The Alaska Highway: A Road of Wilderness Mystique – From Dawson Creek to Fairbanks

A Wildlife Wonderland
The Alaska Highway is a living gallery of North America’s most majestic creatures. Travelers often encounter:

Black bears foraging by the roadside
Dall sheep on mountain slopes
Moose and elk wandering the forests
Grizzlies in the distance
Lone wolves crossing the path
Caribou, so frequently seen they become a common sight
One of the most dramatic wildlife spectacles is the sight of a bald eagle hunting salmon. These powerful birds of prey are known to dive into rivers, grappling with large fish, a testament to the raw survival instincts that define this wilderness.

A Road Steeped in History
The construction of the Alaska Highway is a story of human tenacity and engineering prowess. Completed in just eight months during World War II, it was a strategic route designed to connect Alaska with the continental United States. The highway also facilitated the transport of warplanes to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program. At its construction peak, approximately 11,000 US soldiers and 7,500 civilians worked in harsh conditions, facing extreme cold and challenging terrain to build this remarkable road.

The Human Mosaic Along the Highway
The Alaska Highway is not just about the landscapes and wildlife; it’s also about the people who inhabit this frontier. Travelers can meet colorful characters like Dean “Old Griz” Elston, a seasoned gold panner and one of the original bulldozer operators who worked on the highway’s construction. The road is dotted with lodges, bush plane operators, gas rig workers, and truck drivers, each with their own stories and contributions to the highway’s legacy.

The Journey Itself
Every year, around 200,000 people travel the Alaska Highway, with many opting for the comfort of the Greyhound bus service, affectionately known as “riding the dog.” The journey begins at the Mile Zero signpost in Dawson Creek and winds through diverse landscapes, from serene prairies to the rugged Rockies. The route passes through provincial parks, historic communities, and along ancient trails, offering a constantly changing backdrop for travelers.

Cultural and Natural Landmarks
Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake: A collection of over 20,000 signs from around the world, started by a homesick soldier in 1942.
Whitehorse: The capital of Yukon, blending pioneer history with modern amenities and serving as a reminder of the Klondike gold rush.
Kluane National Park: Home to the world’s largest non-polar icefields and a rich ecosystem supporting a diverse range of fish and wildlife.
The Final Stretch to Fairbanks
Approaching Fairbanks, the highway passes through North Pole, Alaska, a whimsical town where thousands of children’s letters to Santa Claus are received each year. It’s a fitting end to a journey that is, in many ways, about fulfilling the dream of adventure along one of the world’s most storied roads.

For those inspired to take this journey, visit Travel Tidings Alaska for more information and insights from Eldrid and Ursula Retief, who have made the trip and chronicled their experiences.

Interesting stats and facts about the Alaska Highway that are often overlooked include the environmental impact of its construction and the ongoing maintenance challenges due to permafrost and extreme weather conditions. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, the highway requires constant attention to remain passable, with millions of dollars invested annually in repairs and upgrades.