A hand-painted sign—Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna—on the main road sets the stage for what is one of Alaska’s most iconic small towns. Translating to “Where Three Rivers Meet,” Talkeetna sits at the confluence of the Talkeetna, Chulitna and Susitna rivers, halfway between Anchorage and Denali National Park & Preserve in the Mat-Su Valley. With a population of about 800, this former gold-mining town personifies all that is rural Alaska.
Talkeetna’s current setting is remarkably similar to its early years. In 1916 it was tagged as district headquarters for the Alaska Railroad and featured a cigar store, roadhouse, trading post and dirt roads, as well as Nagley’s General Store, Talkeetna’s first store which is still in business.
Talkeetna is thought to have inspired the fictional community of Cicely in the 1990s TV series <em>Northern Exposure</em>. Today Talkeetna is one of the state’s best spots from which to view Denali, or Mount McKinley, and is a jumping-off point for flightseeing trips over the mountain as well as for climbers setting out on mountain treks. It is also an arts enclave, with the support of the Denali Arts Council, and offers galleries, crafts boutiques and infinite opportunities for people-watching.