According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city is 4,347. Almost all of the community's port facilities are on Amaknak Island, better known as Dutch Harbor or just "Dutch". It includes Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, U.S. Army, a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Dutch Harbor lies within the city limits of Unalaska and is connected to Unalaska by a bridge. Amaknak Island is home to almost 59 percent of the city's population, although it has less than 3 percent of its land area.
The Aleut or Unangan have lived on Unalaska Island for thousands of years. The Russian fur trade reached Unalaska when Stepan Glotov and his crew arrived on August 1, 1759. The Unangan people, who were the first to inhabit the island of Unalaska, named it “Ounalashka” meaning ‘Near the Peninsula’. The name Unalaska is probably an English variation of this name. The regional native corporation has adopted this moniker, and is known as the Ounalashka Corporation. Dutch Harbor was so named by the Russians because they believed that a Dutch vessel was the first European ship to enter the harbor.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (47.71%) is water.
Makushin Volcano (5691 ft/1,735 m) is located on the island; it is not quite visible from within the town of Unalaska, though the steam rising from its cone is visible on a (rare) clear day. Denizens of Unalaska need only to climb one of the smaller hills in the area, such as Pyramid Peak or Mt. Newhall, to get a good look at the snow-covered cone.
The mean annual temperature for Unalaska is about 38 °F (3.4 °C), being about 30 °F (−1.1 °C) in January and about 52 °F (11.1 °C) in August. With about 250 rainy days a year, Unalaska is said to be the rainiest place in the United States.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,283 people, 834 households, and 476 families residing in the city. The population density was 38.6 people per square mile (14.9/km²). There were 988 housing units at an average density of 8.9/sq mi (3.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 44.20% White, 3.67% Black or African American, 7.70% Native American, 30.63% Asian, 0.56% Pacific Islander, 9.32% from other races, and 3.92% from two or more races. 12.86% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.
There were 834 households out of which 36.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 4.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.9% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.27.
In the city the population was spread out with 14.6% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 50.9% from 25 to 44, 25.4% from 45 to 64, and 1.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 194.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 218.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $69,539, and the median income for a family was $80,829. Males had a median income of $41,352 versus $29,766 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,676. About 2.0% of families and 12.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.8% of those under age 18 and 15.8% of those age 65 or over.
The island of Unalaska was first inhabited by the Aleut people, which they named "Ounalashka", meaning: "Near the Peninsula". They developed an intricate and complex society long before their first contact with the Russian fur traders who would document their existence.
Unalaska and Amaknak Islands contained 24 settlements with more than 1,000 Aleut inhabitants in 1759, when the first Russian group under Stepan Glotov came and started trading for three years on Umnak and Unalaska. Between 1763 and 1766, a conflict between the Russian fur traders and the Unalaska Natives occurred; the Aleuts destroyed four Russian ships and killed 175 hunters/traders. Solov'ev then returned to Unalaska and directed the massacre of many Natives. In 1768, Unalaska became a Russian trading port for the fur seal industry, which was eventually monopolized by the Russian-American Company. It was there that Captain James Cook encountered the navigator Gerasim Izmailov in 1778.
In 1825, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ was built in Unalaska. The founding priest, Ivan Veniaminov, later canonized as Saint Innocent of Alaska, composed the first Aleut writing system with local assistance, and translated scripture into Aleut. Between 1936 and 1940, measles, chicken-pox and whooping-cough epidemics drastically reduced the population; thus, at the end of the decade, only 200 to 400 Aleuts lived in Unalaska.
In 1880, the Methodist Church opened a school and a clinic for orphans in Unalaska. Between 1899 and 1905, the Gold Rush brought many ships through Dutch Harbor where the North American Commercial Company had a coaling station.
During the first half of the century, the island was touched by numerous epidemics, first in 1900, and then in 1919 the Spanish flu touched the island: these contributed to a dramatic decrease of the population in Unalaska.
Then in the 1950s, the king crab industry began. This would make Dutch Harbor the number one fishing port in the United States in 1978. In 1982 through the king crab stocks crash the fishing fleet began conversion to bottom fishing in 1986. The king crab industry is still a major economic resource for Unalaska today. Since 2005 the Discovery Channel's documentary show Deadliest Catch has been based on fishermen who are based out of Dutch Harbor.
Dutch Harbor has also been the largest fisheries port in the United States, in terms of volume of seafood caught, for nearly every year since 1981. Until 2000, it also ranked first in terms of the dollar value of its catch; since 2000, however, the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts, has outranked Dutch Harbor in that category.
A pilot project in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska, is producing fish oil biodiesel from the local fish processing industry in conjunction with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It is rarely economic to ship the fish oil elsewhere and Alaskan communities are heavily dependent on diesel power generation. The local factories project 3.5 million tons of fish oil annually.
The State Ferry operates twice a month from Kodiak between April and October. Out of the ten major docks in Unalaska, three are operated by the city. A World War II sub dock was refurbished and now offers ship repair services.
There are approximately seven miles of paved road, and 38 miles of road total in Unalaska.
The City Council is the legislative body of the city; it is made up of six members, who are elected at large by a direct vote of the city's electorate. They also serve three year terms. The City Council has for its mission to "enact the laws of the city, set the mill rate for property taxes within the city, approve the annual budget for the city, and appropriate funds to provide for city services".
The Unalaska Elementary School serves grades K-4 and Unalaska Junior/Senior High School serves grades 5 through 12.
The Unalaska City School was voted one of the best 100 school districts in the United States by Offspring Magazine, a Forbes publication. It has also consistently been one of the highest scoring schools in Alaska in both the Standards-based exams and Alaska Exit Exam. In 2006, the Alaska Association of School Boards awarded the school district with the Outstanding School Board Award and Superintendent of the Year award.
11% of Unalaska residents age 25 and older have a bachelor's or advanced college degree.
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks also has a campus in Unalaska, the University of Alaska, Aleutian Pribilof campus. This college is part of the College of Rural Alaska network and offers both conventional classroom and distance classes.