Seward History

In 1793, Russian explorer Alexander Baranov entered the inlet he chose as a shipbuilding site on Easter Sunday, 1793 and named it “Voskrensenskaya Gavan,” – Resurrection Bay.  Storehouses, living quarters, and a palisade were constructed somewhere in the bay area. The PHOENIX, the first Russian ship built in what was to become America, was launched in August, 1794. (Seward Historic Preservation Commision)

Early American history includes Captain Frank Lowell and his family settling on Resurrection Bay in 1884. The Lowell’s and several of their children, and spouses, had homes in what later became part of the original townsite, although the founding of Seward is dated to the August 28, 1903 landing party headed by the Ballaine brothers, the founders of the Alaska Central Railway.

The Iditarod

On Christmas Day, 1908, gold was discovered on Otter Creek, a tributary of the Iditarod River.  To boost Seward as a winter port, the Seward Commercial Club hired the famous Japanese Alaska pioneer musher Jujiro Wada who led a crew of local Seward men, Alfred Lowell, Dick Butler and Frank Cotter, to blaze a trail to the newly discovered gold mine of Iditarod. The Iditarod Trail began as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome.  Later in 1925, the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened, and serum was sent via dogsled to the western community.  The Iditarod is now a national historic trail.  Each year, an extremely competitive dogsled race takes place of more than 1150 miles from Anchorage to Nome.  Mile O in Seward, is marked by a historical monument and additional information can be found at The race is called the “Last Great Race on Earth.”(city of Seward website)

1964 “Good Friday” Earthquake

In 1964, an earthquake that measured 9.2 on the Richter scale was centered 95 air miles northeast of Seward.  The quake, several tsunami waves, and resulting fires severely damaged the town and the rail yards.  Eventually both the town and railroad were restored, but rail service took many years to recover.  Remnants of that earthquake can still be seen along the waterfront today, with a movie being shown at the Seward Library during the summer months. (city of Seward website)

Seward, Alaska

“Alaska Starts Here”


Seward is located at the head of Resurrection Bay on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.  Seward is surrounded by several majestic snow capped mountains which include the Beautiful Mt. Alice across the bay, as well as the world famous Mt. Marathon as the backdrop to the town. Founded in 1903 as the ocean terminus of what is now the Alaska Railroad. Seward prides itself, not only on its natural beauty, but as one of Alaska’s Northern Most deep-water, year-round ice free ports. A friendly, fun community that enjoys a beautiful scenic  Alaskan environment with numerous visitor attractions.

Seward Fun Facts

  • Seward is named in honor of William H. Seward, President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Seward was responsible for negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.
  • Seward is the gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Seward received the “All America City Award” in 1963, 1965, and 2005.
  • Year-round population within Seward city limits is about 2,600 people, with another 2,600 living just beyond city limits. These numbers rise dramatically in the summer with an influx of seasonal workers.
  • Seward experiences a maritime climate with average summer temperatures ranging 49 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit. We sometimes see summer highs into the 70’s Fahrenheit.
  • Seward is located in a temperate rain forest  with average precipitation of around 150 inches combined rain and snow.
  • Seward is home of the Alaska state flag.
  • Seward is ‘mile O’ of the historic Iditarod Trail.
  • Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad.


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