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Nenana, Alaska

Nenana, Alaska Visitor Guide

Nenana is a small, historic town located in the heart of Alaska’s Interior region. Situated on the banks of the Tanana River, Nenana offers visitors a glimpse into Alaska’s rich history, as well as a variety of outdoor recreational activities. This guide will cover Nenana’s latitude and longitude, directions from Anchorage, things to do, history, famous people, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.

Latitude and Longitude: Nenana is situated at approximately 64.5650° N latitude and 149.0935° W longitude.

Getting to Nenana from Anchorage

Nenana is located about 305 miles north of Anchorage and can be reached by car, train, or air.

By Car

To drive from Anchorage to Nenana, follow the AK-3 N (Glenn Highway) northbound, which becomes the George Parks Highway. The drive takes approximately 5-6 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.

By Train

The Alaska Railroad offers service between Anchorage and Nenana as part of its Denali Star route. The journey takes approximately 8 hours, and the train runs daily during the summer months and less frequently during the rest of the year.

By Air

While Nenana does not have a commercial airport, the nearby Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) is located about 55 miles northeast of Nenana. Several airlines operate daily flights between Anchorage and Fairbanks. From Fairbanks, you can rent a car or take a shuttle to Nenana.

Things to Do

Nenana offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.

Nenana Visitor Center and Cultural Center

Stop by the Nenana Visitor Center and Cultural Center to learn about the town’s history, indigenous cultures, and local attractions. The center also offers information on nearby recreational opportunities, such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Nenana River

The Nenana River, which runs through the town, offers excellent opportunities for fishing, rafting, and kayaking. The river is home to several species of salmon, as well as Arctic grayling, northern pike, and whitefish.

Golden Railroad Spike Historic Park

Visit the Golden Railroad Spike Historic Park to see the spot where President Warren G. Harding drove the final spike to complete the Alaska Railroad in 1923. The park features interpretive displays and a replica of the original golden spike.

Nenana Ice Classic

Participate in the annual Nenana Ice Classic, a unique lottery-style event where participants guess the exact date and time the ice will break up on the Tanana River. The competition has been held annually since 1917, and the jackpot often reaches several hundred thousand dollars.

Detailed History

Nenana’s history dates back thousands of years when the area was inhabited by the Tanana Athabascans, who relied on the region’s abundant resources for their subsistence. The town’s name is derived from the Athabascan word “Toghotili,” which means “a place to camp between the rivers.”

In the early 20th century, Nenana played a significant role in the construction of the Alaska Railroad, which connected the town to Anchorage and Fairbanks. The railroad brought an influx of settlers, and Nenana became a bustling transportation hub and supply center for the surrounding region.

During World War II, Nenana served as a staging area for the construction of the Alaska Highway, which further solidified its role as an important transportation center in Alaska’s Interior.

Expanded History

Throughout the 20th century, Nenana continued to evolve as a community, with its economy transitioning from transportation and supply to more diverse industries, such as timber, agriculture, and tourism. Today, Nenana remains a small, tight-knit community that celebrates its rich history and welcomes visitors to explore its unique heritage and natural beauty.

The town’s indigenous roots are still evident in its culture and traditions, as well as in the local art and architecture. Many residents of Nenana are of Athabascan descent, and their knowledge and customs continue to play an important role in the community’s identity.

Famous People from Nenana

One notable individual with ties to Nenana is Walter Harper (1893–1918), the first person to reach the summit of Mount Denali (formerly Mount McKinley). Harper, who was of Irish-Athabascan descent, achieved this feat in 1913 as part of the Hudson Stuck climbing expedition. Tragically, Harper died in a shipwreck off the coast of Alaska in 1918.

RV and Camping Information

There are a few options for RV and camping accommodations in and around Nenana:

– Nenana RV Park & Campground: Located within walking distance of downtown Nenana, this RV park offers full hook -up sites, tent camping, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. The campground is open seasonally from May to September.

– Anderson Riverside Park: Situated about 35 miles southeast of Nenana along the Parks Highway, Anderson Riverside Park offers RV and tent camping sites, picnic areas, and a boat launch on the Nenana River. This park operates on a first-come, first-served basis and is open seasonally from May to September.

– Clear Sky Lodge and RV Park: Located approximately 45 miles southeast of Nenana, Clear Sky Lodge and RV Park features RV sites with full hook-ups, as well as tent camping, cabins, a restaurant, and a bar. The park is open year-round, and reservations are recommended during the peak summer season.

Annual Festivals and Events

Nenana hosts several annual events that showcase the town’s unique history and culture:

– Nenana Ice Classic: Held each spring, the Nenana Ice Classic is a time-honored tradition dating back to 1917. Participants buy tickets and guess the exact date and time when the ice will break up on the Tanana River. The winner or winners take home a cash prize that often reaches several hundred thousand dollars.

– Moose Calling Festival: Taking place in June, the Moose Calling Festival celebrates the community’s connection to the moose population in the area. The event features a moose calling contest, live music, food vendors, and a variety of family-friendly activities.

– Nenana Wildwater Festival: Held in August, the Nenana Wildwater Festival is a celebration of the town’s river heritage. The event features a river rafting race, canoe and kayak demonstrations, and educational exhibits on river safety and conservation.

– Nenana Christmas Bazaar: The Nenana Christmas Bazaar, held in early December, is a festive community gathering that offers visitors an opportunity to purchase handmade crafts, baked goods, and other holiday gifts from local vendors.

In summary, Nenana, Alaska, is a small town with a rich history and a strong connection to its indigenous roots. With its scenic location along the Tanana River, Nenana offers outdoor enthusiasts a variety of recreational opportunities, from fishing and rafting to hiking and wildlife viewing. Visitors will also appreciate the town’s friendly atmosphere, annual events, and historic attractions that provide a glimpse into Alaska’s unique cultural heritage.