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Wasilla, Alaska
—  city  —
Location of Wasilla, Alaska
Detailed map of Wasilla
Coordinates: 61°34′54″N 149°27′9″W / 61.58167°N 149.4525°W / 61.58167; -149.4525
Country United States
State Alaska
Borough Matanuska-Susitna
 - Mayor Verne E. Rupright
 - Total 12.4 sq mi (32.2 km2)
 - Land 11.7 sq mi (30.3 km2)
 - Water 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
Elevation 341 ft (104 m)
Population (2008[1])
 - Total 10,256
 Density 876.6/sq mi (338.5/km2)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 - Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP codes 99600-99699
Area code(s) 907
FIPS code 02-83080
GNIS feature ID 1411788

Wasilla is a city in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, United States and the fourth-largest city in the state. It is located on the northern point of Cook Inlet in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of the southcentral part of the state. The city's population was 5,469 at the 2000 census; the Census Bureau estimated that it had risen to 10,256 in 2008.[1] Wasilla is the largest city in the borough and a part of the Anchorage metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 364,701 in 2008.

Established at the intersection of the Alaska Railroad and Old Carle Wagon Road, the city prospered at the expense of the nearby mining town of Knik. Historically entrepreneurial, the economic base shifted in the 1970s from small-scale agriculture and recreation to support for workers employed in Anchorage or on Alaska's North Slope oilfields and related infrastructure. The George Parks Highway turned the town into a commuter suburb of Anchorage. [2] Several state and federal agencies have offices in Wasilla, including the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation, Labor and Divisions of Public Assistance, Social Services.

Wasilla gained international attention when Sarah Palin, who served as Wasilla's mayor before her election as Governor of Alaska, was chosen by John McCain as his vice-presidential running mate in the 2008 United States presidential election.

Wasilla is named after Chief Wasilla, a local Dena'ina chief.[3]



Mountains near Wasilla

Glacial ice sheets covered most of the northern hemisphere until they disappeared between 10,000 and about 7,000 years ago.[4] Early humans moved through the area and left evidence of their passage.[4] The Matanuska-Susitna valley was eventually settled by the Dena'ina Alaska natives who utilized the fertile lands and fishing opportunities of Cook Inlet. The Dena'ina are one of the eleven sub-groups comprising the indigenous Athabaskan Indian groups extending down Canada's western coast. Russians occupied Alaska from 1741, including strategic trading posts in Lower Cook Inlet, until Alaska's sale to the United States in 1867.[5] Near the mouth of the Matanuska River, the town of Knik was settled about 1880. In 1900, the Willow Creek Mining District was established to the north and Knik thrived as a mining settlement.[6]

In 1917, the U.S. government planned the Alaska Railroad to intersect the Carle Wagon Road (present Wasilla-Fishhook Road) which connected Knik and the mines.[7] Knik businesses and residents rushed to purchase plattes and the town declined. Wasilla Station was named for the nearby Wasilla Creek. Local miners used the name "Wassila Creek", referring to Wassila, a chief of the Dena'ina. There are two sources cited for the name, one being derived from a Dena'ina word meaning "breath of air" while another stating Dena'ina derived it from the Russian name "Vasili."[8][9] As Knik declined into a ghost town, Wasilla served early fur trappers and miners working the gold fields at Cache Creek and Willow Creek. More than 200 farm families from the Upper Midwest were moved into the Matanuska and Susitna valleys in 1935 as part of a U.S. government program to start a new farming community to counteract this trend; their linguistic influence is still audible in the region.[10]

The area was a supply base for gold mines near Hatcher Pass through World War II. Until construction of the George Parks Highway around 1970, nearby Palmer was the leading city in the Matanuska Valley. Wasilla was at the end of the Palmer-Wasilla highway and the road to Big Lake provided access to land west of Wasilla. The Parks Highway put Wasilla at mile 40-42 of what became the major highway and railroad transportation corridor linking Southcentral Alaska to Interior Alaska. As a result, population growth and community development shifted from the area around Palmer to Wasilla and the surrounding area. Wasilla was incorporated as a city in 1974.[11] All non-borough municipalities throughout Alaska are designated cities.[12]

In 1994, a statewide ballot initiative to move the capital of Alaska to Wasilla was defeated by a vote of about 116,000 to 96,000.[13][14] About that time, the Matanuska Valley began to recover from an economic collapse, beginning a sustained boom that involved dramatic population growth, increased local employment, and a boom in residential and commercial real estate development.[15] The local real estate market slowed in 2006. In 2008, suburban growth and dwindling snow forced organizers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to bypass Wasilla permanently.[16] The race had its start in Wasilla from 1973 to 2002, the year when reduced snow cover forced a "temporary" change to Willow.[16]


Wasilla is located at 61°34′54″N 149°27′9″W / 61.58167°N 149.4525°W / 61.58167; -149.4525 (61.581732, -149.452539).[17]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 12.4 square miles (32.2 km²). 11.7 square miles (30.4 km²) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km²) of it (5.64%) is water.

The Dena'ina (Tanaina) Native Americans called the area Benteh, meaning 'among the lakes'.[18]

Located near Wasilla Lake and Lake Lucille, Wasilla is one of two cities in the Matanuska Valley. The community surrounds Mi. 39-46 of the George Parks Highway, roughly 43 highway miles (69 km) northeast of Anchorage. Nearly one third of the people of Wasilla drive the 40-minute commute to work in Anchorage every day.[19]


January temperatures range from 4 °F (−16 °C) to 29 °F (−2 °C); July temperatures vary from 47 °F (8 °C) to 78 °F (26 °C). The average annual precipitation is 17 inches (430 mm), with 50 inches (130 cm) of snowfall.

Climate data for Wasilla, Alaska
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 22.2
Average low °F (°C) 5.5
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.8
Snowfall inches (mm) 8.4
Source: [20] November 7, 2008


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1960 112
1970 300 167.9%
1980 1,559 419.7%
1990 4,028 158.4%
2000 5,469 35.8%
Est. 2008 10,256 87.5%
Population 1960-2000.[21]

As of the census of 2000,[22] there were 5,469 people (up from 4,028[23] in 1990), 1,979 households, and 1,361 families residing in the city. The population density was 466.8 people per square mile (180.2/km²). There were 2,119 housing units at an average density of 180.9/sq mi (69.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.46% White, 0.59% Black or African American, 5.25% Native American, 1.32% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 1.32% from other races, and 5.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.68% of the population.

There were 1,979 households out of which 43.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.2% were non-families. 23.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.76 and the average family size was 3.27.

In the city the population was spread out with 33.6% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30. For every 100 females there were 99.5 males; for every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $48,226, and the median income for a family was $53,792. Males had a median income of $41,332 versus $29,119 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,127. About 5.7% of families and 9.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.6% of those under the age of 18 and 9.7% of those 65 and older.


Wasilla began as a transportation logistics & trade center serving natural resource extraction (mining, trapping & timber) followed by small-scale agricultural activity circa 1935; around 1975, construction of the Parks Highway substantially reduced travel time to Anchorage, encouraging the transition to a satellite bedroom community where workers commute to Anchorage for employment.[24] Local service employment has increased in recent years.[25]

About 35 percent of the Wasilla workforce commutes to Anchorage.[19] The local economy is diverse, and residents are employed in a variety of city, borough, state, federal, retail and professional service positions.[26] Tourism, agriculture, wood products, steel, and concrete products are part of the economy. One hundred and twenty area residents hold commercial fishing permits; commercial fishermen work seasonally in Lower Cook Inlet and distant Bristol Bay or the Gulf of Alaska & Prince William Sound (there are no commercial fisheries in Upper Cook Inlet)[25].


Wasilla Lake and Lake Lucille are both within the city lmits and easily accessible by road

The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasilla was established in 1967 "to give a home to the transportation and industrial remnants and to tell the stories of the people and the machines that opened Alaska to exploration and growth."[27]

The Alaska Avalanche hockey team of the NAHL play their home games in Wasilla at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center (formerly called the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex).[28] In 2010, the Menard Center will have another tenant when the Arctic Predators begin play as a member of the Indoor Football League.[29]

Charles Wohlforth, in a Frommer's travel guidebook on Alaska, described Wasilla as "the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots."[30]


Wasilla City Hall, August 2008

The Wasilla City Council is the city's legislature; it enacts laws and policy statements, sets the property tax rate, and approves the budget and funds for city services. It has six members, elected at-large by Wasilla residents for three year terms.[31] The Mayor is elected separately. A run-off election will be held if no candidate for Mayor receives more than 40% of the votes cast. Run-off elections are not held for city council seats. All positions are part time.

The following is a list of mayors of Wasilla.

Time in office Name Notes
1985–1986 Charlie Bumpus [32]
1986–1987 Harold Newcomb [33]
1987–1996 John Stein [34]
1996–2002 Sarah Palin [35]
2002–2008 Dianne M. Keller [35]
2008–present Verne E. Rupright [36]

Education and health

Wasilla is served by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District. It has four high schools:[37]

  • Burchell High School
  • Mat-Su Career and Technical High School
  • MidValley High School
  • Wasilla High School

In January 2006 a new hospital, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, opened. It is outside the city limits halfway between Wasilla and its twin town of Palmer.[38]


The Glenn Highway connects Wasilla to Anchorage and communities on the Kenai Peninsula, the Glenn, along with the George Parks Highway link the Matanuska Valley to northward to the rest of the state and Canada. The Alaska Railroad serves Wasilla.

The city-owned Wasilla Airport, with a paved 3,700 foot (1,130 m) runway, provides air taxi services.[39] Wasilla also has eight public-use seaplane bases located on area lakes.[40] Private-use air facilities registered with the FAA include 43 land-based airstrips, eight additional seaplane bases, two heliports and one STOLport.[40]


Notable residents

Sarah Palin's residence on Lake Lucille


  1. ^ a b "Table 4: Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places in Alaska, Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008" (CSV). 2008 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. July 01, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  2. ^ Alaska Economic Trends. Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Retrieved October 24, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Wasilla History". city of Wasilla. 2008-09-23. 
  4. ^ a b Hollander, Zaz (June 29, 2005). "Archaeological dig perplexes; Trapper Creek: Team from Nevada didn't discover what it had been expecting". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved October 23 2008. 
  5. ^ "Palmer History". Palmer Museum of History and Art. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  6. ^ "About Knik". Wasilla Knik Historical Society. March 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  7. ^ "About Wasilla, Alaska". Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce. 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  8. ^ "Wasilla: Community Overview". Community Database Online. Alaska Division of Community Advocacy. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  9. ^ Orth, Donald Orth (1967). Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 567. U.S. Government Printing Office. 
  10. ^ Bauer, Scott. "Palin's speech has '30s roots, don't cha know: UW linguists’ research article." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Nov. 15, 2009
  11. ^ "Visitors: What's the Climate Like?". city of Wasilla, Alaska. August 19, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. "Agriculture and natural resources sustained growth and the city was incorporated in 1974." 
  12. ^ §29.04.010 and §29.04.030 of the Alaska Code, accessed 2008-10-23.
  13. ^ "The 1994 Elections: State by State; West". The New York Times. November 10, 1994. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  14. ^ "Alaska's 1994 General Election Results Summary". Alaska Division of Elections, State of Alaska. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  15. ^ (PDF) Alaska Economic Trends. Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. January 2003. 
  16. ^ a b D'Oro, Rachel (January 10, 2008). "Warming Forces Iditarod Changes". Fox News. Associated Press.,4670,IditarodChanges,00.html. Retrieved September 17 2008. 
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "Community Profile: At Work". city of Wasilla, Alaska. July 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  20. ^ "Historical Weather for Wasilla, Alaska USA". Retrieved November 7 2008. 
  21. ^ "Census Of Population And Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  22. ^ "Wasilla, Alaska". Census 2000 Demographic Profile Highlights. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  23. ^ "Wasilla city, Alaska - Population Finder - American FactFinder". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  24. ^ Interview Neil Fried, AK DOL economist @ 907 269-4861
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^
  27. ^ "About Us". Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  28. ^ "North American Hockey League: Alaska Avalanche". Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  29. ^ Armstrong, Joshua (September 4, 2009). "IFL officially adds three teams". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. 
  30. ^ Wohlforth, Charles (August 29, 2008). "Dispatch From Alaska: Palin? Really?". The New Republic. Retrieved 2008-08-30. "I had written a Frommer's travel guidebook about Alaska (I live in Anchorage and was on the Municipal Assembly here at the time). In the book, I frankly described Wasilla as a place to skip, "the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots."" 
  31. ^ "City Council". Department/Divisions. City of Wasilla. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  32. ^ "Charlie Bumpus Relishes His Maverick Reputation". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  33. ^ "Wasilla Official Dismissed New Mayor's Move Riles Councilmen". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  34. ^ "Mayor Palin - A Rough Record - Time". Time (magazine).,8599,1837918,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  35. ^ a b "Mayor of Wasilla Dianne Keller - Who Suceeded Sarah Palin in Wasilla?". Esquire (magazine). Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  36. ^ "City of Wasilla : Mayor Verne E. Rupright". City of Wasilla. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  37. ^ "High School Listings". Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.\Pg6.asp. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  38. ^ "Our History". Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  39. ^ Airport page at city of Wasilla web site. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  40. ^ a b List of air facilities in Wasilla from AirNav. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  41. ^ "About us". Wasilla Assembly of God. 
  42. ^ Thornburgh, Nathan (September 2, 2008). "Mayor Palin: A Rough Record". Time. 
  43. ^ "Main page". Wasilla Sacred Heart Parish. 
  44. ^ "Find Places of Worship". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
  45. ^ "Meier Lake Conference Center". Meier Lake Episcopal Conference Center. 
  46. ^ Alaska State Legislature's House Majority (August 27, 2008). "Tundra Creator Honored as Alaska's Cartoon Laureate". Press release. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  47. ^ Demer, Lisa; Kyle Hopkins (October 31, 2007). "Kohring neither defiant nor remorseful". Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  48. ^ [1] Mecha: Could It Be the Soldier of the Future?
  49. ^ Candie's foundation
  50. ^ Collins, Gail (May 6, 2009). "Bristol Palin’s New Gig". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company). Retrieved May 14, 2009. 

External links

Simple English

Wasilla is a small city in the U.S. state of Alaska, about 43 miles from Anchorage. It is one of the ten largest cities in Alaska. Sarah Palin was once mayor and owns a house with her family there.

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