A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Anchorage: 58°/80°/Mostly cloudy
Fairbanks: 59°/88°/Partly sunny
Juneau: 49°/73°/Mostly cloudy
On and off the road system, Alaska is dotted with cities, towns and villages that give the state its real character.
Luck struck around 6:30 a.m. Sunday -- less than nine hours before the end of the 10-day Slam'n Salm'n derby -- when Robert Hayes hooked a 40.97-pound king salmon that made him the winner.
Summer solstice marked the beginning of the warm season last week, but two Anchorage fly-fishermen discovered Monday morning that winter still lingers deep in the Chugach Mountains.
The Kasilof beach is cool and calm at 10 a.m. on Monday as Yolanda Thomas emerges from her family-sized tent for a morning of dipnetting on the shore of the Kasilof River.
Gold gave Mat-Su town its start; recreation keeps it going
Willow, Alaska, is northwest of Wasilla in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, a 90-minute drive from Anchorage.
It is located around Mile 60 of the George Parks Highway, north of Houston. About 1,700 people live in Willow. The town was chosen in the 1970s to be the new site of the state capital, but the plans fell through.
January temperatures range from -33 to 33; July can vary from 42 to 83. Rainfall ranges from 16 to 27 inches, with 48 to 150 inches of snowfall.
Almost 60 percent of the 1,500 homes in Willow are vacant or for seasonal use. Nancy Lake, south of Willow, is a popular recreation site. With its runs of silver and pink salmon, Willow Creek is a good stream for fishing.
Many Willow residents are self-employed in a variety of businesses, including lodging, guiding and charter services, and retail stores. There are two sawmills and one prefabricated wood building manufacturer. Some residents are employed in Palmer, Wasilla or Anchorage.
Eighteen residents hold commercial fishing permits. Capitol Speedway attracts stock car racing enthusiasts from the entire state.
From the George Parks Highway, the area has access to the statewide highway system and the transportation facilities of Wasilla, Palmer and Anchorage. There are two public airstrips available, one a state-owned 4,400-foot gravel airstrip and one at Deshka Landing, owned by the Department of Natural Resources. There are five additional private strips, plus a seaplane base at Kashwitna Lake.
The Dena'ina Indians have occupied this area historically, living in semipermanent villages. The community got its start when gold was discovered on Willow Creek in 1897. Supplies and equipment were brought in by boat to Knik, which is along Cook Inlet's Knik Arm. From there, a 26-mile summer trail went northwest up Cottonwood Creek and across Bald Mountain to Willow Creek.
The winter sled trail crossed the present line of the Alaska Railroad at Houston, and up the west end of Bald Mountain for 30 miles. This trail, dubbed the "Double Ender Sled Trail," is still being used by skiers, hunters, backpackers and snowmobile enthusiasts. The sleds then followed a trail along Willow Creek in an easterly direction, now Hatcher Pass Road.
The Talkeetna Trail also passed through Willow and was used by dog teams and pack horses. Cabins to accommodate freighters and mail carriers were located at Nancy Lake, Willow and other points north. This route was the forerunner of the Parks Highway.
During construction of the Alaska Railroad, surveyors, construction crews, homesteaders and other settlers came to Willow. A railroad station house was constructed in 1920. During World War II, a radar warning station and airfield were built. The Trail's End Lodge was built in 1947; it subsequently became a post office in 1948.
By 1954, Willow Creek was Alaska's largest gold mining district, with a total production approaching $18 million. Land disposals, homestead subdivisions and completion of the George Parks Highway in 1972 fueled growth in the area.
In 1976, Alaskans selected Willow for their new state capital site. However, funding to enable the capital move was defeated in the November 1982 election.
Source: Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development