History of Juneau
Before the arrival of the European-American settlers, the Gastineau Channel, where the Juneau area is located, was populated by Auke and Taku tribes (Tlingit Indians). In addition to being a fishing and hunting ground, the area was also a major cultural and social center of the Native tribes.
The first European in the area was Joseph Whidbey, who was the ship master of Discovery, part of the George Vancouver expedition. He explored the entire length of the Gastineau Channel in 1794 and reported the channel to be almost completely unnavigable due to ice.
In the second half of the 19th century, the area was believed to have some deposits of gold ore, which prompted an engineer from Sitka to promise an award to those who would bring them gold. The findings were mostly inconsiderable but two important gold prospectors, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, headed to the area nevertheless. They founded a small mining camp in 1880. In the following year, the camp site became an actual town, the first one after the Alaska purchase by the USA. The new town was first named Harrisburg (after Richard Harris), then Rockwell (after Charles Rockwell) and finally Juneau (after Joe Juneau). During that time, the capital of Alaska was Sitka, but it lost its importance when the whale and fur trade declined, and the capital moved to Juneau.
The capitol building in Art Deco style was completed in 1931 and dedicated as the Federal and Territorial Building. Alaska gained statehood in 1959 as the 49th US state and the building has been used by the state government ever since. After Alaska became a US state, the city grew rapidly due to the growth of the state government and services related to it. The construction of the Alaska Pipeline further contributed to the growth and development of the city. The growth slowed down in the 1980, only to be picked up again thanks to the cruise ship tourism.
Juneau Geography and Climate
As mentioned earlier, the municipality of Juneau occupies a very large area along the Gastineau Channel. Downtown Juneau is located at sea level, towered by steep 4,000 ft high mountains that form the channel. The Juneau Icefield is located on top of those mountains, with some 30 glaciers flowing from it (including Mendenhall Glacier, a very popular and easily accessible destination for locals).
The City and Borough of Juneau, as a unified municipality, also includes a tidal island called Douglas Island located west of the central Juneau.
Juneau is the only US capital that borders another country (Canada) and one of the three US state capitals (along with Trenton and Carson City) that border another state.
The climate in Juneau is actually milder than what is generally expected from an Alaskan city. Despite its latitude, the city is influenced by the Pacific Ocean. The winters are long and humid but not too cold (winter high temperatures are usually above freezing). Springs, summers and autumns range from cool to mild and the warmest month is July with the average temperature of 65 °F (18.3 °C).
Population of Juneau
The largest race group in Juneau is White (74.8%), followed by Native American (11.4%), Asian (4.7%), Hispanic or Latino (3.4%) and other or mixed races.
Two largest contributors to the economy of Juneau are the government (federal, state and municipal) and tourism. The tourist season in Juneau lasts from May to September, during which time up to one million visitors come to the city every year. Most of the tourism is related to the cruise ships. However, even though tourism is a great source of revenue for the city, it seems that not all locals are happy with the number of visitors that arrive on cruise ships. Many of them fear that this type of tourism is harmful not only for the local culture and society, but also for the landscape.
In addition to cruise ship tourism, Juneau gets a great deal of ski enthusiasts, especially in the Eaglecrest Ski Area.
Juneau always relied greatly on fishing, especially halibut fishing. While this is no longer the most important industry in the city as it once used to be, fishing is still very important in Juneau, with hundreds of boats who sell their catch to large processing plants in other cities in Alaska.
Culture, Education and Transportation
Some of the important cultural events and institutions in Juneau include Theatre in the Rough, Perseverance Theatre, Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival, Alaska Folk Festival, and, of course, the Juneau Symphony, Juneau Lyric Opera and Opera To Go.
The largest institution of higher education in Juneau is the University of Alaska Southeast.
One particularity about Juneau is that it cannot be reached by land. Juneau is one of the few US state capitals that do not have an interstate highway. The road construction and maintenance in the city and its area are complicated by hazardous factors such as avalanches and ice and several attempts to constructs roads that would connect the city with nearby places were either abandoned or postponed. Hence, the only routes to the city are by air or by sea.
The Alaska Marine Highway System includes a network of ferries that carry cars and trucks, as well as passengers. Juneau is connected to the Douglas Island by the Juneau-Douglas road bridge. The city is served by Juneau International Airport with Alaska Airlines as the only commercial passenger airline.