Alaska Highway

  • Dawson Creek
  • Fort St. John
  • Fort Nelson
  • Watson Lake
  • Whitehorse
  • Haines Junction
  • Tok
  • Delta Junction

The Alaska Highway is a road from Dawson Creek in the Canadian province of British Columbia to Delta Junction in the U.S. state of Alaska. The original name ALCAN comes from the time when the road is of military origin and an acronym for Alaska -Canada (military highway ). Officially got the road in March 1942 its present name. After the completion of the highway was a pure gravel road. Since then the road has been continuously expanded and straightened. Characterized it is now about 60 km shorter than the original range. With the exception of construction sites, it is now paved for the entire length. An informal system of historical milestones has been developed over the years to identify important points; Delta Junction at the end of the highway has accordingly milestone in 1422, which stands on the site where the Alaska Highway meets the Richardson Highway, which is still 155 km or 96 mi on to Fairbanks. This section is often regarded as the northern portion of the Alaska Highway, with Fairbanks as a milestone 1520th In this section, the milestones of Valdez, Alaska are measured. The Alaska Highway is often regarded as part of the Pan -American Highway, which leads to Argentina.

The Alaska Highway was recorded in 1995 by the American Society of Civil Engineers in the List of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.

Architectural History

The first plans for a road connection to Alaska, there were already 1930, the U.S. President Herbert Hoover. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the vulnerability of Alaska and therefore the military significance of such a road was evident. On February 6, 1942, the building was supported by the U.S. Army and arranged five days later by President Roosevelt.

In March, the United States and Canada joined a bilateral right of way agreement. After the United States took over construction costs on Canadian territory. In return, Canada provided the building materials available and waived taxes, import duties and immigration formalities along the Alaska Highway. The contract also provided that the part passes entirely on Canadian territory after the end of World War II in Canadian property.

The road layout has been set by the military. It was based on existing airstrips between Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta and Fairbanks in Alaska. This chain of airstrips had been used to move nearly 8,000 airplanes of Great Falls in Montana for the Ladd Air Force Base near Fairbanks in the north. Of these, 2,618 aircraft were brought further type Bell P -39 Airacobra over Siberia to the Russian eastern front.

The construction was driven with a massive use of human and material. About 10,000 soldiers were used. Tents, food, equipment and machinery had to be brought. In April 1942, the works of the two largest camps in Whitehorse and Fort began, starting with St. John. The concrete road was laid down by existing winter roads, the Native ways, rivers and sometimes by local decisions based on local conditions. As long distances were mapped only opened insufficient even airplanes were used to explore the most appropriate course of the road. Under the harshest conditions military and civilians working seven days a week at the completion. The main problem here formed of replenishment.

In June 1942, Japanese troops occupied the western Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska. By this attack the completion of the Alaska Highway was an even greater urgency. ( See also: Battle of the Aleutian Islands )

Last but not least driven by the pressure of the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, met coming from the west with the construction crews coming from the east each other already on 25 September 1942. In October, the entire route was navigable throughout. The official inauguration with the cutting of a ribbon opening on November 20.


Note: With the introduction of the metric system in Canada in the seventies and by the changed route here the old milestones have been replaced with new milestones and adapted to the changing distances. In the USA, the Anglo-American system of measurement is still used and the distance information is based on the historical. This leads to the US-American - Canadian border to a discrepancy of 32 miles. The distance information in the guidebooks are based mostly on the standard publication The Milepost, which refers to the current mileage and milestones. The following distances are The Milepost, 2003 edition, removed.

  • 0 km: The Alaska Highway begins at the Traffic Circle in Dawson Creek. The city is located about 600 kilometers northwest of Edmonton and is named after George Mercer Dawson Canadian geographers. It has 12,800 inhabitants and is situated in a hilly cereal farmland.
  • 55 km: The highway crosses the Peace River. The construction of this bridge was taken directly to the start of construction in attack and replaced two ferries. Due to washouts this bridge collapsed in 1957 and in 1960 replaced by the current.
  • 76 km: Fort St. John the headquarters for the Eastern phase of construction was. The city was home to temporarily up to 6,000 soldiers and civilian construction workers. Today the town owes its wealth to oil and gas deposits. With 17,000 inhabitants, Fort St. John is the last major city to Whitehorse, which is located 1350 km to the northwest.
  • 117 km: The first of the four mentioned in the historical overview airstrips that were used for the relocation of fighter aircraft in the North.
  • 233 km: On the original highway was located here the so-called suicide hill. Before this accident focus warned a sign reading Prepare to meet thy maker. ( Prepare yourself, your creator oppose ). Of these accidents involved was defused by a new road layout.
  • 283 km: The new road layout around the Trutch Mountain, named after the first Governor of British Columbia, Joseph. W. Trutch, today spared the increase on the former second highest with 1,260 m pass the highway.
  • 454 km: Fort Nelson is named after the British Admiral Horatio Nelson. The village with 4,400 inhabitants, is due to a fur trading post and was moved five times.
  • 699 km: Originally ran here the road above the picturesque Muncho Lake.
  • 760 km: The 1943 -built bridge over the Liard River is the last remaining suspension bridge on the Alaska Highway. The next 150 km the road extends substantially along the river. In addition, here is the entrance to the Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park. Sulfur-containing thermal springs feed two basins where water temperatures of 42 ° C to 52 ° C can swim all year round.
  • 968 km: border of British Columbia and Yukon.
  • 980 km: Watson Lake, lying on the same lake, is a town with 1,000 inhabitants. Originally it was known as Fish Lake. The name was changed by Frank Watson, who settled with his wife in 1898. Importantly, the place was by the construction of an airfield, which was required for the relocation of the aircraft in the north to the intermediate refueling. Today, Watson Lake is a major crossing point and supply center in northwestern Canada. From running here in east-west direction Alaska Highway branch off to the south of the Cassiar Highway and north of the Campbell Highway. Main attraction and landmark of the city is the Watson Lake Sign Post Forest. In 1942, the U.S. soldier Carl K. Lindley ( 1919-2002 ) brought from Danville in Illinois the sign of his hometown at the turnoff to the Campbell Highway on. Although this original sign was stolen later, many followed his example. By September 2003, more than 50,000 signs were (mainly place names from around the world ) attached. The way to Teslin by the Cassiar Mountains founded the bad reputation of the Alaska Highway with millions of potholes, most slopes and deep mud holes. These are eliminated today, and the road passes through wide curves on moderate slopes.
  • 1120 km: The Continental Divide separates the basin of the Yukon River, which empties into the Bering Sea, and thus to the Pacific, from that of the Mackenzie River, which flows into the Beaufort Sea and thus into the Arctic Ocean.
  • 1243 km: The Nisutlin Bay Bridge is 584 m, the longest water bridge spanning the highway. The 411 residents of the small village of Teslin Teslin Lake on are almost exclusively natives of the culture of the Tlingit Indians.