After a bit of sightseeing and looking for bears, we left Haines and headed north on Alaska 7 aka the Haines Highway, back to the Alaska Highway. It had been a fun 2 day side trip, but we were now looking forward to arriving in Fairbanks and meeting up with Jerie. It had been 3 months since we last saw her in June. We couldn’t look to far ahead, as there were still interesting things to see and we had 2 1/2 days to arrive in Fairbanks.
The road winds through the Chilkat River Valley for 18 miles. We saw several fish wheels near the road. These are used by Native American tribes to catch spawning salmon.
The valley is also home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. From October to January, 3,000 bald eagles gather on the river for the chum salmon run.
Unfortunately, we only saw 6 eagles, but as they were fighting over fish, they made quite a noise. Can’t even imagine what 3,000 sound like.
Even on a gloomy day, the valley has great scenery.
The Old Dalton Highway is a short side-trip. This was a route that Gold Stampeders took if they landed by ship in Haines to reach the Klondike gold rush in Dawson City.
We crossed over into Canada/British Columbia at the Dalton Cache (cabin) Customs Checkpoint.
The clouds made it difficult to get a good look at the Three Guardsman Mountain, but we tried our best.
As we continued up to the top of Chilkat Pass, the landscape changed to low growing shrubs.
We stopped to view the Tatshenshini River and then crossed into the Yukon Territory. we were now on Hwy 3.
We saw on the map a place called Million Dollar Falls campground. It is located on the Takhanne River. Firewood is provided for free, but we couldn’t quite figure out the lock on the outside of the outhouse door.
There is a very nice walkway to falls.
If you continue of the walkway and path, you will see Takhanne Falls.
The falls were impressive, but so was the walkway!!! We stopped at the Takhanne River Bridge and drove down a dirt road. This area has the densest population of grizzly bear in the Yukon Territory. We were hoping to see a bear but only fall colors, which was okay too.
Next we stopped at Kathleen Lake which is in Kluane National Park. This is supposed to have very good fishing. The Kluane Icefield Range are the world’s largest nonpolar alpine ice field.
We headed towards Haines Junction to stop for the night.
In Haines Junction there is the Village Monument, nicknamed “The Muffin”. It is a 24 foot high sculpture that depicts the area’s wildlife in life-size detail.
We were back on the Alaska Highway, but it was getting late, so we found a spot at the Kluane RV Campground. We got a tent spot for 10 CD and it had free WiFi. The evening view was awesome.
The motor home next to us had 10 women who were headed to a race. They did yoga in the parking lot. We filled up with gas at the campground and got a free bag of ice 🙂 As we go further north we see less traffic, everyone is heading south. After leaving Haines Junction, our first stop was at Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon Territory. 300-400 years ago, the Kaskawulsh Glacier advanced into the lake, blocking the drainage outlet. The lake level rose and the outlet was changed so that the water flowed north to the Yukon river, instead of south to the Gulf of Alaska.
We stopped at Tachal Dhal visitor center. The center was closed for the season, but the telescope was still up and we had great views of Dall Sheep. The small white dots are sheep.
A short distance from the visitor center is a cabin and white cross. This is the cabin and grave of Alexander Clark Fisher, a prospector who came to the area in 1906.
Historic Milepost 1061 is located at Soldier’s Summit. The Alaska Canada Military Highway was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 20, 1942. The parking lot near the highway contains a display and monument for the 50th anniversary of the highway.
We decided to hike the trail to the dedication site. The trail follows the original highway route.
The dedication site seats high above the lake. There were display boards explaining the route around the lake, the bridge that had to be built, and the dedication ceremony.
The red chairs are placed in Canada to show where the best views are.
It was pretty cool to walk on the original highway and stand where history was made. We continued along the lake where we saw beautiful fall colors. We stopped briefly in Burwash Landing to take a picture of the world’s largest gold pan.
We stopped for lunch at the Kluane River overlook. We read about the journey of the female salmon. We looked for wildlife while eating our lunch. Back on the road, we munched on caramel corn and fudge from Skagway.
We had views of the backside of the St. Elias mountains and glaciers.
There was a display explaining the glaciers and a large slide that occurred.
The Donjek River is a main tributary of the White River. It is an Indian word meaning peavine.
With no wind, Reflection Lake lived up to its name. The Kluane Range is in the background.
The mountains looked like they were made of copper.
This section of road is plagued by problems with permafrost. A ventilation program was started, to try to keep the ground frozen and prevent road damage. It didn’t work very well as the road to Delta Junction was BAD!!!
We stopped at the Beaver Creek visitor’s center. Donna, was the attendant. She let us ride the Rollfast bike built in New York City in the 1930s. It has been stolen several times, but is always returned to the quonset hut church.
Beaver Creek is the most westerly town in Canada. The church was built with materials leftover from the highway camps
We stopped at the 141st meridian. This is a 20 foot swath that is 600 miles long. It extends from the Arctic Ocean, south to Mount St. Elias and marks the border between Canada and the US.
Once we crossed over into Alaska, the historic Alaska Highway became Hwy 2/the Purple Heart Trail. We set our sites on staying in Tok, Alaska for the night, but still enjoy the scenery and highway exhibits.
The Tetlin Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center was closed, but we could still walk out on the deck for a view of the valley. More than 115 species of migrating birds, spend the summer at the refuge.
Being in an exploring mode, we saw a set of stairs that led to a path to the Trapper’s cabin. The cabin is an example of what was used in the early 1900’s. We were told that the unusual formations on the trees are a type of burl. They can be made into bowls and other decorative pieces.
We stopped for the night at the Tok RV Village. The nights are getting colder and the campgrounds are beginning to shut down. This is a blessing as the crowds are small, but a hinderance as some history sites have already closed for the season. We did laugh at the sign in the restrooms…we didn’t know that pet showering was such an issue!!! We had a nice warm dinner and went to bed as it began to rain.
We were on our final day, before we reached Fairbanks. We slept in a bit to see if it would stop raining…nope…had oatmeal for breakfast in the pick-up, then stopped at the Tok visitors center. Tok was a construction camp for the Tok cutoff from Anchorage, but the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands on June 7, 1942, changed the priority to the Alcan/Alaska Highway project. Construction crews moved to finish the section from Tok to Delta Junction. The town was originally called Tokyo Camp, but after the Japanese invasion, it was shortened to Tok for patriotic reasons.
We stopped at the Tanacross airfield, which was part of the Lend/Lease program for moving planes to Russia during World War II. This is one of the few runways, that you can drive to easily. The highway was built, connecting the airfields. After the war, Tanacross was used for maneuvers and training. Due to its paved runway, it is now used to re-fuel water tankers during a wildfire. There are 2 runways carved in the forest, 5000 and 5100 feet long.
We came upon a very interesting roadside exhibit…The idea for the Alaska Highway actually gained strength in 1933, when Clyde “Slim” Williams decided to drive a dog sled team to the Chicago’s World’s Fair, to promote the highway construction idea. The Alaska Road Commission asked him to place a banner on his sled and become a spokesperson for the highway proposal. It took 10 months of mushing, but he arrived in September 1933. He was a very popular person and met Firt Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was so impressed that she invited him to Washington DC to meet Pres. Roosevelt. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the highway construction was one of the first items put into play to protect the United States. It was so important to Pres. Roosevelt, that construction on the highway began a month before Canada gave it’s permission for US troops to be on Canadian soil.
The Gerstle River Bridge is one of four “steel through truss-style” on the highway. In 1993 it was renamed Black Veterans Memorial Bridge. Black soldiers played an important role in the highway construction. There were 3,695 soldiers from 5 companies of the US Army Corp of Engineers.
We made a brief stop at Delta Meat and Sausage. It is a family owned business, originally from Montana. They have free sausage samples from a variety of animals. They have a display window, where you can watch the butchers work. They were extremely busy with hunters. The Reindeer sticks were very good.
We arrived in Delta Junction, which is the “official end” of the Alaska Highway. However, Fairbanks, considers itself as the “actual end” of the highway. There was an exhibit for the Purple Heart Highway as well
We learned that the Delta Junction visitor’s center was closed for the season. We were hoping to obtain an Alaska Highway certificate…dang. So we walked around the center and took pictures of the displays.
This summer, we did a 37 mile hike with our adult children. Our poor son-in-law was eaten by the mosquitoes in Yellowstone NP. We took these pictures and sent them to him.
Outside the visitor’s center, there was a display, explaining the various pipelines used over the years. The sizes of the pipelines have drastically increased from the first Canol line. It was also interesting to see and read about the “hog” used to clean the Alaska Pipeline.
We thought perhaps there would be a souvenir shop in Delta Junction where we could get something showing the end of the highway. Everything was closed for the season, so we wandered into the grocery store. They directed us to a small shop next door. They sold Alaska clothing and also had an ice cream parlor. We spotted a 75th Alaska Highway anniversary poster in the window, and asked if they had anymore. She said that was the only one they had, but since the tourist season was over, she would give it to us for free. To show our appreciation, we bought a strawberry milkshake…yum. She said they were made from local ingredients. For our afternoon snack, we had carrots, fudge, cookies, and a milkshake. We really need to get to Fairbanks and replenish our food.
At the Tanana River Bridge, we had our first glimpse of the Alaska Pipeline as it crossed over the river.
We were almost to Fairbanks. We had enjoyed the previous 15 days exploring Canada and the Alaska Highway. We had 2 days, to explore Fairbanks and then we would pick up our daughter Jerie. She was flying to Fairbanks, from Petersburg. Her summer at Pt Baker on Alaska’s Inside Passage was coming to an end. We were excited to see her, but first we had to explore Fairbanks.