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Go Alaska Tours | Alaska Travel Guide - Juneau



Juneau, Alaska
 
From gold camp to grand capital . . that's Juneau. But there is a lot more to this colorful city of the North than mere gold and government. Juneau has been called America's most scenic state capital, and it's awfully hard to disagree.

For raw beauty, Juneau is hard to beat. In addition to the waterways of the area, and the lush rain forests on the surrounding mountainsides, there are high mountain lakes and - a different form of water - the 1,500 square-mile Juneau icefield capping a sprawling mountain range between Juneau and Canada, some 25 miles to the east. This is a world of stark beauty, visited each year by several thousand people taking advantage of the icefield flights offered by Juneau charter operators.

Juneau isn't a place for sightseers alone, however. There are excellent gift shops, theatres, musical events, and plays. Juneau has no shortage of bars and restaurants, including the famous Red Dog Saloon (sawdust-on-the-floor). There are now more churches than bars in Juneau, and three of them must be rated as world class from the visitors standpoint: The Russian Orthodox Church downtown is a house of worship unlike anything most visitors have ever seen. The Chapel by the Lake, on Auke Lake some 12 miles northwest of downtown has a spectacular "living stained glass" window view of the lake, the forests, the mountains and Mendenhall Glacier. And the Shrine of St. Terese, 23 miles from downtown on Glacier Highway, has a unique island setting and a notable history.

Juneau is famous too, for the Mendenhall Glacier, a "drive to" glacier that sprawls between mountains for some 12 miles before showing its ice face across Mendenhall Lake from the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center. Several trails provide access to stunning overlooks of Mendenhall and the valley beyond. We do not encourage people to approach the face of the glaciers. The two trails on each side provide scenic overlooks, and access onto the glacier from the end of West Glacier Trail is for experienced climbers with the proper equipment.

Juneau is a jumping-off place for trips to other nearby attractions: Famed Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is but a 20 minute jet trip away, Admiralty Island is within sight of Auke Bay, a number of Forest Service cabins are within an hour's flight in a chartered aircraft, and several nearby Native villages are served by daily air service Daily jet flights connect Juneau to the rest of the state and beyond. The Alaska Marine Highway System connects with all of the other points in Southeast and Bellingham, Washington. When all is said and done, however, it is likely to be Juneau's first impression that will be the most lasting - a picture book community nestled along the base of the mountains with winding streets, totem poles, brightly painted store fronts, and more than 30,396 friendly people who wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world!

History

Juneau was incorporated on October 4, 1880, not too long after Chief Kowee led prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris to what seemed to be a very promising streak of gold in nearby Gold Creek. The promise was fulfilled as that strike and others in the general area eventually turned out more than $150 million in gold. And that was when the price of gold was $30 an ounce. Although Juneau was founded on gold, government began its takeover in 1906 when the state capital was moved from Sitka. By the time the last gold mine closed during World War II, it had taken over as the mainstay of the economy.  Today it is estimated that 75 per cent of Juneau's economic base can be directly traced to government city/borough, state, and federal. But gold is not forgotten and those who visit Juneau today still gaze in awe at the remains of the old A-J mine complex on the flanks of Mt. Roberts near the edge of the downtown area. The A-J mine operated until 1944 when rising prices and a pegged price of gold made the mine fail. The Treadwell Mine, which was on Gastineau Channel in Douglas - across from downtown Juneau - closed in 1917after the under-channel mine tunnels flooded and collapsed.

Facts & Weather

Culture: Juneau, the third largest city in Alaska, is supported largely by state and federal employment and by tourists cruising the Inside Passage. As Alaska's capital, Juneau is home to legislators and their staff January through May. Juneau has a Tlingit history with a strong historical influence from the early prospectors and boomtown that grew around gold mining operations. Size: 3,248 square miles total, including 928 square miles of ice cap and 704 square miles of water. 264 miles are urbanized. Juneau has grown along both banks of the Gastineau Channel on Douglas Island and the mainland, filling the valleys of Lemon Creek and Mendenhall carved by glaciers. More than two-thirds of the population lives in these areas. Elevation: Sea level, rising to 3,576 feet (Mount Juneau), 3,666 feet (Gastineau Peak), and 3,819 feet (Mount Roberts), plunging between 90 and 120 feet deep in Gastineau Channel. Weather: Climate: Maritime. This is a rainforest area; bring a raincoat. Precipitation: 54.31 inches average annual rain and melted snow at the airport (based on 30-year average), and 91.32 inches downtown. Juneau averages 222 rainy days per year. Rainiest months are September and October, with 6.73 and 7.84 inches average. Juneau's driest months are usually April, May, and June. Precipitation for 2002 totaled 62.32 inches 4.09 inches above average. Nine daily precipitation records were set in 2002. Even so, Juneau experienced a record dry spring when just over 4 inches of rain fell. 1991 holds the record for maximum rainfall at 85.15 inches. 2001 holds first place for minimum rainfall at 28.32 inches.

Sightseeing

Mendenhall Glacier is the only drive-up, road accessible glacier in the  USA. As the third most visited attraction in Alaska, you can see icebergs, wildlife, bears during fish spawning, glaciers, glimpse the 1000 square  mile ice field beyond, and beautiful scenery. It is all within walking  distance from Pearson's Pond, a 15 minute drive from downtown Juneau.  Many trails from the lake lead into the surrounding mountains for excellent viewing and photographic opportunities. The Visitor’s Center itself boasts terrific displays and information on the ecology of this area and dynamic ice field. Naturalist guided summer walks. Film and talks year round on weekends. It costs $5 in summer. Free in winter.

The Mt. Roberts Tramway goes up to Mt. Roberts. The 6-minute ride brings you to great hiking trails, a mountaintop restaurant - great for salmon, gift shop and nativetheater. The mountaintop is also a good place to gave a wedding or picnic. There is an interpretive center and you can also buy a guided hiking tour here. Or, hike on your own. Bring a picnic lunch, and stay on the trails. You can hike up from sea level, but that portion of the trail can get crowded and long (and slippery if there's been recent rains) 15 minutes round trip tram, $20.00 2 hour guided hike $60.00. Do this, along with shopping in the tourist stores and the most wonderful State Museum, on your "downtown" day. Check the cruise ship schedule and pick a time and/or day when there are fewer ships in town.

Alaska State Museum One of the best in the state has great displays of wildlife, native culture, mining,  russian sale, art and interactive children sections. Gastineau Salmon Hatchery Check out their awesome aquariums and  fish ladder with underwater window that lets you watch salmon fight their  way up!. Watch incubation process, enjoy excellent displays and buy delicious smoked fish. Great aquarium displays. Located at 3 mile Egan Drive.

Alaskan Brewing Company At 5429 Shaune Dr. Take the popular tours for free and taste award-winning beers. ask to try theirspruce tip and  Alaskan Amber. Plentygreat souvenirs. Take a taste of the North home with you! Red Dog Saloon Along with the development of the great Alaska Territory came 20th century communication and transportation systems including regular service by the Alaska Steamship Company. And what was the result? Tourists!

Behind the swinging doors, the nostalgic flavor of the legendary Red Dog Saloon continues to prevail; from the sawdust floors to the flag-draped ceiling. Cherished memorabilia of Alaskans displayed include Wyatt Earp's gun, a walrus oosik, trophy wildlife mounts, historical posters and photographs, and currency signed by miners. In the early 70's the Harris Family took over as the proprietors and caretakers of the Red Dog's collection. The Saloon continues to be dedicated to preserving the memory of the men and women of our early prospecting and mining days. The Alaska Legislature has even recognized the Red Dog Saloon for its longevity as the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Juneau.

Hiking in Juneau, Alaska. There are hundreds of trails in Juneau. Some are relaxing walk at sea level, others include a comfortable 3 hour hike up the trails around the world-famous Mendenhall Glacier (pictured), or a vigorous hike to the top of one of our many mountains. Most are in the rainforest with lots of flora and fauna. Take advantage of the easily accessible scenery. The glacier visitor center has 2 guidedwalks daily in summer and the city has two guided all-day hikes each week year round. All are free.  Learn details of our favorite trails.  East Glacier Loop, Mt. Roberts above the tram, West Glacier, Perseverance, trails to the many lakes, a walk along the shore by the serene Shrine of St. Therese, and lots of others. Ask the forest service or visitor kiosk for a map.
 
 



 
 

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