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Logo bar of the Alaska Public Lands Information Center which are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok and Ketchikan
View of the port town, Ketchikan, Alaska from sea
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Timeline of Alaska's History
 
 

Alaska's modern history is very short; it was not discovered by the developed world until halfway through the 18th century. However, the indigenous peoples of Alaska have been here for quite some time!



alaskan native dancer

10,000 - 40,000 Years Ago

The first peoples came to Alaska during the last Ice Age, most likely following herd animals across the 1,000 mile wide Bering Land Bridge, exposed by lowered sea levels. Most tribes continued south, populating the rest of North America and ultimately South America, but some peoples remained behind, becoming the Native Alaskan Aborigines.

~12,000 BC

The last ice age ended about this time flooding the land bridge between Alaska and Siberia.




Note: This embedded video resides on the official Alaska National Park Service YouTube channel

Map of the Bering Land Bridge
NPS
Bering Land Bridge

1728

Vitus Bering, a Danish explorer, discovered the Bering Strait between Asia and North America.

For more information about the Bering Land Bridge visit http://www.nps.gov/bela

1741

A Russian expedition led by Vitus Bering, along with George Steller, made the first "discovery" of Alaska, landing on or near what today is Kayak Island. Bering explored the western coast of Alaska until he was shipwrecked and died on Commodorsky Island, later named Bering Island.



Captain Cook
Click on the image above to learn more...

1776

Captain James Cook, British Navigator and Explorer, set sail on his 3rd voyage, leading the expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a trading route across the top of North America. 

1778

Captain Cook sailed up the northwest coast anchoring off the coast of Alaska, identifying what is now Cook Inlet. Common sailor, John Ledyard established first Russian contact after traveling inland with a party of Native Alaskans. Cook continued to sail up the coast through the Bering Strait, and entered into the Arctic Ocean, but was forced to turn back due to ice blocking the way.

 



Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island
NPS
Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island

1780

A Japanese whaling ship ran aground near the western end of the Aleutian Islands. Rats from the ship reached the nearest island giving it the name Rat Island. 

1784

The first Russian Settlement in Alaska was established on Kodiak Island at Three Saints Bay
For more information about the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge visit http://kodiak.fws.gov

1807

The Eclipse, a Yankee fur trading vessel, sank in the Shumagin Islands, south of the Alaska Peninsula. It is the oldest known American shipwreck in Alaska and was missing until 2007.



packers on the Dyea trail
Alaska Library
Packers on the Dyea Trail

1896

Oil was discovered in the Cook Inlet.

1857

Coal mining began at Coal Harbor.

1865

There were two ships that were brought down in the name of the Civil War. The Captain, James Weddell, was unaware that the war had ended. For more information visit: http://www.alaskacenters.gov/civil-war-alaska.cfm

1867

The United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars in gold, two cents an acre. At the time of the purchase, the United States referred to it as "Seward's Folly".

1872

Gold was discovered near Sitka.

1874

George Halt became the first to cross Chilkoot Pass in search for Gold.

1880

Gold was discovered in Juneau, sparking the Juneau Gold Rush.



gold panner at bank of river displaying his gold finds

1884

Alaska became the District of Alaska. U.S. Congress did not provide for an Alaskan government until this year. 

1888

More than 60,000 arrived in Alaska in search of Gold. 

1898

Special legislation extends the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862 to the territory of Alaska allowing adventurous pioneers in the state to stake a claim for 160 acres of public land for development as a homestead.

1897-1900

The Klondike Gold Rush occurred. Over 100,000 prospectors would attempt to travel north to seek their fortunes in the Klondike. 

If you would like to learn more about gold panning here in Alaska, visit our Gold Panning page at http://alaskacenters.gov/gold-panning.cfm and  A teachers resource for the Klondike Gold Rush (an iBook) and PDF version



Hanging Valley in Tongass National Forest
UGSG
Hanging Valley in Tongass National Forest

1900

The Capital of Alaska was moved from Sitka to Juneau.

The and YukonWhite Pass Railroad was completed

1907

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Tongass National Forest.
For more informaton visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass

1912

Alaska was renamed a territory after the Second Organic Act of 1912.

 



dog sled with resting dogs and musher

1925

A diptheria epidemic cripples Nome, Alaska.  Conditions prohibit the life-saving serum from being shipped by plane, so 20 dog-sled teams race the medicine 674 miles (1,085 km) from Nenana to Nome in just over 5 days in record cold and hurricane-force winds.  Dogs like Balto and Togo are commemorated for their heroic races, and to this day this "race of mercy" is hailed as the last hurrah for sled dog teams in the working world.

To learn more about the Iditarod National Historic Trail and the Iditarod sled dog race, click here.



American troops prepare to board a troops transport vessel
NPS
American troops in the Aleutian Islands

1940

Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base was established.

1942

Japan invades the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska.  This prompts the construction of of the Alaska-Canada Highway to transport troops to Alaska, and the united states introduces a huge military presence to the state.   

1943

American Military re-take the Aleutian Islands

For more information about WWII in the Aleutian Islands visit http://www.nps.gov/aleu



the seal of the state of alaska
Alaska State Seal

1959

Almost one hundred years after the purchase of Alaska, it finally becomes the 49th state. The lobbying of the Alaska Statehood Committee and the passionate arguments from Alaskans result in President Eisenhower's signing of the official declaration to make Alaska a state on January 3, 1959. To see a ceremonial pinning of the 49th star on the United States flag, please visit: http://alaskacenters.gov/alaska-50-celebration.cfm


shifted land and damage from the 1964 earthquake
NOAA
Damage due to the 1964 Earthquake

1964

A massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake - the largest North American earthquake ever recorded, second largest in the world - rocks the Southern portion of Alaska.

Valdez is completely destroyed, Seward is almost entirely wiped out and Anchorage is heavily damaged. Damage is felt as far south as California. 130 people are killed, mostly due to underwater waves and tsunamis that resulted.

1968

Oil is discovered at Prudhoe bay, and not long after that, plans begin to build a pipeline to the North Slope in order to recover it.



Alaska
1971

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) is passed, giving Alaska Natives significant amounts of land and capital, as well as establishing the Native Corporations.

1974 - 1977

Construction begins on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline in 1974 and completed in 1977.

1980

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) passes, creating the huge public lands system in Alaska. Over 100 million acres are set aside for preservation and protection throughout Alaska.
For more information visit http://alaskacenters.gov/history-public-lands or http://dnr.alaska.gov/commis/opmp/anilca/more.htm



Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Clean up efforts
NOAA

1989

The Exxon Valdez runs into a reef in the Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of Alaska crude oil along 1,500 miles of coastline. A massive cleanup begins, drawing upon thousands of government-employed helpers and volunteers alike. The clean-up effort lasted more than 3 years.


Mount Redoubt Volcano Eruption
AVO
Mt Redoubt Volcano Eruption

1992

Mount Spurr Volcano erupted three times:
"It is the easternmost historically active volcano in the Aleutian arc and is the highest of several snow- and ice-covered peaks that appear to define a large, dissected stratovolcano."




2006

BP had a 267,000 gallon oil spill at Prudhoe Bay

2009

Mount Redoubt Volcano erupted five times:
"Redoubt Volcano is a steep-sided cone about 10 km in diameter at its base and with a volume of 30-35 cubic kilometers. The volcano is composed of intercalated pyroclastic deposits and lava flows and rests on Mesozoic granitic rocks of the Alaska-Aleutian Range batholith."



Free Book: An early history of the National Park Service 7megs
Open this document with any ePub reader such as an iPhone or an iPad.





 
A view of the back range of the Chugach Mountains. The mountains are brown and rocky with patches of snow, while the valley is lush and green. Did You Know?
The Chugach mountains, protected in the Chugach State Park and National Forest, are the northern most extension of the Pacific Coast Range and contain Alaska's most climbed peak, Flattop Mountain.