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h e l l o
n o r t h
. c o m
The Alaska Highway is a
popular scenic route that is
completely paved, offers a
complete range of services
and is open year round.
Alaska Highway Story
The Alaska Highway, formerly known as
the Alcan (Alaska Canadian) Highway,
winds its way through wilderness
connecting Dawson Creek, BC, Delta
Junction and Fairbanks, Alaska. President
Herbert Hoover considered an overland
link from the lower 48 to Alaska as early
as 1930.
It was not until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in
1941 that construction of the highway was
deemed a military necessity as a supply road to
defend North America against the Japanese.
Officially, the highway began on March 8, 1942
with a group starting north from Dawson Creek, a
small town of 600; the highway was completed
eight months later on October 25, 1942.
More than 11,000 American troops, including
seven regiments of engineers, 16,000 civilian
workmen from Canada and the United States
and 7,000 pieces of equipment were thrown
into the herculean task of penetrating the 1500
miles of mountains, muskeg and mosquitoes in
freezing temperatures.
For the soldiers and workers, it was a difficult life.
Fatigue, hypothermia and accidents were a part
of every day life as the workers set down eight miles
of road a day, seven days a week. The general route
of the highway was along a line of existing trails
and airfields from Edmonton, Alberta to Fairbanks,
Alaska. This chain of airfields was known as the
Northwest Staging Route.
On September 24, 1942 soldiers met at Contact
Creek, near the BC Yukon border marking the
completion of the southern sector. The road was
literally bulldozed through the wilderness. Road
conditions of the Alcan were horrific with 90 degree
turns and 25 percent grades.
Then, on a cold day on November 20, 1942, 250
soldiers, civilians and Royal Canadian Mounted
Policemen watched as officials from the United
States and Canada cut the ribbon to officially
open this major road link. The ceremony took
place at Mile 1061, known as "Soldiers Summit".
The Americans paid for the construction of the
highway and turned the Canadian portion over to
the Canadian government in April 1946. The
highway was officially opened to the public in
1948. On September 28th, 1996 at a ceremony
in Dawson Creek, BC, the Alaska Highway was
designated as the 16th International Historic Civil
Engineering Landmark.
Historical Photos courtesy of South
Peace Historical Society
The Story of the
Alaska Highway