Anchorage Develops as Tourism Draw, Transportation Hub

Reed Travel Features

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska's largest city, with a population of 275,000, Anchorage has developed as a major international air hub and center of commerce for the state.

It is also a tourism magnet of some importance.

It is the jumping-off point for many thousands of visitors to the Denali National Park wilderness area, the interior, the Kenai Peninsula and the far north.

The city is linked to the Lower 48 by the services of Delta Air Lines, (800) 221-1212; Alaska Airlines, (800) 426-0333; American Airlines, (800) 433-7300; Northwest Airlines, (800) 225-2525, and Reno Air, (800) RENO-AIR.

Within Alaska, it is served by Reeve Aleutian, (800) 544-2248, and ERA Aviation, (800) 243-3322.

Anchorage has accommodations to suit all tastes and budgets, ranging from the higher-priced Captain Cook, (800) 478-3100; the Hilton, (800) 445-8667; the Sheraton, (800) 325-3535, and the Westmark, (800) 478-3100, to the more modest Tradewind, (907) 243-0533, and the Snowshoe Inn, (907) 258-7669.

Alaska Railroad, (800) 544-0552, has locomotives that haul the domed rail cars of Holland America's McKinley Explorer and Princess Tours' Midnight Sun Express into Denali daily throughout the summer. The rail line can be reached at (800) 544-0552.

The city is bounded on three sides by water: Turnagain Arm to the south, Cook Inlet to the west and Knik Arm to the north.

The area first was navigated by British sea captain James Cook (hence, Cook Inlet) in 1778 during a search for the elusive Northwest Passage linking the two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Cook sailed into a finger of water south of the headland on which Anchorage now stands and, finding no passage, was forced to turn his ship back to the ocean (hence, Turnagain Arm).

Russian settlers took over the area near the end of the 1700s, but it was not until about 1915 that Anchorage began to take shape as a tent city in a spot known as Ship Creek, occupied by job seekers drawn by news that President Woodrow Wilson intended to authorize a railway line into the interior.

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