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Past and PresentThe history of the Mat-Su Valley is long standing. Below are the histories on each of the four major areas of the Valley.
For hundreds of years, the Athabaskan Indians used trails along the Matanuska River to carry trade goods between the Cook Inlet region into the Copper River Area. Around 1880, George Palmer established a trading station on the Matanuska River. Miners returning from the 1913 Nelchina gold stampede were among the first to settle here. Coal mines near Sutton and Chickaloon and the gold mines in Hatcher Pass fueled growth in the early years.
In 1935, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt sanctioned a relocation program that brought 202 farming families to Palmer. Parcels of land were distributed to the "Colonists" by lottery.
The Dena'ina Indians called this area Benteh, meaning "among the lakes." Although much has changed over the years, Wasilla is still surrounded by beautiful lakes, including Lake Lucille and Wasilla Lake.
The history of Wasilla really begins with the history of Knik, the first boom town in the Mat-Su Valley which, by 1915, boasted a population of 500. The town served the early trappers and miners working the gold fields at Cache Creek and Willow Creek. Wasilla was established in 1917 with the construction of the Alaska Railroad. Wasilla's proximity to the gold fields and railroad service lured Knik residents to relocate in the new town-some of them even dragging their homes and businesses with them. In a few short years, Knik became a ghost town.
Talkeetna means "River of Plenty" in the Dena'ina Indian language. Located at the confluence of three major rivers, the Susitna, the Talkeetna and the Chulitna River, Talkeetna offered an abundant harvest for the Dena'ina Indians who hunted and fished this area for centuries. In the late 1890s, a trading station was located along the riverfront to supply trappers and miners. A townsite was established during construction of the Alaska Railroad.
Talkeetna became the supply point for the gold fields in the Yentna Mining District and winter home for many of the miners. In the present day, Talkeetna is the staging area for approximately 1,000 climbers each year who attempt to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley (standing at 20,320 feet).
During pre-European times, Athabaskan Indians traveled remote regions in the Mat-Su Valley by foot, dog sled and boat between hunting and fishing camps and more permanent winter villages.
In 1818, a Russian expedition explored the Susitna River, but it wasn't until the late 1800s that non-native explorers traveled deep into the wilderness. The search for gold brought prospectors and the gold they discovered brought miners, traders, freighters to support the mines.
Present Day Mat-Su Valley
The Mat-Su Borough is the fastest growing region of the state with an annual growth rate of 4.2 percent (compared to Anchorage at 1.4 percent). Here are some other fun facts* about the borough:
*Resource: 2003 Fact Book, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning and Land Use Department
Number of residents: 65,241
(Half of the population is reside in the "core area" of Palmer and Wasilla - encompassing roughly 100 square miles.)
Mat-Su School District Enrollment: over 14,000
Number of Schools: 34
College/University: Mat-Su College - extension of the University of Alaska Anchorage
Job Corps: Only one for the entire state located in Palmer
Top Employers: Retail Trade; Finance, Real Estate, Rental & Leasing, Insurance; Government; Transportation.
2000 Median Family Income: $56,939
Median Age: 36.1
Average Price of Single Family Home: $163,723 (24 percent below Anchorage prices)
For more information regarding a specific community, contact one of the following Chambers of Commerce or the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Office.Chambers of Commerce:
Big Lake Chamber of Commerce - http://www.biglake-ak.com
Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce - http://www.palmerchamber.org
Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce - http://www.wasillachamber.org
Houston Chamber of Commerce - (907) 841-4335
Sunshine Chamber of Commerce - http://www.sunshinecitylimits.com
Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce - http://www.talkeetna-chamber.com
Willow Chamber of Commerce - http://www.willowchamber.org
City of Wasilla - http://www.cityofwasilla.com
City of Houston - (907) 892-6869
City of Palmer - http://www.cityofpalmer.org
Matanuska-Susitna Borough - http://ww1.matsugov.us/
Yahoo Mat-Su! Where Alaska comes to play
The Mat-Su Valley is your place for adventure. From flightseeing Mount McKinley to rafting the Matanuska River, excitement is right around every corner. Spectacular views abound, from mountains to glaciers to wildlife. Conveniently located 35 miles north of Anchorage, your Alaska experience begins when you get to the Mat-Su Valley. Spend a day exploring Hatcher Pass, test your luck fishing or take advantage of the bountiful hiking. The Mat-Su Valley - where Alaska comes to play!
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