After busy days with long drives, we welcomed our two night stay in Fairbanks. Located near the geographic center of Alaska and in a lowland, the climate is very different and there are no snow covered mountains in view. While we were there the daytime highs were in the low 80’s and we were hot in the clothing we had packed. During this time of year Fairbanks has almost 24 hours of daylight. Fairbanks was once a gold rush and then a pipeline boom town, so it is called the “Golden Heart of Alaska “. Today it is Alaska’s second largest city after Anchorage.
Fairbanks is the farthest north from the equator we have ever traveled. We traveled North to 65°03’15.7″N 147°25’33.2″W or 4,500 miles from the equator for a few geocaches.
In 1902 gold was found in Fairbanks. A trading post was built and the gold rush began. Today there are still operating gold mines here. Panning for gold is a popular tourist activity. The area mines have world class mineral deposits as well as gold.
Today the economic base of Fairbanks comes from the Pipeline, military bases, mining and the University of Alaska, the country’s northernmost University. Fairbanks is the midpoint of the 800 mile Pipeline. Here is a picture of the “pig” which flows through the pipeline to clean it, much like a pipe cleaner.
While in Fairbanks we visited Pioneer Park where we saw the Golden Spike Train. President Warren G. Harding used this railroad car when he came to Alaska in the summer of 1923 to drive the golden spike signaling the completion of the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Seward. Harding died in San Francisco before he could return to Washington, DC.
Several Alaskans warned us earlier in the week that there wasn’t much to see or do in Fairbanks and it wasn’t very pretty. We would agree it is certainly not picturesque compared to most other Alaska towns. But when you think of Alaska, one of the places you think of is Fairbanks, so we had to go and check it out! And we learned that the mosquitoes in Alaska are as fierce as everyone says, We can see why people joke they are the state bird!
- Alaska does not have counties, it has boroughs.
- Alaska has 3 million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 1,800 Islands, 100,000 glaciers and 586,000 square miles of untamed wilderness. And don’t forget about nine national parks and preserves and two huge national forests with 66 million acres of undisturbed land.
- Alaska is nicknamed “The Last Frontier” and “Land of the Midnight Sun”. The name Alaska comes from the Native American word “Alyeska” which means the Great Land.
- The distances from Fairbanks to London is 1,100 miles closer than Fairbanks to Miami because of the curvature of the earth.
- The Trans-Alaska Pipeline can withstand earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale and temperatures as low as minus 80 F.
- Alaska has one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the world.
- In a deal nicknamed “Seward’s Folly”, Secretary of State William Seward bought Alaska from Russia for two cents per acre in 1867.
- In 1880 gold and huge deposits of precious metals are discovered in Juneau and other places in Alaska.
- Alaska governor Sarah Palin is first Republican woman to be on a presidential ticket with John McCain.