The city of Juneau acquired its name from Joe Juneau, a gold prospector in Alaska. Although Juneau was named Rockwell and then Harrisburg (whose full name was Richard Harris and was also Juneau’s co-prospector), the name eventually went to Juneau as it is today. The native Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik’i Héeni which means “river where the flounders gather.”

Downtown Juneau rests at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet (4.9 m), below steep mountains about 3,500 to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) high. On top of these mountains rests the Juneau Icefield, which is a  large mass of ice.  30 glaciers flow from the Juneau ice field. Two of these glaciers, named the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, can be seen from the local road system. The Mendenhall glacier is considered to be in a  general retreat.

The present State Capitol of Alaska is an office building situated in downtown Juneau.  The State Capitol building was originally built in 1931 as the Federal and Territorial Building.  The Juneau Capital Building originally housed federal government offices, the federal courthouse, and a post office before it became the location of the Alaska Legislature and the offices for the governor of Alaska and lieutenant governor of Alaska. There has been mild debate throughout the years on moving the seat of state government and constructing a new capitol building, but there has been no traction gained to provide a serious alternative.