A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Juneau: 46°/69°/Mostly cloudy
The round-rumped grizzly bear ambled toward us, and I swallowed a scream and the urge to run. It had 6 million acres of Denali National Park and Preserve wilderness in which to roam, yet somehow this bear had managed to find my backpacking partner and me, alone on the Savage River.
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.
River location was important for trading
Fort Yukon, Alaska, sits at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers about 145 air miles northeast of Fairbanks. It is just north of the Arctic Circle in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
The winters in Fort Yukon, population about 600, are long and harsh and the summers are short but warm.
After freeze-up the plateau is a source of cold, continental arctic air. Daily minimum temperatures between November and March are usually below 0. Extended periods of minus 50 to minus 60 are common. Summer high temperatures run 65 to 72. Total annual precipitation averages 6.58 inches, with 43.4 inches of snowfall.
The Yukon River is ice-free from the end of May through mid-September.
Most Fort Yukon residents are descendants of the Yukon Flats, Chandalar River, Birch Creek, Black River and Porcupine River Gwich'in tribes. Subsistence is an important component of the local culture.
The sale of alcohol is restricted to the city-owned package store.
A federally recognized tribe is located in the community: Native Village of Fort Yukon; the Canyon Village Traditional Council is not recognized. Almost 90 percent of the population is Alaska Native or part Native.
City, state and federal agencies and the Native corporation are the primary employers in Fort Yukon. The school district is the largest employer. Unlike in many Alaska villages, winter tourism is becoming increasingly popular -- Fort Yukon has spectacular northern lights.
The Bureau of Land Management operates an emergency firefighting base at the airport. The Air Force operates a White Alice Radar Station in Fort Yukon.
Trapping and Native handicrafts also provide income. Residents rely on subsistence foods. Salmon, whitefish, moose, bear, caribou, and waterfowl provide most meat sources.
Fort Yukon is accessible by air year-round and by barge during the summer months. Heavy cargo is brought in by barge from the end of May through mid-September; there is a barge off-loading area but no dock. Riverboats and skiffs are used for recreation, hunting, fishing and other subsistence activities.
A state-owned 5,810-foot lighted gravel airstrip is available; Hospital Lake, adjacent to the airport, is used by float planes. There are 17 miles of local roads and more than 100 automobiles and trucks. The City Transit Bus system provides transport throughout the town. Snowmachines and dog sleds are used on area trails or the frozen river, which becomes an ice road to area villages during winter.
Fort Yukon was founded in 1847 by Alexander Murray as a Canadian outpost in Russian Territory. It became an important trade center for the Gwich'in Indians, who inhabited the vast lowlands of the Yukon flats and river valleys. The Hudson Bay Co., a British trading company, operated at Fort Yukon from 1846 until 1869. In 1862, a mission school was established.
In 1867, Alaska was purchased by the United States, and two years later it was determined that Fort Yukon was on American soil. Moses Mercier, a trader with the Alaska Commercial Co., took over operation of the Fort Yukon Trading Post. A post office was established in 1898. The fur trade of the 1800s, the whaling boom on the Arctic coast (1889-1904) and the Klondike gold rush spurred economic activity and provided some economic opportunities for the Natives.
Epidemics of introduced diseases struck the Fort Yukon population from the 1860s until the 1920s. In 1949, a flood damaged or destroyed many homes in Fort Yukon. During the 1950s, a White Alice radar site and an Air Force station were established. Fort Yukon incorporated as a city in 1959.
Source: Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development