Juneau, AK is the capital city of the State of Alaska
. It has a population of approximately 30,000 people, making it the third largest city in the state, behind Anchorage
. Juneau is located in the Fifth region of the state, commonly referred to as "The Panhandle", or "South-East Alaska
", an island archipelago which is the nearest part of Alaska to the mainland United States
(the Lower 48
as Alaskans call them).
Juneau has a closed road system, meaning that there is no way to drive in or out of the city area. This has commonly been likened to the situation of the Ancient Greeks, and how the rough terrain prevented them from really organizing their city-states together (like the Romans did). Fortunately, however, Alaska Airlines flys into and out of Juneau's four gate airport on a regular basis (they also have a bit of a monopoly, as they're the only major airline in the state, and their prices reflect it). The Alaska Marine Highway also ferries people into and out of the city, and among the various other cities, towns and villages of SE Alaska. Many people have complained that since Juneau is the state capital, it should be easily accessible (like say... Anchorage), and that is a major argument in the movement to move the state capital to Anchorage. This has sparked debate in Juneau's community about building a road out of Juneau. Juneau voters, however, turned out at the polls in late 2000 to choose an increase in Alaska Marine Highway spending rather than build a road. So Juneau remains closed except by air and by water.
Juneau's population live largely in one of five places.
Downtown Juneau, in and about the various State and Federal offices (both major employers in Juneau) and the cruise ship docks. The various tourist shops in Juneau are located here, on the waterfront. The area has some rather steep hills (kind of like San Francisco), and driving between the houses can become interesting. The area has largely Liberal feelings.
Across the Gastineau Channel lies Douglas Island, which is connected to Juneau (and the mainland) by a large bridge. Douglas is a fairly well-to-do strip of highway, where many well-to-do people live.
The Valley is where the largest portion of Juneau's population live. Located approximately 10-15 miles from Downtown. The area is largely conservative in attitude, and lies in the shadow of the Mendenhall Glacier, which looms over everything. Thank goodness it's receding at the rate of 10 feet per year!
Sandwiched between the Valley and Downtown is the Lemon Creek area, which could be described as the 'Lower Class' area of Juneau. Many well off families live there, however. Connecting Downtown Juneau to the Valley is Egan Drive, a four-lane (two on each side) highway on which the infamous bad drivers of Juneau rear their ugly heads.
Auke Bay is past the end of Egan Drive, and is 5 miles from the Valley. Not as many people live there, but it is the location of the University of Alaska Southeast, as well as the Auke Bay Labs, an ocean-science laboratory. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal is also there.
Juneau derives most of it's economy from one of three places. State and Federal employment (it's the capital, after all), tourism (hundreds of cruise ship visits each year, each ship loaded with about 5,000 rich tourists wanting to buy Alaska souvenirs), and fishing/crabbing/shrimping/etc.
Juneau's climate is quite temperate when compared to other places like Barrow. It doesn't snow a lot, never gets very cold, and nevery gets too hot. Located in the Tongass National Forest, which is actually a rain-forest, Juneau receives approximately 260 inches of rain per year (putting it behind Ketchikan and a few places in Hawaii for total rainfall. Seattle has nothing on Southeast Alaska). Like in a postapocalyptic sci-fi movie, the sky is almost perpetually overcast, and the few times the sun DOES shine through, everyone gets big red sunburns.