in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough
- Area Type
- Current Population
- Population Comment
- 2013 Department of Labor Estimate
- Pronunciation/Other Names
- Community's Judicial District
- Recording District
- Census Designated Place (CDP)
- Borough/Census Area FIPS Code
- Place FIPS
Geography and Climate
- Willow is located in the Mat-Su Borough, between mile 60 and 80.7 of the George Parks Highway, north of Houston. Its western boundary is the Susitna River.
- January temperatures range from -33 to 33 °F; July can range from 42 to 83 °F. Annual rainfall varies from 16 to 27 inches, with 48 to 150 inches of snowfall.
- Community Map Available
- Sq Mi Land
- Sq Mi Water
History and Culture
- Dena'ina Athabascan Indians have occupied this area historically, living in semi-permanent villages. The community got its start when gold was discovered on Willow Creek in 1897. Supplies and equipment were brought in by boat to Knik. From there, a 26-mile summer trail went northwest, up Cottonwood Creek, and across Bald Mountain to Willow Creek. The winter sled trail went north, crossing the present line of the Alaska Railroad at Houston, and up the west end of Bald Mountain for 30 miles. This trail, dubbed the "Double Ender Sled Trail," is still being used by skiers, hunters, backpackers, and snowmachine enthusiasts. The sleds then followed a trail, now Hatcher Pass Road, along Willow Creek in an easterly direction. The Talkeetna Trail also passed through Willow and was used by dog teams and pack horses. Cabins to accommodate freighters and mail carriers were located at Nancy Lake, Willow, and other points north. This route was the forerunner of the Parks Highway. During construction of the Alaska Railroad, surveyors, construction crews, homesteaders, and other settlers came to Willow. A railroad station house was constructed in 1920. During World War II, a radar warning station and airfield were built. The Trail's End Lodge was built in 1947; it subsequently became a post office in 1948. By 1954, Willow Creek was Alaska's largest gold mining district, with a total production approaching $18 million. Land disposals, homestead subdivisions, and completion of the George Parks Highway in 1972 fueled growth in the area. In 1976 Alaskans selected Willow for their new state capital site. However, funding to enable the capital move was defeated in the November 1982 election.
- Many homes in Willow are vacant or for seasonal-use. Nancy Lake is a popular recreation site. Several residents participate in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Junior high and high school students are bused south to Houston.
- Federally Recognized Tribe
Facilities, Utilities, and Health Care
- From the George Parks Highway, the area has access to the statewide highway system and the transportation facilities of Wasilla, Palmer, and Anchorage. There are two public airstrips: one is a state-owned gravel airstrip at mile 69.7 Parks Highway and the other is at Deshka Landing and owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. There are five additional private strips and a seaplane base at Kashwitna Lake.
- State Ferry
- Cargo Barge
- Road Connection
- Community's Senate District
- Community's House District