The Matanuska-Susitna Valley is located north of Anchorage in Southcentral Alaska. It is a vast area between the Matanuska and Susitna rivers and contains 23,000 square miles.
The “Mat-Su” is the fastest growing area of Alaska. The population, which was just over 5,000 in 1960, is approximately 107,000 today.
The local borough (aka county or regional) government is the Matanuska-Susitna Borough – i.e. the MSB. The Mat-Su Borough Assembly is comprised of seven representatives plus a Mayor. It is a “second class” borough meaning its powers are limited. For example, there is no MSB police force. The Matsu area is served primarily by the Alaska State Troopers and the Police Departments of the Cities of Palmer and Wasilla.
There are three incorporated cities (Palmer, Wasilla, and Houston) plus many smaller unincorporated communities, such as Talkeetna, Big Lake, Willow, Sutton, Chickaloon and Glacier View, located within the boundaries of the Mat-Su Borough. The cities are run by their city councils while the unincorporated communities are served by area “community councils” (which have no real power) that report to the MSB.
The Mat-Su Borough School District is in charge of the unified school system. There are 19,000 students enrolled in the 46 schools, making it the second largest school district in the State of Alaska. There are nine high schools: Talkeetna Jr/Sr High, Houston Jr/Sr High, Redington Jr/Sr High, Burchell, Matsu Career & Tech High, Valley Pathways, Wasilla, Colony, and Palmer. There are numerous middle schools, elementary schools, and alternative and non traditional schools, such as the MatSu Central and Twindley Bridge home schooling programs and the remote Glacier View School which is K – 12.
The Mat-Su is home to one community college – Mat-Su College – which is part of the University of Alaska – Anchorage.
The Mat-Su Borough has a little-used Port – Port McKenzie – and we used to own a ferry, which was never put into service, but that is a very long story.
There are three public airports – Palmer, Wasilla, and Talkeetna, plus numerous smaller air strips and private airports (the largest of which is Wolf Lake located in between Palmer and Wasilla.)
There is a bus system – Valley Transit. There are a few senior centers – one in Palmer, one in Wasilla, and one in Houston. Mat-Su Regional Hospital is a growing hospital that is located between Palmer and Wasilla just north of the Parks and Glenn Highway exchange.
The Alaska State Fair is located just outside the Palmer City limits. The Fair is held each year for the 10 days up to and including Labor Day. A minor league baseball team – the MatSu Minors – plays in the summer at their field located at the Fairgrounds.
The Iditarod Sled Dog race begins in Willow in March and dog mushers race to Nome. The Iditarod Museum is located in Wasilla, where the Iditarod used to begin. Many sled dog mushers reside in the northern part of Mat-Su Valley.
There are lots of recreational areas in the Mat-Su Valley including Hatcher Pass State Rec area and many local parks and trails. Denali National Park is just north of the Mat-Su Borough.