Obamas Alaska schedule
• Anchorage: Monday, Aug. 31, the president touches down in Anchorage and delivers a speech at the State Department-sponsored Arctic Conference before a nearly a dozen foreign ministers and hundreds of other attendees. There will be a 6:30 p.m. welcome ceremony at the University of Alaska Anchorage's Alaska Airlines Center, but it's unclear if Obama will attend. Organizers hope to arrange a video connection through Skype if the president can't appear in person.
• Seward: Tuesday, Sept. 1, for what White House officials are calling a climate-change-focused visit.
• Dillingham: Wednesday, Sept. 2, for visits with residents.
• Kotzebue: Wednesday, Sept. 2, the first time a sitting president will set foot on U.S. soil north of the Arctic Circle.
A popular destination of tourists and residents, the beautiful town of 2,600 on the shores of Resurrection Bay celebrated its 200th anniversary 24 years ago. With Kenai Fjords National Park, Chugach National Forest and Caines Head State Recreation area nearby, recreational opportunities abound — fishing, hiking, sailing, climbing, kayaking and more. The Mount Marathon footrace up and down the 3,022-foot peak is Alaska's most-watched race, and the Alaska SeaLife Center on the waterfront is a popular attraction.
The founders and first settlers of Seward arrived in 1903 to build the Alaska Railroad. Seward was named in honor of William H. Seward, President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state. Seward was responsible for negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.
In 1964, the magnitude-9.2 Good Friday earthquake was centered 95 air miles northeast of Seward. The quake, several tsunami waves and resulting fires severely damaged the town and the rail yards. Rail service took years to recover. Remnants of the quake can be seen along the waterfront today.
A Southwest regional hub of the rich Bristol Bay sockeye salmon harvest, the town of 2,300 owes traces much of its economy to fishing — both commercial and sport fishing in lodges near Wood-Tikchik State Park.
The area around Dillingham was originally inhabited by both Eskimos and Athabascans and became a trade center when Russians erected the Alexandrovski Redoubt Post in 1818.
In 1884, the first salmon cannery in the Bristol Bay region was constructed by Arctic Packing Co., east of the site of modern-day Dillingham. Ten more were established in the next 17 years.
The 1918-19 influenza epidemic hit the region hard, leaving about 500 survivors. A hospital and orphanage were established after the epidemic, 6 miles from the present-day city center. The city was incorporated in 1963.
In 2010, Dillingham voted to reaffirm its opposition to the proposed Pebble mine, a large gold-copper-molybdenum prospect in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The city contends that Pebble threatens to destroy the last great wild salmon fishery on the planet.
The largest town in northwest Alaska (population 3,200) is 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle and about 550 miles northwest of Anchorage. Nearby are such natural treasures as the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the Noatak National Preserve and the Kobuk Valley National Park.
About three-quarters of the residents are Inupiat, who've lived in the area for years as Kotzebue became an Arctic trading hub. People from across the Arctic and the Interior traded furs, skins, seal oil and other commodities. Commercial activity blossomed when whalers, Russian fur traders, gold miners and missionaries arrived.
In the Inupiag language, Kotzebue is Qikiktagruk, or "almost an island," perched near the mouths of the Kobuk, Noatak and Selawik rivers and along 3 miles of a 1,100- to 3,600-foot wide gravel spit on the Baldwin Peninsula.
"We welcome President Obama to Kotzebue, the Gateway to the Arctic," said Maija Lukin, mayor of the city of Kotzebue. "It is encouraging to have the president see the real-life impacts of climate change we have faced. We've been working as a community to mitigate these impacts for years and look forward to working together on future projects that ensure our residents have a home for generations to come."
Sources: City of Kotzebue, city of Dillingham, city of Seward, Wikipedia