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Alaska Highway including AB #43, BC #97, YU #1

What to See & Do along the Alaska Highway?

This highway is on many people’s “bucket list” and has only exists since World War II. The road is only 2 lanes, and is paved. The scenery is rugged and remote and crosses mountain ranges, tundra, and muskeg. Wildlife will be a highlight!

Alaska Highway - from Edmonton to Alaska via BC and Yukon

The Alaska highway was built during America’s involvement in World War II to provide logistical support to Alaska, fearing attack of Alaska by Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, and fear of the Japanese using Alaska as a staging point for invasion of North America. It was also built to support the ferrying of aircraft from factories in Seattle, Detroit, and St Louis to America’s Russian ally over the Bering Strait.  The bombing of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, by the Japanese on June 3-4, 1942 (a feint to distract from their coming  attack of Midway), made these threats all too real. The route was first considered in 1930, but deferred as non-priority over the Great Depression.

Construction of the Alaska Highway officially began March 11, 1942,  three months after Pearl Harbor. The initial shipments of construction equipment  and material (over 250 thousand tons of it) were shipped into the port of Valdez and by air to the various Northwest Staging Route airfields.  Over 10,000 soldiers began the leapfrog construction of the road, with one main crew starting from the north end in Alaska, and another working up from the south near Edmonton, Alberta.  The first version  was completed as a “pioneer road” by the Army Corps of Engineers on Nov. 20, 1942, and was a log corduroy road (using the vast forest of the region) over the muck bog, muskeg and thawing permafrost terrain an was only 12 feet wide with 3 foot shoulders (and a maximum ten percent grade). Over 1943 the road was upgraded, layering two feet of dirt and crushed gravel on top, and widening the finished road to 24 feet, with 6-foot shoulders and 7 percent maximum grade, making the highway passable for  most vehicles. One-way temporary bridges were replaced with steel permanent structures over the region’s major waterways: The Tanana River Bridge, the Tok River Bridge, the Robertson River Bridge, the Johnson River Bridge and the Big Gerstle River Bridge (later renamed the Black Veterans Memorial Bridge)

The  Alaska Highway was opened  to civilian non-military in 1948 when Greyhound tour buses braved the primitive conditions, and several American families drove up to homestead in Alaska.  Paving of the entire Alaska section of the highway was completed in the 1960s.  Work continues to smooth the curves, upgrade the bridges,  and add other elements to keep the highway up to current safe highway standards.

 


NOTE:

The Alaska Highway starting point is where Highway 43 begins its northern route from the #16 Yellowhead Highway west of Edmonton, just west of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. In Alberta it goes through Whitecourt, Valleyview, and passes by Grande Prairie. In British Columbia,  The Alaska Highway (now Highway 97) passes through Dawson Creek, Fort St John, and Fort Nelson. IN the Yukon, the Highway become Yukon #1 and passes through Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and Haines Junction.