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See any care plans, options and policies that may be associated with this product. Email address. Please enter a valid email address. One essential difference is apparent between the routes discussed in these reports and the one upon which the Alaska Highway is now built. Previous proposals contemplated the utilization of existing Canadian roads from Seattle and Spokane to Prince George or Hazelton, thereafter following the so-called "Rocky Mountain Trench" lying between the Pacific Coast Range and the Rocky Mountains.
The Alaska Highway stems from midwestern rather than western states, and its southern portion lies east of the Rocky Mountains. Basic to the selection of this location is the logic which finally determined construction of the road. Air transport had come of age, whether for civilian or military purposes. The great-circle course from the North American center of population to the Orient lies generally along the route which the Highway follows. Long range plans for offensive thrusts toward the Orient indicated the necessity for availability of speedy movement of personnel and war materiel to Alaskan points.
The time-honored method of steamer travel was too slow for dependence in crises, vulnerable to hostile naval actions as well. The air was the answer. The Rockies interposed a defensive screen from less favorable flying weather over the Pacific coast, and from possible coastal attack. Canada established a series of small airports along the direct, great-circle course, later to be enlarged and improved by the United States. Regardless of its function in times of peace, the Alaska Highway has been planned and built primarily to facilitate the development of these fields and their operation for military purposes.
Dawson Creek became the southern terminus of the Highway, not because of road connections from the southeast, which are anything but favorable, but because it is the present "end of steel" from that direction, a railhead and a base for operations. At first, it was planned for engineer troops to thrust a pioneer road through the wilderness, and for a group of civilian contractors under direction of the Public Roads Administration to follow with construction of a standard highway, using the Army pioneer road for access.
Plans were later modified so that, in many places, work of the contractors was improvement of the pioneer location rather than construction of an entire new road. By this means a reasonable compromise was achieved between speed of completion and standards of construction. Acclaim has been accorded, and rightfully, to the pertinacity and resourcefulness which accomplished completion of the pioneer road in , to willing endurance of physical hardships and to victory over difficulties in connection with services of supply.
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Progress during was less spectacular but no less effective. During that summer the character of the road changed from that of a passable trail to that of a gravel road of high standards, with permanent bridges and drainage structures, adequate for tourist or commercial traffic, if maintained in accordance with usual practice.
The Route and its Recreational Resources. Road approach from the States to Dawson Creek is long and onerous. The population center of the nation at the time of the census was about 36 miles south of Terre Haute, Ind. The shortest main highway distance from there to Dawson Creek, by way of Edmonton, is 2, miles, and to Fairbanks 4, miles. The drive across the level prairie land of North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan is not at all inspiring and will be regarded by most tourists as a necessary chore before enjoyment of the trip can really begin.
In general, before reaching the Alaska Highway, road standards decrease as distance from concentrations of population increases. The highway system of western Canada, because of the ratio between mileage and persons served, does not yet afford ease of travel common in the States. In , the Province of Alberta maintained a total of more than 92, miles of road; a typical mile would have been paved 4 feet, bituminous-surfaced 35 feet, graveled feet, and plain earth for 5, feet.
The meandering route from Edmonton to Dawson Creek is of such low standard that it will discourage many potential visitors to Alaska from going farther afield. Until it has been improved, full benefits from recreational travel will not be realized from the Alaska Highway. Terms of the agreement between the United States and Canada covering construction of those parts of the Highway which lie within the Dominion provide that Canada shall furnish the necessary rights of way and that the United States shall construct the Highway and maintain it "until the termination of the present war and for six months thereafter unless the Government of Canada prefers to assume responsibility at an earlier date of so much of it as lies in Canada".
They further provide that at the war's end "that part of the highway which lies in Canada shall become in all respects a part of the Canadian highway system, subject to an understanding that there shall at no time be imposed any discriminatory conditions in relation to the use of the road as between Canadian and United States civilian traffic". There appears no stipulation of degree of maintenance by either government. John, crossing on the way one of Canada's largest rivers, the Peace.
From Fort St. John to a short stub road connecting with the Fort Nelson airport the route is through a rolling, wooded terrain, much of the way along the ridges, in order to avoid, so far as possible, the muskeg country to the east. Fifty miles west of Fort Nelson the road enters the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and follows the Tetsa River to Summit Lake elevation 4, , the highest point on the Alaska Highway.
Muncho Lake, 70 miles beyond the divide, is one of the beauty spots of the Canadian journey. Dropping down to the Liard River, another great northern stream, the Highway emerges from the mountains, crosses the Liard, and follows its northerly bank to Watson Lake, which lies just inside the southern limits of the Yukon Territory. Here again, a stub road leads to a major airport. Progress is generally westward from Watson Lake, without great deviation from the British Columbia-Yukon boundary as far as Teslin Lake, crossing from MacKenzie to Yukon drainage and encountering much swampy terrain.
Skirting the northeast shore of Teslin Lake, the highway crosses its outlet river, and swinging southwest to Marsh Lake, follows the Lewes River to Whitehorse, with a detour possible by way of Carcross, a community on Lake Bennett, of considerable importance in the days of '98 and even now connected by summer steamer with Atlin, mining center of northern British Columbia. Whitehorse is the only community of consequence from beginning to end of the Alaska Highway, and here the tourist will do well to break his trip and tarry awhile in contemplation of the changes which the years have wrought.
The Bonanza strike of , near Dawson, brought between 30, and 50, persons to the Klondike within a year. Many of these passed through what is now Whitehorse, choosing the hazardous trails from Skagway by way of Chilkoot Pass or White Pass. Reaching Lake Bennett, the gold seekers provided themselves with boats for the journey by water to Dawson. The most dangerous part of the trip was at Miles Canyon, through which the Lewes River rushes in a series of rapids, called Whitehorse because of a fancied resemblance of wave-foam to flying manes.
At the foot of the rapids boats were bailed out and gear spread to dry. Here on the east bank the old town of Whitehorse sprang up, across the river from the present site. Jack London was one of those who piloted inexperienced boatmen through the rapids, and Robert Service worked as a clerk in Whitehorse and in Dawson.
WHO REPRESENTS ME?
Rex Beach and Joaquin Miller were other writers who experienced the thrills of the Klondike. In , Whitehorse was a sleepy reminder of the boom-days town of With a population of about half a thousand, it was primarily important as the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Ry. When construction of the Alaska Highway began, Whitehorse once more became a jam-packed center of hectic bustle and frenzied industry. Headquarters of the Northwest Service Command, established by the Army to handle the Highway, it teemed with the activities of that agency. It is a key location in the much-mooted petroleum recovery system whereby crude oil is pumped from the Norman Wells field to new refineries at Whitehorse, whence the products are distributed by pipe line in both directions for the entire length of the Highway and to tidewater at Skagway.
Although the end of the war will bring lessening of congestion at Whitehorse, some of the operations there begun will no doubt continue under peacetime conditions. Westward from Whitehorse the Highway follows the general alignment of old trails in the valleys of the Takhini and Dezadeash Rivers to Kluane Lake. At Champagne, a settlement at the junction of these trails with a former one through Chilkat Pass from the south, atop a knoll beside the road, is an old burying ground in which the Indian graves are covered by miniature houses, complete in detail of windows and curtains, according to tribal custom.
A hundred miles west of Whitehorse the Highway is joined by the present day version of the old trail through Chilkat Pass, the Haines Military Road or Cutoff, integral and important part of the Alaska Highway. This road, miles long, follows for 42 miles a road built earlier by the Alaska Road Commission from the port of Haines to the Canadian border. The last part of the way lies within the Yukon Territory, skirting Dezadeash and Kathleen Lakes, and joining with the through route of the Alaska Highway to form the northeast boundary of a tract of some 10, square miles which has been reserved by the Dominion Government so that it may be available, in present condition, for establishment as a national park.
About miles west of Whitehorse the Alaska Highway reaches Kluane Lake and then follows its southwestern shore for about 40 miles to Burwash Landing. Kluane ranks with Muncho Lake in scenic aspect, but the pioneer road, climbing to a vantage point at Soldier's Summit, offered more spectacular vistas than does the present easier gradient along the water edge. Kluane at the southern end, and Burwash Landing near the northerly limits of the lake, are long-established trading posts. Before the relative ease of access brought by the Highway, Burwash Landing was expeditionary headquarters for many a party of wealthy big-game hunters.
The Highway will affect this activity considerably. Downstream is displayed an instance of "braiding" which is to become so familiar later in the glacial streams of Alaska. This section is characterized by views of the St. Elias Mountains to the south, particularly up the valleys from stream crossings. From the White River to the Alaska boundary, at the st meridian of west longitude and miles from Whitehorse, the trend is more to the north, through low hills, across many streams, and past numerous lakes, smaller than Kluane but interesting as the panorama unfolds.
The Highway crosses the border in a swampy valley. North and south stretch narrow slots, cleared through the wilderness to define the boundary between two great Territories. Five miles beyond the border the road climbs from the swamp, and thereafter follows the north side of the Tanana Valley. At first the highway dips and swirls amid the light-green summer foliage of birch and aspen, through pleasant rolling terrain; later the enclosing hills incline more steeply toward the valley floor, and from the way along the slope more frequent vistas to the south are opened through the now prevailing spruce.
The level foreground is strewn with lakes of varying size, and near at hand the snaky trace of the Chisana accompanies the course of the Highway. Enclosing the valley on the south are the Nutzotin Mountains, and beyond these are revealed the higher summits of the Wrangells.
Forty-three miles from the border a short branch road crosses the Chisana and leads to the Northway airport, 6 miles south among the lakes. Five miles beyond this point the Highway overlooks the Chisana and Nabesna Rivers, glacier-born but now calm, as they unite to form the Tanana. As the Highway proceeds the prospect is without decided change.
The northwestward march of the Nutzotin Mountains is continued by the Mentastas. Tanana's course is not less tortuous than that of tributary Chisana; occasional ox-bows and back water channels attest the constant struggle to achieve its final bed. Valley lakes are more evident than ever; for more than a mile the Highway follows the shore of Midway Lake, which, over 3 miles long, is said not to exceed 8 feet in depth. Swooping across the Tanana 83 miles beyond the Yukon line, the Alaska Highway forsakes the hills and fleets arrow-straight for 11 miles across the level valley floor to Tok Junction, bridging the Tok River about midway.
This is a relocation of the preliminary route, which followed the hills north of the Tanana, crossed the river downstream from its juncture with the Tok, and thus avoided bridging the lesser stream. At Tok Junction, now only a meeting place of roads in the surrounding monotony of level and uniform spruce growth, the Mentasta Road section of the Alaska Highway swings southward to connect with other highways leading to Valdez and Anchorage. Twelve miles from Tok Junction, pursuing the tangent course toward Fairbanks, the Alaska Highway is crossed by a short diagonal road.
To the left is a radio beam station, to the right the Tanacross airport, separated by the Tanana River from the Indian village known as Tanana Crossing. Five miles beyond, the Highway leaves the valley floor and again resumes its rolling way, this time along the lower slopes south of the Tanana. The valley narrows, and the hills at Cathedral Rapids confine the route. Beyond this brief constriction the road rides a series of plateaus which are some what elevated above the river, dipping slightly to cross the main streams as they are encountered, the Robertson, Johnson, Little Gerstle, and Gerstle.
Alignment is now easier, with sweeping curves and longer tangents than prevail east of the Tanana. About 75 miles from Tok Junction, before reaching the Gerstle, begins a tangent which continues, with slight deviations, the remaining 33 miles to the technical end of the Alaska Highway, its junction with the Richardson, about 10 miles south of the point where that highway crosses the Tanana River. This section is scenically mediocre, resembling that from the Tanana River bridge to Tanacross.
Alignment and profile are monotonously straight, and the way is hedged by solid spruce growth, of little interest to the traveler. Occasionally the tedium is enlivened, at stream crossings, by views northward across the broadened valley or southward to the Alaska Range. Perhaps development of this section for agriculture, to which it seems suited, will open vistas and add interest to the scene.
Return now to Tok Junction and the Mentasta Road southward along the general route of the old Eagle trail of Captain Abercrombie's day. The way lies straight and level for 8 miles across the broad confluence of Tok and Tanana Valleys. Thereafter, twisting and turning, the road climbs the narrowed valley of the Tok, first on the west bank and later on the east, until the river swings sharply away to the west, whereat the route abandons it and veers up the valley of the tributary Little Tok as far as Mineral Lake, about 34 miles from the start at the highway junction.
Swinging westward along Mentasta Creek and through Mentasta Pass, the road rounds beautiful Mentasta Lake, crosses the Slana River, and drops down its westerly bank to the almost deserted settlement of Slana, where it joins the Abercrombie Trail. Travelers for recreation will find Mentasta Road the most engrossing portion of the Alaska Highway. Its scenic environment is superior and the route interesting, more intimate in character than the Highway generally.
Forest Resource & Allowable Cut - Fairbanks Working Circle (Alaska)
In following one of the defiles through the Alaska Range, it mounts to an elevation higher than any traversed by road in the Tanana Valley. Near the pass, 50 miles from Tok Junction. Mentasta Lake offers pause in the hurried schedule, and invites dalliance by its mountain-mirroring waters. The lake is almost completely encircled by intermediate heights of the Alaska Range, yet these are at such distance that they appear in pleasing perspective, and not so close that only immediate foreground slopes are visible.
The effect is of spaciousness and of extended views rather than of restriction. Mentasta is almost the only spot along the Alaska Highway which merits development of a recreational nature to provide for more than a casual overnight stop by the tourist. Standards of alignment and construction have been somewhat lower for the Mentasta Road than for other Alaskan portions of the Highway.
This may be due to the more rugged nature of terrain traversed, and perhaps also to the greater military significance of highway access from the east toward Fairbanks. The present road over Mentasta Pass is hazardous, with narrow shoulders, sharp curves and grades, and inadequate sight distances. In common with the Haines Cutoff, it must be made comparable with the through route to Fairbanks before maximum tourist use is possible. Tourist Accommodations. There are no provisions for entertainment of travelers along the Alaska Highway within the Territory.
The only communities within miles of the route are Native villages at Tetlin and Tanacross, and even these are separated from it by the Tanana. There has been no chance for establishment of commercial roadhouses because of the withdrawal from entry of lands adjacent to the Highway, nor will any establishment of this nature be possible until the withdrawal has been relaxed. During the periods of construction and military operation, accommodations for persons who were concerned with these functions were available at temporary roadside camps maintained by the Army and by civilian contractors.
Earliest unit in the Alaskan system, this highway links the Gulf seaport of Valdez with Fairbanks, commercial and mining center of the great Interior. Richardson, in whose honor a tablet has been placed at Isabelle Pass, the highest point reached by the highway. Captain Abercrombie's military explorations of resulted, two years later, in construction by the War Department of a pack trail from Valdez to Eagle, by way of Copper Center, Mentasta Pass, and what is now Tanacross.
By successive stages this direct route from Valdez to Fairbanks has been improved, and in it reached automobile standards. Principally because of heavy snow slides in the extreme south portion it has not been kept open to through winter use, although local traffic continues in some sections. Its total length is miles. From a scenic standpoint, two locations will be of particular tourist interest, the crossing of the Alaska Range between Big Delta and Gulkana, and the down-hill slide at the southern end from Thompson Pass elevation 2, to Valdez, 25 miles away.
The drive from Fairbanks southeast to Big Delta is rather commonplace, save for occasional glimpses of the Tanana River and Salchaket and Birch Lakes, where vacation colonies serving Fairbanks have come into being. From Pillsbury Dome, near the highway, the panorama of Tanana Valley unfolds to the northward. Beyond Isabelle Pass elevation 3, , the highest point on the Richardson Highway, are Summit and Paxson Lakes, favorite fishing haunts.
This is wild-game country, with bear, moose, and mountain sheep. Midway from Copper Center to Valde the scenery becomes more interesting and intimate, the road follows swift mountain streams and the monotonous regularity of relatively level spruce growth becomes varied. The long climb of 1, feet in 22 miles begins; tree growth dwindles and Worthington Glacier is openly visible, within a quarter-mile of the roadside. Thompson Pass is rather bare of vegetation, the surfacing stones flattened by ancient glaciers. Here, atop the Chugach Range, begins the descent to Valdez.
The road drops 2, feet and, following the Lowe River, offers Snowslide Gulch, where the bridge must be replaced annually, aptly-titled Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls over feet high, and Keystone Canyon. From its cliff-like sides the Lowe may be seen, far below. Relocation and tunnel construction, begun in , will bring this short section of road almost to river level, improving the highway gradient and avoiding Snowslide Gulch, but depriving the sightseer of a measure of scenic splendor.
The last ten miles of the way to the sea at Valdez are through lush tree growth, festooned with streamers of moss, characteristic enough of conditions along Alaska's southeasterly coast but strangely at variance with the country traversed on the trip from Fairbanks. Accommodations for the recreational traveler along the Richardson are not adequate, and must be supplemented if visitors reach Alaska in expected numbers.
There are no hotels or tourist camps as such are known in the States. Scattered along its miles of length there have been as many as two dozen roadhouses, but the transition from pack horse to motor stage, coupled with diminution of private travel during the war period, has forced most of them to abandon operation.
Some of them may be revived by a resurgence of business, others are in advanced stages of decay and irrecoverable. Perhaps no more than five or six in all would fit into the required program of travel facilities. The Alaska roadhouse is an institution which must be encountered familiarly to be appreciated. There the term does not connote in the least the type of use or misuse which has come to be associated with it in the States. Alaska roadhouses are functional necessities to travel through country populated sparsely or not at all.
They are inns or taverns in the honest, Colonial sense, providing food and shelter for the traveler today as they did for his predecessor a generation ago, but now supplying oil and gasoline for the motor car instead of the hay and grain required by its equine forerunner. More, they often serve as trading posts for tributary populations, whether Native or white, sources of supply for pack trains, prospectors, and trappers, the first link in the chain of processes through which the raw pelt becomes milady's stole.