Talkeetna is located at 62°18′41″N 150°5′13″W / 62.31139°N 150.08694°W / 62.31139; -150.08694 (62.311397, -150.087053) at the confluence of three rivers, the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna. Talkeetna began in 1916 when the area was chosen as a district headquarters for the Alaska Railroad. A post office opened as well as a sawmill, trading post, cigar and donkey store and other businesses as well as many cabins. In 1917, the residents encouraged the government to survey the lots on which their homes stood. In 1919, the railroad surveyed and auctioned eighty lots, 41 of which already had permanent structures on them. The average price at the sale was $14.25. Flightseeing, rafting, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting make up a large portion of the local economy. Talkeetna is a 2½-hour drive from Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. The core downtown area is classified as a National Historic Site, with buildings dating from the early 1900s including Nagley's General Store, Fairview Inn and the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 42.9 square miles (111 km2), of which, 41.6 square miles (108 km2) of it is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2) of it (3.19%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 772 people, 358 households, and 181 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 18.6 people per square mile (7.2/km2). There were 528 housing units at an average density of 12.7 per square mile (4.9/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 87.95% White, 3.76% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 1.30% from other races, and 6.87% from two or more races. 1.04% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 358 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.0% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.4% were non-families. Thirty-eight percent of all households were made up of individuals and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 35.4% from 25 to 44, 29.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 113.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 114.5 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $38,289, and the median income for a family was $46,818. Males had a median income of $34,732 versus $26,250 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $23,695. About 7.2% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.
Talkeetna is the base for expeditions to Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley). Tourists travel to Talkeetna each summer to fish salmon, raft and go flightseeing. Products from local artists, musicians and craftspeople are available in area stores.
The Susitna Dam is a proposed hydroelectricity plan from the State of Alaska. The Governor of Alaska, on July 25, 2011, signed a bill to build the dam on the glacier-fed Susitna River. The dam would become, if built to its full design height, the fifth-tallest of the nearly 850,000 dams on Earth. The Susitna River, America's 15th-largest by volume, flows unimpeded for 300 miles (480 km) from glacial mountains through one of the planet's last wild landscapes to meet the Pacific near Anchorage.
Soon after the dam's construction was announced, the Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives was formed to fight its construction. It is their argument that recreation, nature and the town would be severely threatened by the dam, and have compared it to the Three Gorges Dam in China.
Every March, the Oosik Classic Ski Race is organized by the Denali Nordic Ski Club. Distances are approximate and trail conditions are variable.
The Moose Dropping Festival, a two-day celebration held each July, came to an end with the announcement on August 21, 2009, by the Talkeetna Historical Society that the festival has been canceled. The event was named after a lottery where participants bet on numbered, varnished pieces of moose feces, or "moose droppings" dropped from a helicopter onto a target. A softball tournament historically has been held on the same weekend as the Moose Dropping Festival but is not part of the festival itself. Other events that typically held on Moose Dropping Festival weekend included a five-kilometre walk-run—also not a part of the official festival, a Mountain Mother contest, and a parade. The festival went under scrutiny from PETA, and they began a campaign against it after a misinterpretation led them to believe that the festival involved moose being dropped out of helicopters. This took several heated letters and hours of phone conversations to clear up with PETA and make them recognize that moose droppings were being dropped from helicopters, rather than the actual animal.
In December, the Wilderness Woman and Bachelor Auction & Ball takes place.
Talkeetna's largest celebration of the winter, called Winterfest, takes place during the entire month of December, and features a motorized Parade of Lights, a lighted tree in the Village Park, a Taste of Talkeetna, and numerous special events hosted by local businesses and special events at Talkeetna Public Library.
Since Talkeetna is only a census-designated place, it is unincorporated. Talkeetna has a Community Council and its mayor was a cat named Stubbs from 1997 until his death in 2017. It is located in Matanuska-Susitna Borough's District 7, which is represented by Assembly Member Vern Halter, who succeeded borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss.
A popular rumor states Stubbs was elected following a successful write-in campaign by voters who opposed the human candidates. However, according to NPR, the cat could not have been elected as a write-in candidate because "The tiny town has no real mayor, so there was no election." Stubbs ' position is honorary as the town is only a "historical district". On August 31, 2013, Stubbs was attacked and mauled by a dog while roaming the streets and after treatment at the local veterinarian returned home on September 9. Stubbs died on July 21, 2017, at the age of 20 years and 3 months.
Talkeetna Elementary School is located near the heart of downtown Talkeetna. Grades K–5 are taught at this location.
A new Susitna Valley Junior-Senior High School opened in January 2010, replacing the one that burned to the ground in June 2007 while repairs were being made to the roof. In the interim, classes were held in portables on the grounds of the Upper Susitna Senior Center. The mascot of Susitna Valley Junior-Senior High School is the Ram.
Talkeetna has a community radio station, 88.9 KTNA, with locally hosted shows and NPR programming. Talkeetna has a local newspaper, the Good Times, which has a distribution of 7,500 year-round and serves the communities of Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Willow, Houston and Big Lake, with additional distribution along the Parks Highway as far north as Nenana during the summer months. The Good Times is currently published every other week in print. Publishers of the Good Times also publish a local area phone book and an annual visitors guide. Another newspaper, The Alaska Pioneer Press, which was under different ownership and was published monthly, ceased publication in January, 2011, after its owners moved out of the area. Whole Wheat Radio, an independent webcast, began broadcasting in 2002, which was relatively early, and ceased in 2010.
Talkeetna is served by Talkeetna Airport, which is home to several air taxi companies that provide flight seeing trips and support for mountain climbers. Many of the air taxi companies were started to ferry climbers from Talkeetna to Denali, as Talkeetna has the easiest access to the south side of the mountain where the main base camp is located. Legendary bush pilots such as Don Sheldon and Cliff Hudson, both based out of Talkeetna, pioneered glacier flying on Mt. McKinley. Their companies, Talkeetna Air Taxi and Hudson Air Service (now operating as Sheldon Air Service), respectively, are still in operation.
Talkeetna is a stop on the Denali Star, Aurora Winter Train, and Hurricane Turn trains of the Alaska Railroad.
Sunshine Transit Coalition started in March 2009. An educational symposium in 2008 pinpointed transportation as one of the biggest barriers to education and health care. The Coalition's goal was to break down those barriers and make transportation easy and accessible to every resident no matter what their income level. Sunshine Transit, Public Transit for the Upper Susitna Valley runs five days a week along the Talkeetna Spur Road. Future goals include expanding service, and number of vehicles, to Trapper Creek and south on the Parks Highway as well as service in the community of Willow.
The town of Talkeetna was mentioned in Travel Channel's Man vs Food. In season 2 episode 16, the host travels to the Roadhouse, a restaurant in Talkeetna, to sample their unique breakfast dishes. Also featured is West Rib Pub & Cafe.
The town of Cicely from the television series Northern Exposure is said to be patterned after Talkeetna, though filming actually took place in Roslyn, Washington.
The 2002 Disney comedy film Snow Dogs, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., takes place in a fictional Alaska town called Tolketna, most likely inspired by Talkeetna.
Talkeetna features heavily in the Railroad Alaska, a TV Show on the discovery channel. The show has three seasons and deals with the lives of the people who work the railway and the off grid people who depend on the railroad for supplies and access to medical facilities.