The Port of Juneau is the capital of the State of Alaska. Lying centrally on the Alaska Marine Highway (also called the Inside Passage) in southeast Alaska, the Port of Juneau is about 180 nautical miles north-northeast of the Port of Sitka and about 350 nautical miles north-northwest of Prince Rupert Port in Canada. The Port of Juneau covers an area larger that the State of Delaware, and it is the only United States capital on an international border (being about 60 kilometers from the border with Canada). In 2007, almost 30.7 thousand people called the Port of Juneau home.
The Port of Juneau is protected from the Pacific Ocean by a 120-kilometer wide belt of islands, and it is an ice-free port open all year. As the state capital, government is a major contributor to the Port of Juneau economy, with some 40% of the city's workforce employed by the state, federal, or municipal government. With cruise ships traveling the Alaska Marine Highway during the summer, tourism is also important to the local economy. In 2005, almost one million visitors came to the Port of Juneau. Fishing and forestry are important industries in the Port of Juneau.
Before white settlers came to the Port of Juneau area, the Gastineau Channel that links the city to the Alaska Marine Highway had been a well-used fishing resource for the Tlingit people for thousands of years. At the time, the indigenous people were known as the Taku and Auke tribes.
A mining engineer from Sitka, George Pilz, offered to reward any local chief that would show him gold-bearing ore in 1880. Chief Kowee brought a sample to Pilz, but the prospectors who investigated the Gold Creek site found little that interested them. Following up on the initial trip, Joe Juneau and Richard Harris returned to the area to the head of Gold Creek and found gold nuggets the size of beans and peas.
Juneau and Harris then marked out a 65-hectare town site that soon became a mining camp. Before a year had passed, the camp was a town, the first town founded after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. At first, the Port of Juneau was called Harrisburg. Then the name was changed to Rockwell. In 1881, the miners living there renamed it Juneau.
By the early 20th Century, the fur trade and whaling that had made Sitka the state's first capital began to decline. As Sitka lost its influence, the central government was moved to the Port of Juneau. Between the two World Wars in the first half of the 20th Century, the Port of Juneau was the biggest city in Alaska. Despite several efforts to move the capital in the latter half of the 20th Century, the Port of Juneau remains the seat of government for the state.
When Alaska became a State in 1959, the Port of Juneau began to grow quickly. When the Alaska Pipeline was completed in 1977, the state budget was rich with oil revenues, which lasted well into the 1980s.
From the early 1990s, cruise ship traffic increased dramatically in the Port of Juneau, with mega-ships arriving seven days a week during the summer season. By 2000, the Port of Juneau was the second largest city in Alaska after Fairbanks.
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