What Is The Biggest State In The United States?

By Alisa Mala on August 29 2020 in Did You Know

Alaska welcome sign.
  • Alaska is the largest US state by landmass, followed by Texas and then California.
  • While California is the most populated state, it is 60% the size of Texas and only 25% the size of Alaska.
  • Rhode Island can fit in Alaska over 420 times.

Sold by Russia to the US in 1867 and having gained official state status on January 3, 1959, Alaska is the largest US state. Stretching for 665,384.04 square miles, it is embraced by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Bering Strait and the Bering Sea to the west, and the Chukchi Sea to the northwest. Its capital, Juneau, is located in the long-stretching southern portion of the state, with the British Columbian border just 40 miles to the east, and less than 120 miles to the Yukon border in the north. 

Flying over Alaska is a frequent route choice for airlines, offering beautiful views of skylights and mountains for travellers destined to Eurasia, as well as a shorter route back from some countries to the US and Western Canada than flying over Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Map of Alaska

Settling Alaska

The first humans to step foot on the Alaskan lands were hunters from Siberia and Eurasia, following the herds for hunting over the Siberian bridge around 13,000 BCE. Of those, Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yupik, Tlingit and Haida are still in Alaska today. 

In 1741, a Russian expedition took place to Alaska following the same channel used thousands of years ago by the nomads on their crossover from Siberia. It was later named after Vitus Bering, a Dane and the leader of this expedition. Upon arrival, the Russians discovered riches in the form of animal furs, but also brought diseases which killed many First Nations in the region. As the first settlers from the Eurasian continent, the Russians claimed the land as their own. Next were the British, with Captain Cook sailing to Alaska in 1778, and the experienced explorer of the seas, George Vancouver, following his footsteps in 1794 during a notable expedition that culminated in Canada.

Meanwhile, with the fur supply becoming less than adequate from depleting the Alaskan Animalia through over-hunting in the first half of the 18th century, the Russians did not see any further use for that land. No longer able to provide fur stock back home and to other fashion-forward countries for the compensation needed to live in the cold and distant environment, the Russians put Alaska up for sale. 

In 1867, the US Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, signed a treaty offering $7.2 million dollars to the Russians for the land. It took him six months to receive a disgruntled approval from his congress, and on October 18th, Alaska officially became the property of the United States. 

Man panning gold on Nome, Alaska beach, early 20th century. Image credit: Everett Collection/Shutterstock

At that time, many Americans believed that it was a pointless purchase of barren land, both economically and conventionally, as it appeared to lack in resources and posed unfavorable living conditions. However, with the discovery of gold in 1890s, not only were there victorious cries all over the country, but settlers were moving to the fortune-kissed region.  

Though it was US territory for many years, it only became the country's 49th state on January 3rd, 1959.

Alaska Today

Alaska is still sometimes depicted as a deserted and frozen land with few wooden houses in the south and scattered igloos in the north, especially in the European countries whose textbooks have not caught up to the present times. Although more sparsely populated than other states, Alaska has gone through industrialization followed by modernization over the last century and would appear as another state (with breathtaking views), if one was inconspicuously dropped off in one of its large cities.

Igloos are not common, although their modernized versions can still be found in the northern parts of the state, used by scientists and researchers of the region. The nature and the location of the state are the main economic drivers providing the city-dwellers with employment opportunities in general services and trade, specifically in tourism, transportation, telecommunications, and oil & gas, which is the richest resource of the land. 

Anchorage

Northwest from the capital, but still in the far south of the state, Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska with almost 288,000 residents. The spectacular views, myriad of outdoor activities, and unique culture to immerse in by observing the daily lives and routines of the northern state's residents, make Anchorage the prime destination for domestic and international travellers to Alaska.   

Anchorage, Alaska. Image credit: BILD LLC/Shutterstock

Texas

Only 40% the size of Alaska, Texas is the second-largest state and also the second-most populated in the US, covering an area of 268,596 square miles. Although Houston is the capital and the most populated city in Texas with 2.3 million inhabitants, Austin's cultural scene is well known for its food, art and music, while San Antonio is popularized for being the home of the Six Flags amusement park. 

Although predominating in oil and natural gas production, industry and finance, and huge urban centres, the lone star state still identifies with its cowboy roots. It is economically dependent on the immense stretches of high prairie and ranges that are home to the state's agricultural wealth in cattle and cotton. 

The state is also prone to tornadoes, with people all over Texas witnessing a tornado somewhere at least every third day on average.

California

As the third-largest state, California is 60% the size of Texas and only 25% the size of Alaska, with 163,696 square miles being home to over 12% of the nation's total population.

Known for its endless beaches, countless resorts, mansions, and Hollywood with celebrities, the "golden" title has a double meaning. As one of the most popular destinations for the retired middle class, California's senior population is growing 3 times faster than any other, with the elderly looking to live out their golden years in a beachside condo to embrace the mild climate of the state.

The weather, however, is also not always sunny in California, with the coastal location making the region prone to devastating hurricanes and driving the prices for the home insurance skywards. Nevertheless, it is predicted that by 2060, California's population will grow by 30%.

What Is The Biggest State In The United States?

RankStateSize in Square Miles
1Alaska665,384.04
2Texas268,596.46
3California163,696.32
4Montana147,039.71
5New Mexico121,590.30
6Arizona113,990.30
7Nevada110,571.82
8Colorado104,093.67
9Oregon98,378.54
10Wyoming97,813.01
11Michigan96,713.51
12Minnesota86,935.83
13Utah84,896.88
14Idaho83,568.95
15Kansas82,278.36
16Nebraska77,347.81
17South Dakota77,115.68
18Washington71,297.95
19North Dakota70,698.32
20Oklahoma69,898.87
21Missouri69,706.99
22Florida65,757.70
23Wisconsin65,496.38
24Georgia59,425.15
25Illinois57,913.55
26Iowa56,272.81
27New York54,554.98
28North Carolina53,819.16
29Arkansas53,178.55
30Alabama52,420.07
31Louisiana52,378.13
32Mississippi48,431.78
33Pennsylvania46,054.35
34Ohio44,825.58
35Virginia42,774.93
36Tennessee42,144.25
37Kentucky40,407.80
38Indiana36,419.55
39Maine35,379.74
40South Carolina32,020.49
41West Virginia24,230.04
42Maryland12,405.93
43Hawaii10,931.72
44Massachusetts10,554.39
45Vermont9,616.36
46New Hampshire9,349.16
47New Jersey8,722.58
48Connecticut5,543.41
49Delaware2,488.72
50Rhode Island1,544.89

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