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Alaska Boroughs

Alaska is divided into nineteen organized boroughs and one "Unorganized Borough." The Borough Act of 1961 created "The Unorganized Borough" including all of Alaska not within a Unified, Home rule, First class or Second class Borough. The newest borough is Petersburg incorporated after voters approved borough formation in December 2012. Alaska and Louisiana are the only states that do not call their first-order administrative subdivisions counties (Louisiana uses parishes instead)

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Anchorage Borough, Alaska

Anchorage Borough Education, Geography, and HistoryAleutians East Municipality of Anchorage and Borough, Snowden Administrative Office Building

Anchorage Borough (officially called the Municipality of Anchorage)  is a unified home rule municipality in the state of Alaska. With an estimated population of 300,950 residents in 2013,it is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40 percent of the state's total population. Anchorage (borough)  was created on January 1, 1964.  Anchorage was named for the anchorage (a place where a ship lies at anchor) at the mouth of Ship Creek. Anchorage does not have a borough seat.

Anchorage is located in the South-central portion of Alaska at the terminus of the Cook Inlet on a peninsula formed by the Knik Arm to the north and the Turnagain Arm to the south. The city limits span 1,961.1 square miles which encompass the urban core, a joint Military base, several outlying communities and almost all of Chugach State Park.

Etymology - Origin of Municipality of Anchorage and Borough Name

Named after a place where a ship lies at anchor. Its unofficial nickname is "The City of Lights and Flowers," referring to its thousands of buildings outlined and adorned by tiny white lights throughout winter and its spectacular displays of flowers in the summer.


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

History of Anchorage Borough, Alaska

Located in South-Central Alaska on the shores of Cook Inlet, the Municipality of Anchorage is a unique urban environment situated in the heart of the wilderness. According to anthropological research using the Beluga Point Site located just a short distance from downtown Anchorage, a human occupation of the Anchorage area occurred in three waves. The first wave was in 3,000 B.C., the second wave was in 2,000 B.C. and the third wave was the last start of the new millennium. By the time of the first contact with European cultures in 1756, the Eskimo people who had originally settled the area had been displaced by the "Athabaskan Dena'ina people." This displacement has been estimated as early as 500 A.D. and as late as the 1650 A.D. It is estimated that more than 5,000 Dena'ina inhabited the South-Central area at first contact with Europeans.

The Russian explorers had established themselves in Southern Alaska by 1784, but the English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the Anchorage area in 1778 during his third voyage of discovery. Mistaking one of the arms of the inlet for a river, Cook named it "River Turnagain", later renamed Turnagain Arm by a subsequent British explorer, George Vancouver. The next hundred year's Russian trading activity increased in the Inlet, and Russian cultural influence increased. Then in 1867 problems at home forced the sale of Russian to the United States for a sum of $7,200,000. Beginning in 1868 the Alaska Commercial Company began operating dozens of stations along Cook Inlet, and constituted the strongest organizational entity in the area. Until the advent of the Alaska Railroad, gold-mining activity throughout the Turnagain Arm and Kenai Peninsula promoted a steady influx of new inhabitants to South-Central Alaska.

Around 1915 President Woodrow Wilson authorized funds for the construction of the Alaska Railroad to be built. Ship Creek Landing was selected as the headquarters of this effort, coordinated by the fledgling Alaskan Engineering Commission. A "Tent City" sprang up in the wilderness at the mouth of Ship Creek, and soon swelled to a population of over 2,000 people. On July 9, 1915, the Anchorage town site held and auction with over 600 lots in a fixed grid were sold for approximately $150,000 dollars. Although the area had been known by various names, in this same year the US Postal Office Department formalized the use of the name "Anchorage," and despite some protests the name stuck even today.

Between 1915 and 1920 the federal A. E. C. maintained management responsibilities for the town site of Anchorage, and during this time water lines were laid down, a power plant was established and a rudimentary telephone system was installed, and a sewer system was created. However, by 1920 pressure by the local patrons resulted in an election which was led to the incorporation of Anchorage on November 23, 1920. The most significant event in the twenties was certainly the completion of the Alaska Railroad in 1923, which culminated in the first visit by a President to the Alaska Territory.

On July 15, 1923, President Warren G. Harding drove the ceremonial golden spike into the ground to commemorate the completion. Throughout the twenties the railroad continued to be the mainstay of Anchorage's economy.

During the early and late thirties Anchorage rebounded from the loss of population and industry it had suffered during World War I. Air transportation became increasingly important to the welfare of the community. The original "Park Strip" landing field was replaced around 1930 by a new facility, Merrill Field, which had a beacon and a landing strip with a tower. In a few short years, Merrill Field became one of the busiest centers of civilian aircraft activity in the United States, a distinction which it still merits today. The local economy was also given a temporary boost by the influx of "colonists" sent to the Matanuska Valley by the Federal Relief Administration. Anchorage, as the base city for the Matanuska Valley, profited from the resources which were funneled through it in order to develop the colony.

The arrival of troops to Anchorage around 1940 marked a decade of growth based on military expansion for Anchorage. During the beginning of the decade, military construction doubled the population of the town and provided a boost to the local economy. By the outbreak of World War II the threat of Japanese invasion prompted continued expansion of military personnel and aircraft, and after World War II the pressures of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ensured a continued heavy military investment in the Anchorage area.

The influx of defense spending during the 1950's had a beneficial effect on both Anchorage's population and the business community. Between 1940 and 1951, Anchorage's population expanded exponentially from 3,000 people to 47,000 people, and so did the cost of living there. The "Boom Town" of Anchorage also experienced an unfortunate rise in crime during this turbulent growth period, a problem the city would fight for decades. The long-awaited completion of the road between Seward and Anchorage along the Turn again Arm was completed in the early 1950's by the Alaska Road Commission, opening the Kenai Peninsula to motor vehicle traffic.

The decade of the 1960's began on the high note of Alaska's attaining statehood in 1959. However, another less favorable event dominated Anchorage's energy during these years. On March 27th, 1964, a natural disaster of inconceivable proportions struck Anchorage and South-Central Alaska, "The Good Friday earthquake." This earthquake measured 8.6 on the Richter scale; the largest ever recorded in North America and, because Anchorage lay only on 80 miles from the epicenter damage to structures ran to the hundreds of millions of dollars. This disaster printed itself permanently on an entire generation of Anchorage residents, who still vividly remember the tribulations and loss of life brought on by what is simply known as "The Big One." Anchorage's remarkable recovery from the ravages of this disaster dominated life in the latter half of the 1960's.

The development of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields in Northern Alaska and the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system during the 1970 have proved a great boom to the Anchorage economy. Since Anchorage had already benefited from the 1957 discovery of oil at the Swanson River field in the Kenai Peninsula, it was a natural choice for the corporate headquarters of the large oil concerns involved in operating North Slope fields and the TAPS system. The oil industry contributed to Anchorage's growth in the seventies and eighties both economically, by providing skilled employment opportunities for thousands, and culturally, by helping to fund many civic and cultural activities.

Also important during this time was the growth of the Anchorage International Airport. Anchorage's unique geographical location between the two northern continents earned the sobriquet "Crossroads of the Air World." By the end of the 1970's the population of the greater Anchorage area had increased to 184,775 people, half the population of the entire state. In great part because of this rapid growth, in 1975 the two local governmental entities, the City of Anchorage and the Greater Anchorage Area Borough, combined to a new government, The Municipality of Anchorage. This new political entity stretched from Eklutna and Eagle River and into the North to Portage and into the South, from the Chugach State Park and into the East to the Turnagain and Knik Arms into the West, encompassing nearly 1,955 square miles.

The new government was built on the City Charter, written by a charter commission and endorsed by area voters in 1975. As a joined government, the Municipality became responsible for the services often provided in other states by both a city and a county. The Charter Commissioners designed a strong mayoral system with eleven Assembly members who serve as the legislative branch. The executive branch is lead by the Mayor, responsible for appointing top executives, including a Municipal Manager, responsible for running day-to-day government business. The Assembly assumed all legislative responsibilities, acting on all new ordinances and amendments, as well as budgets, Municipal contracts, and appointments. A compilation of Municipal ordinances can be found on-line in the Anchorage Municipal Code.

On September 26~27, of 1971, a particularly unique moment in history occurred at Elmendorf Air Force Base, when then President Richard Nixon met with Emperor Hirohito of Japan. This remarkable meeting marked the first time in Japan's 2,000 year old history that their reigning monarch set foot on foreign soil. Today a monument was placed on the site to honor the event. In 1973, the first modern Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was held, and today the image of the race start from downtown Anchorage is televised annually throughout the world.

The decade of the eighties was also a time of growth for Anchorage, especially for its infrastructure and quality of life. Thanks to a flood of the North Slope oil revenue into the state treasury, between 1980 and 1987 nearly a billion dollars worth of capital projects were constructed in Anchorage. These included a new library, civic center, sports arena and performing arts center. An aggressive beautification program combined with far-sighted community planning helped add to the large number of parks already established in the area, bringing the total to over 180. An unparalleled system of trails was created, culminating in the Coastal Trail which made the Anchorage coastline available to runners, skiers and bikers from Ship Creek to Point Campbell. By the beginning of the 1990's Anchorage could boast of 259 miles of maintained trails. Hilltop Ski Area was established in 1984, which along with the Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood and Alpenglow Ski Area gave residents three fully operational skiing areas. Tourism and recreational activities was fast becoming a mainstay of the modern Anchorage economy, which has continued to the present day.

Neighboring Boroughs

Bordering boroughs are as follows:

  • Anchorage lies 290 miles (470 km) northeast of Kodiak Island, 130 miles (210 km) south of Mount McKinley, and it is on the upper branches of the Cook Inlet, the northernmost reach of the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered on the east by the Chugach Mountain state park


Public education in Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak, Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base is managed by the Anchorage School District, the 87th largest district in the United States, with nearly 50,000 students attending 98 schools. There are also a number of choices in private education, including both religious and non-denominational schools.

Anchorage has four higher-education facilities that offer bachelor's or master's degrees: the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Pacific University, Charter College,and the Anchorage campus of Texas-based Wayland Baptist University. The University of Alaska Fairbanks also has a small Center for Distance Education downtown. Other continuing education facilities in Anchorage include the Grainger Leadership Institute, Nine Star Enterprises, CLE International, Nana Worksafe, and PackBear DBA Barr & Co.

Ninety percent of Anchorage's adults have high-school diplomas, 65 percent have attended one to three years of college, and 17 percent hold advanced degrees.

Anchorage has the most ethnically diverse schools in the United States, including the three most diverse high schools, the three most diverse middle schools, and the 19 most diverse elementary schools. Even the least diverse schools in Anchorage rank in the top 1% nationally

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