Wasilla’s roots lie in its natural resources and mild coastal climate, which have provided shelter and sustenance to inhabitants for thousands of years. Surrounding areas are replete with fish, game, and fresh water. One explanation of the city’s name underscores its natural history—"Wasilla" is said to mean "breath of air" in the Dena’ina dialect. With its rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley has always been a climatic haven from the adjacent, formidable mountain ranges.
The Wasilla area has long been a natural junction for trade and transportation. Dena’ina hunting and trading trails developed and multiplied as gold was discovered in the Talkeetna Mountains in the late 1800s. Gold was transported by wagon south to the Cook Inlet port of Knik and shipped to market. When a railroad was built between Seward and Fairbanks, Wasilla’s importance in transloading gold increased. The townsite originated in 1917, and over time, many businesses relocated to the new community.
Expansion continued as Wasilla served as a supply base for gold and coal mining through World War II. Later, this major role declined, but the rich land revived population growth. Many homesteaders settled the valley in the 1930s and 1940s.
Agriculture and natural resources sustained growth and the city was incorporated in 1974. Wasilla remains a vital financial, commercial, and retail supply center that is increasingly attractive to businesses and families.
© 2009 City of Wasilla | City Hall: 290 E. Herning Ave., Wasilla, AK 99654 | 907.373.9050
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