ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

The History of Wasilla, Alaska

Wasilla is located midway between the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys, on the George Parks Highway. It lies between Wasilla and Lucille Lakes, 43 miles north of Anchorage, about one hour's drive. It lies at approximately 61 34' N Latitude, 149 26' W Longitude (Sec. 10, T017N, R001W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Palmer Recording District. The area encompasses 11 sq. miles of land and 1 sq. miles of water.

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 that "Vasili" is a variation of the Russian name "William". The townsite was established in 1917 at the intersection of the Knik-Willow mining trail and the newly-constructed Alaska Railroad. It was a supply base for gold and coal mining in the region through World War II. The Matanuska-Susitna valley was settled by many homesteaders as part of an experiment in the 1930s. Agricultural crops and natural resources sustained growth and development in the valley.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development