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Fairbanks (pronounced /frbks/) is a Home Rule City in and the borough seat of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, United States.
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska, and second largest in the state behind Anchorage. It is the principal city of the Fairbanks, Alaska Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States.
According to 2008 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 35,132, and the Fairbanks metropolitan area’s population was 97,970. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the oldest college in Alaska.
2.2 Surrounding municipalities
3 People and culture
4 Facilities, services, utilities, schools, and health care
7 Points of interest
8 Sister Cities
11 Additional reading
12 External links
Main article: History of Fairbanks, Alaska
Captain E.T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while trying to set up a trading post at Tanacross (where the Tanana River crossed the Valdez-Eagle trail). But the steam boat Barnette was aboard, the Lavelle Young, ran aground and he was deposited seven miles (11 km) up the Chena River. Smoke from the steamer’s engines attracted some prospectors, and they met Barnette where he disembarked. The prospectors convinced Barnette to set up his trading post there. The city is named after Charles Fairbanks, a Republican senator from Indiana and later the 26th Vice President of the United States, serving in Theodore Roosevelt’s second term.
Felix Pedro discovered gold northeast of town in July 1902 and a swarm of new residents followed. Federal judge James Wickersham established government offices in Fairbanks the next year, helping to cement the quickly growing town as an important center of activity in Interior Alaska.
The Tanana Valley is an important agricultural center for Alaska, and during Fairbanks’ early days the vicinity of the town was a major producer of agricultural goods. Despite early efforts by groups like the Alaska Loyal League and the Tanana Valley Agriculture Association, and the editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, W.F. Thompson, to encourage food production, agriculture in the area was never able to fully support the population, although it came close in the 1920s.
A winter panorama of downtown Fairbanks, as seen looking south from the Cushman Street bridge spanning the Chena River.
Fairbanks is located in the central Tanana Valley, straddling the Chena River near its confluence with the Tanana River. Immediately north of the city is a chain of hills that rises gradually until it reaches the White Mountains and the Yukon River. The southern border of the city is the Tanana River. South of the river is the Tanana Flats, an area of marsh and bog that stretches for more than 100 miles (160 km) until it rises into the Alaska Range, which is visible from Fairbanks on clear days. To the east and west are low valleys separated by ridges of hills up to 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level.
The Tanana Valley is crossed by many low streams and rivers that flow into the Tanana River. In Fairbanks, the Chena River flows southwest until it empties into the Tanana. Noyes Slough, which heads and foots off the Chena River, creates Garden Island, a district connected to the rest of Fairbanks by bridges and culverted roads.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 32.7 square miles (84.6 km); 31.9 square miles (82.5 km) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km) of it (2.48%) is water.
Fairbanks’ climate is usually classified as Subarctic climate (Kppen climate classification Dfc). Climate classification Dfc is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers, with most precipitation occurring in the summer. In Fairbanks, winter lasts from late September/early October until late April/early May. On average, the season’s first snow falls in Fairbanks on September 21, and the first inch of snow accumulates by October 8, on average. The snowpack is established by October 18, on average, and remains until May. Snow occasionally arrives early and in large amounts. On September 13, 1992, 8 inches (20 cm) of snow fell in the city, bending trees still laden with fall leaves. That September also was one of the snowiest on record, as 24 inches (61 cm) fell, compared to an average of 2.2 inches in the month. Average winter low temperatures range from 15 F (26.1 C) to 25 F (31.7 C), but extremes can range from 50 F (10 C) to 60 F (51.1 C). In summer, temperatures typically range between 70 F (21 C) and 50 F (10 C); Fairbanks did not record a 90 F (32 C) temperature between 1994 and 2009. The highest recorded temperature in Fairbanks was 96 F (36 C), while the lowest was 62 F (52.2 C). The warmest year in Fairbanks was 1981, when the average annual temperature was 32.0 F (0.0 C). The coldest year was 1956, which averaged a low of 21.3 F (5.9 C).
These widely varying temperature extremes are due to three main factors: temperature inversions, daylight, and wind direction. In winter, Fairbanks’s low-lying location at the bottom of the Tanana Valley causes cold air to accumulate in and around the city. Warmer air rises to the tops of the hills north of Fairbanks, while the city itself experiences one of the biggest temperature inversions on Earth. Heating through sunlight is limited because of Fairbanks’s high-latitude location. At the winter solstice, Fairbanks experiences 3 hours and 43 minutes of sunlight. At the summer solstice, Fairbanks receives 21 hours and 49 minutes of direct sunlight; after sunset, twilight is bright enough to allow daytime activities. During winter, the direction of the wind also causes large temperature swings in Fairbanks. When the wind blows from any direction but the south, average weather ensues. Wind from the south can carry warm, moist air from the Gulf of Alaska, greatly warming temperatures. When coupled with a chinook wind, temperatures well above freezing often result.
In addition to the chinook wind, Fairbanks experiences a handful of other unusual meteorological conditions. In summer, dense wildfire smoke accumulates in the Tanana Valley, affecting the weather and causing health concerns. When temperature inversions arise in winter, heavy ice fog often results. Ice fog occurs when air is too cold to absorb additional moisture, such as that released by automobile engines or human breath. Instead of dissipating, the water freezes into microscopic crystals that are suspended in the air, creating fog. Fairbanks’ most notable unusual meteorological occurrence is the prevalence of the aurora borealis, commonly called the northern lights, which are visible on average more than 200 days per year in the vicinity of Fairbanks.
Since 1949 Fairbanks’s average winter temperature has risen by 7.7 F (4.3 C), average spring temperature by 3.8 F (2.1 C), and its average summer temperature by 2.3 F (1.3 C). During the same period, Fairbanks’ average autumn temperature has fallen by 0.4 F (0.2 C). If only the years 19772008 are considered, Fairbanks’ average annual temperature has dropped by 1.3 F (0.7 C) degrees.
Climate data for Fairbanks, Alaska
Record high F (C)
Average high F (C)
Average low F (C)
Record low F (C)
Precipitation inches (mm)
Snowfall inches (mm)
Avg. snowy days
Avg. precipitation days
Source: October 2009
People and culture
First monument to the first settlers in Fairbanks, Alaska
As of the census of 2000, there were 30,224 people, 11,075 households, and 7,187 families residing in the city. The population density was 948.7 people per square mile (366.3/km). There were 12,357 housing units at an average density of 387.9/sq mi (149.8/km). The racial makeup of the city was 66.67% White, 13.10% Black or African American, 9.91% Native American, 2.72% Asian, 0.54% Pacific Islander, 2.45% from other races, and 6.57% from two or more races. 6.13% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Of the 11,075 households, 39.9% had children under the age of 18, 47.2% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.1% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.15.
Median age of the population was 28 years, with 29.4% under the age of 18, 14.7% from 18 to 24, 32.8% from 25 to 44, 16.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.6% who were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 105.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 108.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $40,577, and the median income for a family was $46,785. Males had a median income of $30,539 versus $26,577 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,814. About 7.4% of families and 10.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.6% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.
Fairbanks’ largest newspaper is the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, which also includes a weekly entertainment guide, Latitude 65. A few other periodicals also serve Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough: The Ester Republic and the University of Alaska Fairbanks student newspaper, the Sun Star.
Fairbanks is also served by television and radio. Leading radio stations include AM Stations KFAR 660 talk radio, KCBF 820 ESPN Radio Network, KFBX 970 talk radio and KJNP 1170 religious radio. FM stations include 88.5 popular Christian, KUAC 89.9 National Public Radio, KSUA 91.5 University of Alaska, Fairbanks, KDJF (“CHET FM”) 93.5 everything country KXLR 95.9 classic rock KYSC 96.9 soft rock, KWLF 98.1-“Wolf 98.1”, top 40, KJNP-FM 100.3 religious radio, KAKQ-FM 101.1-“Magic 101.1” pop music, KIAK-FM 102.5 country music, KTDZ 103.9-“K-TED” adult hits, and KKED 104.7 rock music.
Fairbanks’ major television affiliates are KATN (ABC)-(KIMO retransmission), KFXF (Fox), KUAC-TV (PBS)-“AlaskaONE” with some KMXT-only programming, KTVF (NBC), K13XD (CBS), and UHF station KDMD-LP-(i)-Fairbanks. Cable TV is available from GCI and Denali Television.
The Carlson Center is home to University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks men’s ice hockey, the Top of the World preseason college basketball tournament, and the Fairbanks Grizzlies, a professional arena football team in the Indoor Football League.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, a junior hockey team in the North American Hockey League, play at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Alaska Goldpanners and the Fairbanks AIA Fire are summer collegiate baseball teams, playing home games at Growden Memorial Park. The park is home to the annual Midnight Sun game, an annual tradition since 1906, played without artificial lights starting after ten at night on the summer solstice.
Also, Fairbanks is a Hub for Cross-Country Skiing in Alaska. It’s hosted many different big ski events including the 2003 Junior Olympic Cross County Ski Championship and the 2008 and 2009 US Cross Country Distance Nationals It also has an annual 50k race called the Sonot Kkaazoot and the Fairbanks Town Series races which consists of four different races and the Chest Medicine Distance Series races which consists of only 3 races.
Fairbanks is also home to the Yukon Quest, an international 1,000 mile sled dog race that is considered one of the toughest in the world. In 2010, the Yukon Quest will start in Fairbanks on February 6th. The race alternates its starting and finishing points each year between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon.
Facilities, services, utilities, schools, and health care
City water, sanitary sewer, and electric systems are operated by private entities. Water and sewage services are available at most locations within the city limits, but many residents lack them in the surrounding urbanized areas. Fifteen circulating pump stations distribute treated water throughout the greater Fairbanks area.
Electricity is provided by Golden Valley Electric Association. The Chena power site has four steam turbines fueled by coal and one oil-fueled electrical generator. Interior Alaska is not connected to the electrical grid of the contiguous United States and Canada, but a transmission line constructed in 1985 connects Fairbanks with power plants in the coal producing area of Healy and the Anchorage area. Fairbanks currently holds the world record for the largest rechargeable battery, which weighs approximately 1,300 tons. The battery was installed to help bridge the gaps that occur during frequent power outages. The battery will provide power for 7 minutes to about 12,000 homes.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks operates its own coal-fired generating station on campus, providing electricity and steam heat to university buildings.
Garbage collection services are provided in some areas of the city, although many Fairbanks residents must haul their own garbage to “transfer stations” where trash and garbage are picked up and taken to the dump. Collected refuse is hauled to the Class 1 Borough landfill on South Cushman Street. Garbage services are funded by a tax that is paid by resident property owners regardless of whether or not they are eligible for garbage collection services in their area. Fort Wainwright operates its own landfill.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has a student enrollment of slightly over 14,000. There are both public and private schools. Most private schools are run by religious organizations (e.g., private Catholic schools).
Local hospitals or health clinics include Fairbanks Memorial Hospital; Interior Community Health Center; Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center; Bassett Army Community Hospital (Fort Wainwright). The hospitals are qualified acute-care facilities and support state-certified Medevac services. Specialized Care: FNA Regional Center for Alcohol & Other Addictions. Long Term Care: Fairbanks Pioneers’ Home; Denali Center.
Until 1996, telephone service was provided by the Municipal Utilities Service, a public company. In that year, telephone service was sold to Alaska Communications Systems, a private company. General Communications Inc. has competed against ACS in Fairbanks since 1997. Both companies offer mobile phone service in Fairbanks, as do national and local providers such as AT&T and Alaska DigiTel.
A pair of fiber optic cables provide long-distance telephone and Internet service. One parallels the Parks Highway and connects Fairbanks to Anchorage, while the other parallels the Richardson Highway and connects Fairbanks to Valdez. A third, spur fiber optic cable parallels the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and connects Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. Broadband Internet access is provided by GCI, ACS, and a handful of satellite Internet and wireless Internet services.
Fairbanks is classified as a small city. It is found in EMS Region 1C in the Interior Region. Emergency services have highway, airport, and floatplane access. Emergency service is provided by 9-1-1 telephone service, paid EMS service, volunteers, a health aide, and the military. Auxiliary health care is provided by Fairbanks Fire Department; Airport Fire Department; University Fire Department; Chena Goldstream Fire & Rescue; Steese Area Volunteer Fire; Guardian Flight Critical-Care Air Ambulance; Warbelow’s Air Ambulance; Fort Wainwright Fire/Emergency; Ester Volunteer Fire Department; North Star Volunteer Fire; and the City of North Pole Fire Department.
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As the regional service and supply center for the Alaska Interior, Fairbanks offers a diverse economy, including city, borough, state, and federal government services; and transportation, communication, manufacturing, financial, and regional medical services. Tourism and mining also comprise a significant part of the economy. Including Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright personnel, over one third of the employment is in government services. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is also a major employer. Approximately 325,000 tourists visit Fairbanks each summer. The Fort Knox hardrock gold mine produces 1,200 ounces daily with 360 permanent year-round employees.
Property: 20.777 mills (7.171 city/13.606 borough areawide)
Special: 5% alcohol tax (city only); 16% tobacco tax (8% city/8% borough); 8% accommodations tax (city only)
As the transportation hub for Interior Alaska, Fairbanks features extensive road, rail, and air connections to the rest of Alaska and Outside. At Fairbanks’ founding, the only way to reach the new city was via steamboat on the Chena River. In 1904, money intended to improve the Valdez-Eagle Trail was diverted to build a branch trail, giving Fairbanks its first overland connection to the outside world. The resulting Richardson Highway was created in 1910 after Gen. Wilds P. Richardson upgraded it to a wagon road. In the 1920s, it was improved further and made navigable by automobiles, but it was not paved until 1957.
Fairbanks’ road connections were improved in 1927, when the 161-mile (259 km) Steese Highway connected the city to the Yukon River at the gold-mining community of Circle. In 1942, the Alaska Highway connected the Richardson Highway to the Canadian road system, allowing road travel from the rest of the United States to Fairbanks, which is considered the unofficial end of the highway. Because of WWII, civilian traffic was not permitted on the highway until 1948.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a series of roads were built to connect Fairbanks to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. The Elliott Highway was built in 1957 to connect Fairbanks to Livengood, southern terminus of the Dalton Highway, which ends in Deadhorse on the North Slope. West of the Dalton intersection, the Elliott Highway extends to Manley Hot Springs on the Tanana River. To improve logistics in Fairbanks during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the George Parks Highway was built between Fairbanks and Anchorage in 1971.
Until 1940, none of Fairbanks’ surface streets were paved. The outbreak of WWII interrupted plans to pave most of the city’s roads, and a movement toward large-scale paving did not begin until 1953, when the city paved 30 blocks of streets. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, the remainder of the city’s streets were converted from gravel roads to asphalt surfaces. Few have been repaved since that time; a 2008 survey of city streets indicated the average age of a street in Fairbanks was 31 years.
Public transportation has been provided by the Metropolitan Area Commuter System, an agency of the borough government, since 1977. Bus service links much of the urban Fairbanks area, with most routes connecting at the downtown transit center.
The Alaska Railroad provides regular freight and passenger service between Fairbanks and Southcentral Alaska towns.
After large-scale gold mining began north of Fairbanks, miners sought to build a railroad from the steamboat docks on the Chena River to the mine sites in the hills north of the city. The result was the Tanana Mines Railroad, which started operations in September 1905, using what had been the first steam locomotive in the Yukon Territory. In 1907, the railroad was reorganized and named the Tanana Valley Railroad. The railroad continued expanding until 1910, when the first gold boom began to falter and the introduction of automobiles into Fairbanks took business away from the railroad. Despite these problems, railroad backers envisioned a rail line extending from Fairbanks to Seward on the Gulf of Alaska, home to the Alaska Central Railway.
In 1914, the U.S. Congress appropriated $35 million for construction of the Alaska Railroad system, but work was delayed by the outbreak of WWI. Three years later, the Alaska Railroad purchased the Tanana Valley Railroad, which had suffered from the wartime economic problems. Rail workers built a line extending northwest from Fairbanks, then south to Nenana, where President Warren G. Harding hammered in the ceremonial final spike in 1923. The rail yards of the Tanana Valley Railroad were converted for use by the Alaska Railroad, and Fairbanks became the northern end of the line and its second-largest depot.
From 1923 to 1994, the Alaska Railroad’s Fairbanks terminal was in downtown Fairbanks, just north of the Chena River. In May 2005, the Alaska Railroad opened a new terminal northwest of downtown, and that terminal is in operation today. In summer, the railroad operates tourist trains to and from Fairbanks, and it operates occasional passenger trains throughout the year. The majority of its business through Fairbanks is freight. The railroad is planning an expansion of the rail line from Fairbanks to connect the city via rail with Delta Junction, about 100 miles (160 km) southeast.
Points of interest
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
El Dorado Gold Mine
Fairbanks Curling Club
Georgeson Botanical Garden
Gold Dredge No. 8
Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station
Sternwheeler Tanana Chief
University of Alaska Museum of the North
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
Mo i Rana, Norway
Monbetsu, Japan (dormant)
Tainan City, Taiwan
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks official website
Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau
National Weather Service Fairbanks office
Fairbanks travel guide from Wikitravel
Fairbanks, Alaska at the Open Directory Project
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