Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery train
Alaska has a longer coastline than all the other U.S. states combined. It is the only non-contiguous U.S. state on continental North America; about 500 miles (800 km) of British Columbia (Canada) separate Alaska from Washington state. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States. It is technically part of the continental U.S., but is often not included in colloquial use; Alaska is not part of the contiguous U.S., often called "the Lower 48."[8] The capital city, Juneau, is situated on the mainland of the North American continent, but is not connected by road to the rest of the North American highway system.

The state is bordered by the Yukon Territory and British Columbia in Canada, to the east, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, and Chukchi Sea to the west and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Alaska's territorial waters touch Russia's territorial waters in the Bering Strait, as the Russian and Alaskan islands are only 3 miles (4.8 km) apart. As it extends into the eastern hemisphere, it is technically both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States, as well as also being the northernmost.

Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km2), much larger than Texas, the next largest state. Alaska is larger than all but 18 sovereign countries.

Counting territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the combined area of the next three largest states: Texas, California, and Montana. It is also larger than the combined area of the 22 smallest U.S. states.

The regions:
• South Central Alaska
• Alaska Panhandle
• Southwest Alaska
• Alaska Interior
• Alaskan Bush
• Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The International Date Line was drawn west of 180° to keep the whole state, and thus the entire North American continent, within the same legal day.

Natural features
With its myriad islands, Alaska has nearly 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of tidal shoreline. The Aleutian Islands chain extends west from the southern tip of the Alaska Peninsula. Many active volcanoes are found in the Aleutians. Unimak Island, for example, is home to Mount Shishaldin, which is an occasionally smoldering volcano that rises to 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above the North Pacific. It is the most perfect volcanic cone on Earth, even more symmetrical than Japan's Mount Fuji. The chain of volcanoes extends to Mount Spurr, west of Anchorage on the mainland. Alaska has the most volcanoes of any of the fifty US states. Geologists have identified Alaska as part of Wrangellia, a large region consisting of multiple states and Canadian provinces in the Pacific Northwest which is actively undergoing continent building.

One of the world's largest tides occurs in Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage – tidal differences can be more than 35 feet (10.7 m). (Many sources say Turnagain has the second-greatest tides in North America, but several areas in Canada have larger tides.)

Alaska has more than three million lakes. Marshlands and wetland permafrost cover 188,320 square miles (487,747 km2) (mostly in northern, western and southwest flatlands). Frozen water, in the form of glacier ice, covers some 16,000 square miles (41,440 km2) of land and 1,200 square miles (3,110 km2) of tidal zone. The Bering Glacier complex near the southeastern border with Yukon covers 2,250 square miles (5,827 km2) alone. With over 100,000 of them, Alaska has half of the world's glaciers.

Land ownership
According to an October 1998 report by the United States Bureau of Land Management, approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of these, the Bureau of Land Management manages 87 million acres (350,000 km²), or 23.8% of the state. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is the world's largest wildlife refuge, comprising 16 million acres (65,000 km2).

Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 101 million acres (410,000 km2); another 44 million acres (180,000 km2) are owned by 12 regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Thus, indirectly, the 84,000 Eskimo, Aleut and American Indian inhabitants of Alaska own one-ninth of the state. Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling about one percent of the state.

Luciano Mende

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