Area: 11.7 square miles
Population: 5,469 (2000 census)
Wasilla is situated between Wasilla and Lucille Lakes and surrounded by majestic peaks of the Chugach and Talkeetna mountains. It has been inhabited by successive waves of Indians, miners, trappers, farmers and merchants. Wasilla was named after the respected local Dena'ina Indian, Chief Wasilla. In the Dena'ina Athabascan Indian dialect "Wasilla" is said to mean "breath of air". Other sources claim the Chief derived his name from the Russian language and the "Vasili" is a variation of the Russian name "William".
Wasilla is a modern community in every way with restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and community services.
The town of Wasilla was founded in 1917 and came into prominence when the Alaska Railroad was built to access the interior and resources of Alaska and in doing so served the Willow Creek Mining District. From 1907 until the mines were closed by the government during World War II, the district contributed to Alaska's lode gold production. Most of the mining activity was focused in the area of the Little Susitna drainage, but the name "Willow Creek District" was retained from older usage, even though the mines in the Willow Creek drainage for the most part had been worked out or closed.
At a time when gold was valued between $20 to $35 an ounce almost 18 million dollars worth of gold was extracted from mines with names like Gold Cord, Independence, Lucky Shot and War Baby.
Wasilla is the headquarters for the Iditarod Trail Committee. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is more than a race, it is a commemoration of the colorful past.
The Iditarod Trail, now a national historical trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps and beyond to the west coast communities. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born.
In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life-saving highway for epidemic stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened the community and the serum had to be brought in: again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving huskies. Todays Iditarod race is a commemoration of those yesteryears, a not-so-distant past Alaskans honor and are proud of. The 1994 race faced new difficulties as two of the major corporate sponsors pulled out due to pressure from animal rights groups. Tesoro Alaska and other Alaskan Corporations stepped forward to insure that this great tradition continues.
Dorothy Page Museum and Visitors Center, 323 Main Street, 907-373-9071.
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 in the Center as well. Mailing address HC 01 Box 6166 J21 Palmer, AK 99645; 907-746-5000
Emergency only 911
Palmer Hospital 745-4813
State Troopers 745-2131
Suburban Propane, mile 37.5 Parks Highway. RV gas appliance repairs and safety inspections. Motor fuel and cylinder filling. 907-745-4841.
Things To Do
Hatcher Pass 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 at Hatcher Pass.
Iditarod Race. Anchorage is the starting line for this world famous race. The field of dog teams, which grows in number each year, runs to Eagle River to Check Point 1. After a restart in Wasilla, the mushers leave the land of highways and bustling activity and head across the Susitna River to Skwentna and then up to Nome. A winter carnival is held in Wasilla in conjunction with this annual event.
Old Wasilla Town Site is behind the museum. It contains Wasilla's first school, the first public bath in town, two different styles of log cabins and a smithy.
The Knik Museum and Dog Mushers Hall of Fame are at mile 14/km 22.5 on Knik Road. The pre Anchorage town of Knik served as a major supply point for the South Central Alaska interior. The Knik Museum is in the only remaining structure of the former town. Famous dogs and dog mushers are honored here for their contributions to dog team travel and sled dog racing.
Wasilla Museum. Along with a modern Museum addition this picturesque old log museum is situated between the fire station and the public library on "Main Street" in Wasilla. Open 7 days a week, the museum preserves Wasilla's history and also contains a visitor information center and Gift Shop. (admission fee charged).