I’ll be honest: we knew almost nothing about Seward when we decided to move here.
On our trip from Homer back to Anchorage, we dropped by¹ and did a drive-through of the town (that didn’t take long). I also met the team at the facility where I hoped to work, and I liked the place and the people instantly. Seward also had a good word-of-mouth buzz, both from tourists we talked to at Denali and locals that we met in Anchorage and other places. The latter carries extra weight—when an Alaskan tells you they like something within their state, you should pay attention.
That being said, the wise thing would’ve been to spend a little more time in Seward before moving all of our belongings cross country, committing long-term to a job, and moving to this tiny, remote town. But that’s how we roll, man.
Fortunately for us, I think it’s going to work out well. The town is a dream of mountains and water, the people are friendly, and my commute to work is about ten minutes no matter where I happen to be at the moment.
Now that we’re here, we’re making an effort to learn more about our new home, and as we learn, so shall you. Here’s the basic scoop on Seward:
- Seward has a population of about 2700.
- Because of its location on the Gulf of Alaska, the area has a relatively mild climate (at least by Alaskan standards) but gets a lot of precipitation:
- Seward is 126 miles south of Anchorage and sits on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai, marketed as “Alaska’s Playground,” is 16,056 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The peninsula is an extraordinary mix of rainforest, mountains, ice fields & glaciers, fjords & islands, fertile rivers & lakes, boggy plains, and very few communities. In 2013, the population of Kenai Peninsula Borough was 57,147.
The Kenai Mountains run from south to northeast along the peninsula, and what the map above doesn’t show is that a good chunk of these mountains are covered in the massive Harding Ice Field. The peninsula also contains Kenai Fjords National Park, and Seward is considered the gateway to this popular park.
- Several Indian tribes, including the Dena’ina, Chugaches, and Alutiiqs, lived on the Kenai Peninsula for millennia before the Russians and British arrived in the 1800’s and claimed the area for themselves.
- Seward sits on the pristine waters of Resurrection Bay. In 1791, Russian explorer Alexander Baranov rode out a wicked storm in this calm bay. The storm dissipated on the Sunday of Resurrection (the Russian name for Easter), and Baranov subsequently named both the bay and and the nearby Resurrection River in honor of this date.
- There’s only one main road into and out of town, the 127-mile Seward Highway, which ends—or, if you look at mile markers, begins—in Seward. The highway is a National Scenic Byway and much of it passes through the immense Chugach National Forest (pictures of which I included in our Homer post).
- Seward is named after William H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The town was created in 1903, when the Alaska Central Railroad surveyed the land, established a port, laid 50 miles of track, and then went out of business. Through the financing of first the Alaska Northern Railroad and then the federal government, the tracks eventually reached Fairbanks, 470 miles to the north, and Seward became one of only two perpetually ice-free ports that allows access to interior Alaska. Port industries, including commercial fishing and import/export of goods, are still a very important part of the local economy. Coal from the Usibelli Coal Mine is brought to Seward’s port via train and then shipped to Asia.
- Seward is a big tourist town, and its population booms in the summer (going from ~2700 to ~30,000 people on Independence Day). Visitors come to fish, camp, cruise the bay, watch glaciers calve, view wildlife, hike, kayak, and more.
- Resurrection Bay is teeming with wildlife, including (depending upon season) five varieties of salmon as well as halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. In our short time here we’ve seen sea otters, seals, and birds, including numerous bald eagles and a gorgeous pair of harlequin ducks. Humpbacks, orcas, and gray whales are all regular visitors to the bay as are Steller sea lions.
These are just a few of the many facts that we’ve been learning about Seward. The thing that we love the most so far is just how beautiful and small-town it really is. I’ll end this post with a few more photos that highlight Seward’s loveliness:
¹ “dropped by”–a hilarious choice of words if I do say so myself, as it’s difficult to “drop by” almost any community in Alaska–many of them are remote, and most of them can only be reached by air or sea.