Eklutna is a small Alaska Native village (Dena'ina Athabascans) with a population of about 430, located near the head of Knik Arm, the northern branch of Cook Inlet. It lies at the northern edge of the Municipality of Anchorage, 26 miles from downtown Anchorage on the Glenn Highway.
Eklutna is the oldest continually inhabited Athabascan village in the Anchorage area, with settlement since 1650. Captain James Cook reached the village in his 1778 voyage in which he explored Upper Cook Inlet, but made only brief contact with the locals. In the early nineteenth century, Catherine the Great of Russia, which claimed ownership of and did business in the area, sent Russian Orthodox missionaries to Eklutna in order to convert the natives.
Beginning around the 1830s, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church was built and used for regular services until 1962, when a new church was built nearby. The old church was restored in the 1970s and is the oldest standing building in greater Anchorage and one of few authentic Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska. It currently serves as a gallery of pre-purchase1 Russian icons and occasionally holds services.)
The main point of interest is the Eklutna cemetery which has several dozen "spirit houses." These are a mix of Russian Orthodox and native funeral practices in which, over a deceased person's grave, a small house, perhaps four or five feet long by two high by one and a half wide, is built for the purpose of giving a new home to the soul of the deceased. The spirit houses are painted in the traditional colors of the deceased's family and are often quite colorful.
Both of the above are part of the privately-owned Eklutna Historical Park, which provides tours.
Across the highway from the village, at the end of a ten-mile, partially paved spur road, is Eklutna Lake, located in a valley carved by Eklutna Glacier's recession. It's a popular spot for camping, boating, fishing, hiking, all the usual activities. The lake also supplies drinking water to the Anchorage area and a dam (which created the lake) provides power to Anchorage.
Sources, Further Information, and Pretty Pictures:
Eklutna Historical Park: http://www.alaskaone.com/eklutna/
Eklutna Lake (AK Div. of Parks and Outdoor Recreation): http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/chugach/eklutna.htm
John's Alaska Railroad Page--Eklutna: http://my.ohio.voyager.net/~combs/arr/route-map/eklutna.html
PGordon.com Eklutna, Alaska (just pictures): http://www.pgordon.com/alaska/eklutna/
1. That is, before the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. in 1867.