One very important segment of the Pan-American Highway is the Alaska Highway. The Alaska Highway was constructed during World War II and connects the Continental US with Alaska. It starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and extends 1422 miles until it ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.
Prior to World War II there was no land route to Alaska. Although people had talked about the possibility of building a road, there wasn’t enough interest. After all, there were only a few thousand people living in the area, and the road would be very expensive.
The war changed all that. Suddenly there was the threat of a Japanese invasion – and the USA had no way of defending Alaska. Seeing as how there was no road, the Army had no way of getting there, should a problem arise. The government quickly reconsidered and decided they needed the road for military purposes.
In 1942, thousands of soldiers were sent to Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon to build the Alaska Highway. In 8 ½ months, they cut 1422 miles of road through the forest. Crews worked from both ends, and met on September 24, 1942 at Mile 588 at Contact Creek. The highway was dedicated on November 20, 1942 at Soldiers Summit.
At that time, the road was merely a rough dirt track through the forest. There were very, very steep hills and some sections of the road were so muddy they were nearly impassable.
Over the years, however, the road has been steadily improved. Some sections of the highway have been redesigned so they aren’t so steep, others have been straightened out so they aren’t so twisty and windy. The muddy sections have been covered with layer upon layer of gravel. The entire road has been widened and paved.
Now, the Alaska Highway is a great road with a mostly smooth surface and an adequate shoulder most of the way. It still travels through very wild country, however, and is certainly a road to adventure.
The history of the Alaska Highway is a journey through time.