The Aleutian Range is in southwestern Alaska, extending from about 54° N to 61° N and 153° W to 165° W. The portion of the range north of Iliamna Lake (59° N) is also called the Alaska-Aleutian Range. The Aleutian Islands are considered a continuation of the Aleutian Range, but the Aleutian Range proper extends only as far west as Unimak Island according to the Dictionary of Alaska Place Names.
The geology consists of rounded east-trending ridges of Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, locally intruded by granitic rocks and surmounted by rugged volcanoes. The volcanoes date from the late Tertiary to the recent and many have calderas. The region was heavily glaciated during the Pleistocene epoch. The highest peaks are Redoubt Volcano (3108 m) and Iliamna Volcano (3053 m) in the far north, Shishaldin Volcano (2857 m) on Unimak Island, and Pavlov Volcano (2515 m) on the Alaska Peninsula. Most of the region is alpine tundra heath meadows and barrens. Willow and alder occur near sea level.
Katmai National Park and Preserve is located within the Aleutian Range. The 1600 km2 park includes the barren "moonscape" of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and Mt Katmai volcano. The eruption of Mt Katmai in June 1912 was the largest in North America during the 20th century. Many of the other volcanoes are active. Pavlov Volcano is the most active in Alaska and has erupted 40 times since 1790. Mt Redoubt erupted several times in the 20th century. An eruption of Redoubt from December 1989 through April 1990 with 23 explosive events caused US$160 million in economic damages, making it the second costliest volcanic eruption in US history.
The maritime climate has cool, rainy summers and mild, stormy winters. A more continental regime with colder winters, warmer summers, and less rain prevails on the northwest side of the Aleutian Range. Heavy snow falls above 300 m elevation. The average January temperature is -2°C at Cold Bay and -8°C at King Salmon. Both communities are near sea level but King Salmon is farther north and is west of the Aleutian Range. July temperatures average 10°C at Cold Bay and 12°C at King Salmon. The average precipitation is 910 mm at Cold Bay and 480 mm at King Salmon. Amounts are much greater at higher elevations.
Native peoples have occupied the coastal region of the Aleutian Range for at least 4500 years. About one-half of the population is Alaska Native. Aleuts live in the west and Alutiiq Eskimo live in the eastern section. The few small communities are along the coasts. Economic activities include government employment, transportation, commercial fishing, subsistence resource use, and recreational hunting and fishing.
Among the larger communities are King Salmon with 442 people (2000 US Census) and Port Heiden, a traditional Aleut community of 119 people (2001, Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development).
Thomas W. Schmidlin
See also Aleutian Islands
W.W. Norton, 1976 Naske, Claus & Herman Slotnik, Alaska, A History of the 49th
State, Grand Rapids: William Eerdmans Publishing, 1979 Orth, Donald, Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, US Geological Survey Professional Paper 567, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1967 Pierce, Richard, Katherine Arndt & Sarah McGowan (editors), The History and Ethnohistory of the Aleutians East Borough, Fairbanks: Limestone Press, 1999 Simmerman, Nancy Lange, Alaska's Parklands, The Complete Guide, Seattle: The Mountaineers, 1991
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