Area: 3.8 square miles
Population: 4,533 (2000 census)
Palmer is the gateway to Alaska's foremost recreation area with campgrounds, lakes and over 50 resorts—a fact long recognized and little publicized by local Alaskans. On a typical weekend, Anchorage residents desert that bustling "metropolis" in droves to converge on the mountains, streams and lakes of the nearby Palmer-Wasilla-Big Lake area.
Palmer is also the trading and supply center for the fertile, farm-filled Matanuska Valley. The many farms and dairy herds here will convince you that this is the State's agricultural center. Ringed by rugged mountains on three sides, the Valley cradles the farms and dairy herds which yield two thirds of Alaska's agricultural products. Over 40 bushels per acre of barley and oats are common. Major crops grown here include potatoes, lettuce, carrots, peas, squash, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Dairy farming has declined during the past few years due to higher feed prices, but look around, and you'll still see dairy farms in the valley.
You will find mild summers in the Matanuska Valley with long daylight hours and an average temperature of 60 degrees. Winters are brisk, with moderate snowfall and an average temperature of 20 degrees.
Palmer, with a population of 4100, serves as a trade center for approximately 22,000 people. It offers country-style living and recreation along with a distinctly modern community.
Palmer Visitor Information Center Museum and Agricultural Showcase Garden, Gift Shop, 907-745-2880. In the rustic log cabin downtown. Open daily 8-6 (May 1 to September 15) weekdays 9-4 (September 16 to April 30). Items from Palmer's pioneer era are displayed in the museum downstairs.
Mat-Su Visitor Center operated by MSCVB, is open from mid-May through mid-September. Its hours of operation are 8:30am to 6:30pm. the Center is located at Mile 35.5 Parks Highway, just up the Parks Highway from its intersection with the Glenn Highway. Available at the Center is information on activities, events, lodging services, tours, and more. A gift shop is located here as well. Mailing address HC 01 Box 6166 J21 Palmer, AK 99645, 907-746-5000 fax 907-746-2688. www.alaskavisit.com
Emergency only 911; Palmer police 907-745-4811; State Troopers 907-745-2131; Valley Hospital 515 Dahlia, 907-745-4813.
Things To Do
Alaska State Fair, Palmer Fairgrounds in the last week of August. The state's largest fair with craft booths, live entertainment and farm exhibits, including 100 pound cabbages and other agricultural products from Alaska's famous Matanuska Valley. Other attractions include a rodeo (both weekends), a three-day state championship horse show, a well-rounded display of fair exhibits, continuous entertainment as well as athletic contests.
The twin outdoor horse show rings at the fairgrounds are busy much of the summer. Up to 200 horses are entered in the larger shows and top judges are brought in from outside. Pick up your schedule of horse show events at the Fair Office.
Visitor Information Center and Museum, a rustic log cabin in the center of town, is open daily during the summer, and weekdays, year-round. Here you can see and purchase gift items of some 100 local artists. Much of the art on display is on consignment. Several authors and artists are among Alaska's pioneer citizens, all of whom have interesting stories to tell you.
You will find numerous State campgrounds and more than 50 resorts scattered throughout the region. A large network of paved highways and country roads provide access to the fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, sailing and resort vacationing for which the area is renowned.
Hatcher Pass 20-miles north of Palmer, takes you onto high mountain summits that afford picturesque views of the valley. From July to September, you can continue through Hatcher Pass to Willow (60 miles) and return to Palmer via Big Lake and Wasilla. Parts of this road are unsuitable for large motorhomes or vehicles towing trailers.
Visit Independence Mine State Historical Park and catch a glimpse of Alaska's mining heritage. Hiking, biking and year-round, multiple use trails are available to Hatcher Pass visitors.
Independence Mine State Historical Park. There are tours of the old Independence Gold Mine buildings and operation. The visitor center has displays and the staff will tell you all about the history of the area and how gold was mined. (fee charged for tour).
If you take your pleasure afoot, you will be delighted with the many and varied hiking trails in the Valley. Popular hikes include Bodenburg Butte, Lazy Mountain and Mt. Vigor, south and west of Palmer, and Reed Lakes and The Pinnacle, north of Palmer at Hatcher Pass.
Kepler-Bradley Lakes State Recreation Area 3.9 miles south of Palmer, is a series of fishing lakes which are both popular and productive. All lakes in the Kepler-Bradley system are stocked with rainbow trout. You can catch landlocked silver salmon in Echo and Victor lakes.