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5 Cool Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Alaska

Updated on January 23, 2014

Weird Things I Never Knew About Alaska

Alaska. It's like nowhere else on earth. From the Alaskan interior with the spectacular beauty of places such as Denali National Park, to the quaint coastal region with cities such as Ketchikan, no words can truly convey the wonder of this land.

On my recent Alaska vacation, I saw many amazing sights. I was able to check off most items on my things-I-want-to-see-while-in-Alaska list. Mt. McKinley (or Denali)? Check. It was awesome. Northern lights? Check. They look nothing like they are made to look on television. Carlisle trucks from Ice Road Truckers? Check.

With all this checking, my Alaska list was pretty much checked off, but what surprised me the most were some things you just don't see or know here in the Lower 48.

No, It's Not Electric

Alaskans plug their cars into an outlet in the winter to keep their vehicles warm in the extreme Alaskan winter.
Alaskans plug their cars into an outlet in the winter to keep their vehicles warm in the extreme Alaskan winter. | Source

Alaskans Plug In Their Cars

We arrived in Fairbanks a few days early so we could rent a car and do some sightseeing on our own. While driving through town, I kept noticing these wires hanging out of the front of everyone's vehicle. Odd. We stopped at a store and curiosity got the better of me, I had to find out what these were. I got closer to a car and saw that it was a plug! I also noticed in the parking lot there were big poles that had outlets in them.

We found a local, and without trying to sound too touristy, asked him why there were plugs in the cars. What he told us made sense. It gets very cold in Alaska, especially Fairbanks. It is not unusual for temperatures to be -40°F. Alaskans plug in their cars to keep them warm, otherwise they would never start. The plug in actually powers a block heater, a battery blanket, and an oil pan heater.

I Won't Get Freezer Burned!

The Alaskan Wood Frog freezes solid in winter and thaws in spring just in time to search for a mate.
The Alaskan Wood Frog freezes solid in winter and thaws in spring just in time to search for a mate. | Source

Frozen Frog That Comes Back To Life

I learned this little fact on my Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park. Someone in the group happened to ask the guide if there were any snakes in Alaska. Well, there's not. However, she explained to us that Alaska is home to one amphibian, an Alaskan Wood Frog.

The Alaskan Wood Frog lives in the forest floor. In the wintertime, it buries itself among the leaves and debris. When the temperature goes below freezing, the wood frog's body goes into a type of suspended animation. It freezes solid. The wood frog stops breathing and its heart quits beating. Then, in the springtime when the temperature warms, the wood frog thaws and goes on to find a mate.

Winters in Alaska are very long, so the tree frog is frozen and not breathing for around seven to eight months. Amazing!

Car vs. Moose. It Isn't Going To End Well

When a car hits a moose, some lucky person gets the reward.
When a car hits a moose, some lucky person gets the reward. | Source

Roadkill Cafe Specials In Alaska

Apparently, hitting moose in Alaska is a common occurrence. So much so that they have a roadkill list locals sign up on. Our tour guide told us that in Alaska, when a moose is hit and killed by a vehicle, a state trooper calls the next name on the list and they get a free moose.

In the past, the state trooper would call and the lucky recipient would come to the scene to butcher the moose to take it home. Moose are big, around 800 pounds, and it takes a long time to butcher, too long for an accident scene to be cleaned up so traffic can return to normal.

Alaska officials got smart and came up with a pretty amazing idea . According to the Homer Tribune, the state trooper will call the recipient and ask them where they would like their moose delivered. Yes, they'll deliver the moose to your home or anywhere you want it processed.

Forget Picking Numbers, What Time Is It?

The Tenana River in Nenana, Alaska, is home to a betting lottery every spring. Correctly guess the date and time a tripod goes through the ice and you win!
The Tenana River in Nenana, Alaska, is home to a betting lottery every spring. Correctly guess the date and time a tripod goes through the ice and you win! | Source

Alaskans Need Winter Entertainment

Winter in Alaska lasts a long time. I guess they make up their own games to play to while away the time until spring. I think this is one such past time.

In Nenana, Alaska, on the Tenana River there is a betting lottery, called The Nenana Classic, every year. Hopeful winners bet by guessing the exact date and time that a wooden tripod will fall through the melting ice on the river. Tickets are $2.50 a piece and can be bought by anyone. The prize has been as high as $300,000 for the lucky person who guesses closest to the exact breakthrough time.

Did I buy a ticket when I was there? No. Did I think about it? Maybe. It's good that I didn't, I'm sure I would have lost. I'm from Florida, I'm not much of an expert on ice.

Don't Go Near The Water!

Standing beside a glacial river in Denali National Park. Notice I am far away from the water.
Standing beside a glacial river in Denali National Park. Notice I am far away from the water. | Source

Don't Go Swimming In Alaska

While I was touring Denali National Park, I learned an interesting tidbit. If you fall in a glacial river, you can drown. It doesn't have anything to do with your ability to swim either.

Our tour stopped at the Tolkat River, which is a glacial river, and our guide explained to us that we can drown because of glaciers. He then explained to us what happens when glaciers recede.

As a glacier recedes on a mountain, it grinds the rock underneath. When it melts, it takes this sediment, called silt, with it. There is so much silt in the water that if you fell in the river, you would be pulled under almost immediately because your clothes would become so heavy from the silt that would be clinging to them.

And if for some reason the silt didn't pull you under or you fell in naked, you would die from hypothermia. The water temperature is approximately 36ºF. Yeah, either way, don't go swimming in Alaska.

Expand Your Horizons!

Source

Alaska: Weird But Wonderful

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these strange facts I learned while I was vacationing in Alaska. I believe that traveling is all about learning.

Yes, you can learn facts about famous historical sites and people of the region when you are on vacation. But I think it's the little known facts you learn while traveling that makes a vacation such a rich and enjoyable experience. You can also wow your friends when you return home with all the fun facts you learned. Maybe you'll inspire them to take a trip, too.

Why do you go on vacation?

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    • Abbyfitz profile image
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      Abbyfitz 4 years ago from Florida

      Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Congratulations!

    • Dr. Poeta Diablo profile image

      Dr. Poeta Diablo 4 years ago from Washington

      As a recent father-to-be, I genuinely loved this hub. Just something about it that reminded me of my own childhood with the family! Keep up the good work!