Valley, Denali and Copper River Areas — Mat-Su Valley
The valleys are rimmed by three major mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Talkeetna Mountains and the Chugach Mountains. The surrounding mountains include many mountain passes, as well as working and abandoned gold mines. Like many parts of Alaska, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley was carved by glaciers which left many small and large lakes. Both the Matanuska and Susitna Rivers have major salmon spawning streams.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (the Alaskan equivalent of a county, encompassing more than 24,000 square miles) governs the Mat-Su region and the sparsely-populated southwest portion of the Copper River Basin northeast of the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains. Borough officials estimate rapid growth since 2000 drove the population to 80,000 in 2007. A few hundred Alaska Natives were joined by small numbers of "Alaska sourdoughs" between 1900 and 1930 when hundreds of "colonists" relocated by the Federal Government in the early 30's colonized the eastern Matanuska Valley between Wasilla, Palmer, and the Butte. The colonists came as part of the Matanuska Colony "New Deal" agricultural experiment sponsored by the federal government. In the 1970's relatively large numbers of newcomers to Alaska came to Anchorage, then relocated 40 miles up the Glenn Highway to the largely rural Matanuska Valley where a "Alaskan country" lifestyle pervades.