Geography and landscapes Alaska
The territory of Alaska is gigantic. A land of superlatives, the state alone represents one-fifth of the size of the United States. Besides, if the end of the Aleutians were in California, Ketchikan would tickle Florida and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would plunge into the Great Lakes!
What do we find in Alaska? Regions very different from each other, starting with the Panhandle, this narrow strip of land stretching 800 km in a south-easterly direction, similar to the handle of a saucepan when looking at a map. It leans against the coastal mountains and glaciers marking the border with Canada (British Columbia and Yukon) and opens onto an incredible archipelago of islands, large and small.
THEInside Passage, a seaway protected from the anger of a not always very peaceful ocean, slips through it for a long time, from fjord to fjord, to the Gulf of Alaska. Ferries sail there year round, maintaining the only links between isolated communities, which no road often serves.
From one stop to another, we discover charming fishing ports with houses on stilts and, heading north, Juneau, the small capital of Alaska. More temperate and watered, this region is covered with splendid cold rainforests, the domain of bears. In summer, large numbers of whales return to gorge themselves on krill and herring.
South of central Alaska stretches the vast Gulf of Alaska, marked to the west by the large Kenai Peninsula and to the east by Prince William Sound, with iceberg-strewn waters tumbling down from the Columbia Icefield. Here again: fjords, glaciers, whales, bald eagles and other sea otters. This region is a little more easily accessible by road from Anchorage, at the gates of which stretch the only farms of the state.
North of the Matanuska and Sutsina valleys A boundless zone emerges, entirely given over to the taiga (boreal forest), planted with conifers, birches, willows and rowan trees. The annual average temperature fluctuates around 0 ° C, but frequently drops below -30 ° C in winter. It is the Interior, the kingdom of a barely touched wilderness, punctuated by peat bogs, crossed by 3 roads forming a triangle between Anchorage, Fairbanks and Valdez.
Several mountain ranges raise their harrows from snow-capped peaks to the highest point of the Alaska Range, the famous Mount McKinley (6 m), including a good 194 kilometers rising above the plain. Even if it rains less here, the king of the American peaks is only fully discovered one day in five, on average ...
Passed Fairbanks and the impressive Yukon River (3 km), as wide as 185 football fields, begins the bush, the "bush", Alaska without roads or frills, where mosquitoes as big as the arm swarm, says the legend. Not so big, maybe, but countless, yes ...
Further still, a more austere world is emerging: the tundra, swept by winds and caribou hooves. There, in northeast Alaska and neighboring Yukon, we meet the world's largest summer horde: 160 animals that migrate from the boreal forests of the Ogilvie and Richardson Mountains to the pastures of the Beaufort Sea - where females give birth. The tundra occupies a good part of the Alaskan Arctic and its western frontage, turned towards the Bering Sea.
Just as wild and inaccessible (except in a flat bush), the alaskan peninsula is riddled with mastodons: willingly smoking volcanoes, pitted on the Pacific line of fire. The Mount Redoubt was still spitting ash in May 2009 and volcanologists expect a major eruption.
What is still left? Islands, islands by the hundreds, stretched across the immense Aleutian chain, link between Asia and America, between Siberia and Alaska. A chain of 1 km long, displaying 900 volcanoes on the clock, nothing less, for 57 inhabitants. Not a single tree on the horizon!
A few islands still in the bering sea, which no ferry serves: the Pribilofs and their fur seals, Saint Matthew, Saint Lawrence and the tiny Little Diomede, placed in the middle of the Bering Strait, on the date line and the border with Russia. For 50 years, its handful of inhabitants had to be content to greet from afar the cousins of Grande Diomède, on the other side of the Iron Curtain ...