze. Join National Geographic on this spectacular visual journey through seven distinct geographic regions of this amazing state, bringing each region alive through brisk historical narrative and lavish color photography, art, and maps.

Fodor’s Alaska

Alaska is a trip of a lifetime. Nowhere else can travelers kayak to glaciers; fly over the highest peak in North America; wonder at the Aurora Borealis; stay out all night celebrating the midnight sun; visit quirky towns; spot bears, eagles, moose, and whales; and learn the true meaning of the word “remote”–all in the same trip. Fodor’s Alaska makes it easy to create a perfect trip from start to finish.

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