Do you know what the biggest state (by area) in the United States is? If you guessed Alaska, you’re right!

Located in the far northwest corner of North America — and separated from the “lower 48” states by about 500 miles of British Columbia, Canada — Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas, the next largest state.

At a whopping 586,412 square miles, Alaska would rank as the 19th largest country in the world if it were a country instead of a state. If you count its territorial waters, Alaska is larger than the next three largest states combined (Texas, California and Montana). It’s also larger than the 22 smallest states combined.

Despite all of that land area, Alaska is also the least densely populated state. In total, a little more than 700,000 people call Alaska home. At least 18 cities in the United States have larger populations than the entire state of Alaska!

About half of the residents of Alaska live in the Anchorage, Alaska, metropolitan area. The cold arctic conditions of much of Alaska prevent it from attracting more residents.

If you’re wondering how Alaska became a state, you might be surprised to learn that the United States actually purchased Alaska from Russia. In 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated with Russia to purchase Alaska for $7.2 million (about $113 million in today’s dollars). That’s about two cents per acre.

Pretty good deal, right? Believe it or not, some people at the time didn’t think it was such a great deal.

Although the deal has become known as the “Alaska Purchase,” some politicians at the time called it “Seward’s folly.” They believed Seward was silly for spending so much money on what they believed to be an icy wasteland.

As it turns out, though, the value of the Alaska Purchase was many times greater than what the United States paid for it. In addition to natural beauty and wildlife, Alaska turned out to be rich in natural resources, such as gold, copper and oil.

It also proved to have a strategic location close to Russia, which the United States kept a close eye on during the Cold War.

Even though the United States took possession of Alaska in 1867, it did not become a state right away. It started out as the Department of Alaska before becoming the District of Alaska and eventually, in 1912, the Alaska Territory. Finally, on January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state.

If you ever want to take a tour of Alaska, be sure to set aside plenty of time. There’s a lot to cover!

You also might want a boat or skis. Alaska is home to more than 3 million lakes. It’s also home to more than 100,000 glaciers, which is about half of the glaciers in the world!


36 Join the Discussion

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    • We’re super glad that you learned something new about Alaska from visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®, David! We’re also excited to hear that you liked the links! Thanks so much for leaving us this super great comment! :-)

    • We’re happy that you learned something new from this Wonder just like David did, Gerald! Thanks for sharing that with us! :-)

    • What a super nice comment, Rachel! Thank you for letting us know how much you love visiting Wonderopolis! We think all of our Wonder Friends ROCK! :-)

    • Hi, Madison! Thanks for smiling at us today! We hope that means exploring today’s Wonder of the Day® made you happy! :-)

    • Nice to hear from you, Taylor! We are really happy that you love Wonderopolis…we love it, too! It’s fun to learn new things together every day, isn’t it? :-)

  1. So what is Wonderopolis and is it even a real word? Because, if it’s not, the children of the world are going to start saying it and then they are going to have spelling errors. Then they are going to fail spelling and never become doctors!

    • Hello, Junie Bee! Thanks so much for your comment!

      Wonderopolis is a WONDERful place where kids, adults, families and teachers can explore, learn and share together every day! Each day, there is a new Wonder of the Day® to visit! You can even tell us what YOU are wondering about by clicking on the “nominate” button at the top of every page in Wonderopolis. Kids like you suggest ideas for new Wonders all the time…it’s fun! We hope you’ll visit us again soon and also help us spread the word that Wonderopolis is a great place for everyone! :-)

  2. I loved this wonder of the day! I never knew that Alaska came from Russia! Keep writing and I will keep WONDERing! BYE!

    Your Wonderopolis Friend,
    Missy :)

    • We love reading your comments, Missy…they are so enthusiastic and full of WONDER! Thanks for letting us know you liked this Wonder of the Day® about Alaska! :-)

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend! We’re so glad you visited Wonderopolis today! There are LOTS of ways to learn here! We have a new Wonder of the Day® for you to explore every day, and you can visit all of our past Wonders, too! You can also let us know what YOU wonder about by clicking on the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis! Just jump right in and start exploring…it’s FUN! :-)

    • Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend, Zion, and for letting us know how much you enjoy visiting Wonderopolis! We like your comment very much! :-)



    • A Wonder about why people wear Halloween costumes is a GREAT idea, Zion! Thank you so much for suggesting it! Did you know that you can tell us all the awesome ideas you have for future Wonders of the Day anytime one pops into your head? It’s simple! Just click on the “nominate” link at the top of each page in Wonderopolis. Then, just answer the questions on that page and submit your ideas! It’s so much fun! :-)

    • Hello, Jesus! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis today and for letting us know all the cool things you learned from exploring this Wonder of the Day® about Alaska! :-)

  4. We just got done learning more about Alaska. We really thought it was neat that Alaska was bigger then the smallest 22 states. The fact that there are 18 cities that have larger populations than Alaska was also very cool. Which cities have more people then Alaska? It seems pretty cheap that Sec. of State Seward bought Alaska for 7.2 million. We compared the $113 million in today’s money to an Albert Pujols baseball contract. We want to know, what is the amount of gold found in Alaska per year? Thanks you for the great site.

    • We’re really happy to hear form you today, The Class from Room 234 Dublin, Ohio! You asked a GREAT question about the population of Alaska! According to the U.S. Census, the U.S. cities with a higher population than the whole state of Alaska are (in order of population from greatest to least):

      New York, New York
      Los Angeles, California
      Chicago, Illinois
      Houston, Texas
      Phoenix, Arizona
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
      San Antonio, Texas
      San Diego, California
      Dallas, Texas
      San Jose, California
      Detroit, Michigan
      San Francisco, California
      Jacksonville, Florida
      Indianapolis, Indiana
      Austin, Texas
      Columbus, Ohio
      Fort Worth, Texas
      Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  5. Hey, I’m a student from the class of room 234 Dublin, OH. I’m really satisfied with today’s wonder. I liked learning about Antarctica and the icebox. I’m still wondering about how many days it took the person in the video to cross Alaska by foot.

    • Hi, Mai! Thank you so much for your comment today! If you look and listen for context clues in the video, you will learn (like we did), that the person in the video started his summer trip across Alaska on June 18th, and ended it on September 2nd. That’s 77 days and over 1,000 miles of summertime adventure! We really enjoyed seeing all the sights in the video, didn’t you? It was almost like we were taking the trip, too! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where is America’s biggest icebox?
  • What was “Seward’s folly”?
  • How much did the United States pay Russia for Alaska?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to learn more about Alaska? The AlaskaKids website features some great resources that will help you Know Alaska even better. Be sure to check out the sections on Native Cultures and Cool Critters.

There are also several fun games you can try. Go on a Photo Safari to learn more about some of the animals that call Alaska home.

Play Artifact Match to explore real Alaskan artifacts. Check out Geography Drop to see how well you do at identifying cities and rivers in Alaska.


Still Wondering

Tradition and technology come together in ReadWriteThink’s Alaska Native Stories: Using Narrative to Introduce Expository Text lesson, in which children can learn about Alaskan animals through Native American tales.


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