History of the Alaska Highway

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.

cycling the Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway

bear on Alaska Highway

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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