Juneau was named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). Several books credit the Tlingit Chief Kowee with showing these prospectors where the gold was). The Tlingit name of the town is "river where the flounders gather", and Auke Bay just north of Juneau proper is called Aak'w "little lake" in Tlingit. The Taku River, just south of Juneau, was named after the cold t'aakh wind, which occasionally blows down from the mountains. Downtown Juneau sits 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. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, are visible from the local road system; the Mendenhall glacier has been generally retreating; its front face is declining both in width and height.
The current Alaska State Capitol is an office building in downtown Juneau, originally built as the Federal and Territorial Building in 1931. Originally housing federal government offices, the federal courthouse, and a post office, it became the home of the Alaska Legislature and the offices for the governor of Alaska and lieutenant governor of Alaska. Through the years, there has been discussion on relocating the seat of state government and building a new capitol, without significant development.