Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, is reflective of the watery and rugged nature of the state. Located at the base of a mountain and adjacent to a channel, Juneau actually served as the center of government for the region long before Alaska achieved statehood in 1959.
Although the Russians owned and dominated much of the Alaskan territory until selling it in 1867, they were not found in the Juneau area. The region was instead settled largely by Europeans later in the 19th century. The town itself was founded by a French-Canadian, Joseph Juneau, along with Richard Harris, a fellow prospector from Ireland. These and others were attracted to the area by the discovery of gold. Juneau would remain the center of mining operations until World War II.
Juneau became the capital city of the territory in 1906 after government affairs were moved to the new location from Sitka. The area became a municipality in 1970 when the city, its related borough and the adjacent community of Douglas were merged together. Because of this merger, Juneau is today the second largest city in the United States in terms of area. In terms of human occupation, however, Juneau is relatively small compared to most other American capital cities, with a population of approximately 30,000. Among its fellow Alaskan communities, the population of Juneau is second only to Anchorage.
Its location on the Alaskan Panhandle makes Juneau only accessible from the outside by air or by sea. The city is served by major and commuter airlines. Those who drive elsewhere must rely upon the Alaska Marine Highway, which is actually a system of ferryboats. These vessels can carry vehicles and their occupants to other parts of the state, to Canada and to the contiguous United States.
Tourism is an important part of the city's economy. Juneau is closely associated with the cruise industry, hosting about one million sea-going passengers every year. Fishing is also important to the area, but not as much as when the halibut boats dominated the nearby waters.
Juneau experiences rain more than half of the year and gets plenty of snow between November and March. However, its proximity to the Pacific Ocean makes the climate in the area more hospitable than most of Alaska, making Juneau a great place to visit and, for its inhabitants, a nice place to live.