Much like other roadless or remote parts of Australia and Africa, the state of Alaska in the United States has area commonly referred to as "the Bush". This term is used in Alaska to refer to the portion of the state that is not connected by North America's interconnected system of roadways.
The vast majority of Alaska's geography is located in the Bush, but the majority of the population lives in or near the two main urban areas of Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Most Alaskans refer to any place besides Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and the towns of the Kenai Peninsula and Mat-Su boroughs as falling within the Bush.
Although the Bush in Alaska is generally described as any community not "on the road system," there are distinctions within how different parts of the state define this term. Residents of remote Eskimo villages, for instance, do not consider communities connected by the Alaska State Marine Highway ferries as properly part of the Bush.
Most parts of Alaska that are off the road system can only be reached by small airplane, and travel from place to place is typically accomplished through alternative means of transportation such as snowmobile or snowmachine, boat, or dog sled.
In addition, Alaska has a further distinction that divides Bush communities into two further subcategories of "hub communities", and "villages".
Bush hub communities
Bush hub communities are isolated small or mid-sized towns that serve as a transportation and shipping hubs for surrounding smaller rural communities. Bush hubs are used by many village residents as a both a transfer point on their way to and from the more developed towns such as Anchorage and Fairbanks. Residents of Bush hub communities typically enjoy better access to health care, grocery shopping and other services than do those who live in smaller Bush villages.
Bush hubs tend to share a number of characteristics that may include:
- Regional road systems of crushed gravel
- Small clinic or hospital
- Grocery store
- Relatively busy small airports — some with daily jet or turboprop service to Anchorage or Fairbanks
- Higher likelihood than villages to be classified as "damp", rather than "dry" in terms of alcohol consumption
- Populations typically greater than 500
Some Bush hub communities of Alaska: Aniak, Barrow, Nome, Kotzebue, Unalakleet, St. Mary's, Bethel, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, and Cordova.
Alaska Bush villages vary greatly in terms of running water, flush-haul sewage treatment, and alcohol consumption restrictions
Bush villages are frequently subsistence-based communities, with few cash economy jobs. This means that hunting and gathering are still active lifestyles. The degree of traditional participation in these activities also varies greatly by location. Most villages are predominantly Alaska Natives communities. In many cases, the only non-Native residents are employees of the local school district, or state and federal agencies with personnel based in the village.
Bush villages may have some or all of the following notable characteristics:
- No roads or cars, but boardwalks for foot and four-wheeler traffic
- Trails or paths around town for snow machines
- Lack of sewage treatment or water piped into homes the use of a honey bucket and the collection of rainwater for drinking is standard.
- Steam baths which are used for bathing and social gatherings
- Lack of restaurants, or prepared foods available for sale, except for a few tiny village stores
- Reliance on traditional foods to varying degrees. Some are very interesting to outsiders, such as fermented fish and "stinkheads".
- Reliance on diesel generator power, which can experience frequent outages
- A small US Post Office (although mail can take significantly longer than in hub communities)
- Alcohol consumption restrictions
- Dry — Possession and sale of alcohol banned
- Damp — Alcohol can be possessed, but import controls are in place. Sales of alcohol are banned.
- Wet — Alcohol consumption and sale only subject to state regulation, not "local option".
- Traditional Alaska Native language use varies from the primary language used daily by the majority of villagers, to only elders knowing any of the dialect.
- Small, gravel airstrips which restrict air travel to certain weather conditions
- Native ANSCA corporations, federal government lands, airstrips.