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Driving the Alaska Highway in 1948





   

    The photos below were shot in September 1948 by a couple that we only know as "Sarge" and Lorrie. They lived in central Missouri, drove to Alaska early that summer, and spent the season exploring the territory. These photos were shot on Kodachrome slides film during their drive home - 160 slides covering their trip from Anchorage to Edmonton, are in the ExploreNorth collection.

    This page has 38 photos taken along the Alaska Highway between Tok, Alaska, and Dawson Creek, British Columbia, between September 14 and 21.



Part 1: Driving Alaska's Glenn Highway in 1948 (22 photos)



 in 1948
Sarge and Lorrie may have just stopped at the Tok Lodge for a shower, as the photos before and after this one are dated September 14, 1948.


 in 1948
The "US Customs & Immigration office at Tok Junction".


 in 1948
The "Alaska Highway at Tok Junction".


 in 1948
The view from the bridge over the Tanana River.


 in 1948
"Sarge patching air mattress" as the sun sets somewhere between Tok and the US-Canada border.


 in 1948
Entering the Yukon Territory on September 15, 1948, at the border at Historic Milepost 1221, what is now Km 1902.5 (measured from Dawson Creek, British Columbia).


 in 1948
Looking back at the "Entering Alaska" sign - the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection post of Port Alcan is just past the top of that hill.


 in 1948
"What's left of original bridge" over the Donjek River. That bridge was a couple of miles upstream from the current crossing.


 in 1948
"Fixing lunch"


 in 1948
The caption is "'Lost light meter' lake", and the exposures on some of the photos past this are off.


 in 1948
The Yukon River at Whitehorse, on September 16, 1948. The float plane is a Stinson 108, CF-FJY, which was owned by Whitehorse Flying Service. It was completely destroyed when the pilot taxied into one of the ferry cables at Ross River.


 in 1948
This "Native cemetery" is at the bottom of what is now called Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse. The airport is at the top of the cliff above it.


 in 1948
Elsie and Harry's spirit house in the cemetery seen above.


 in 1948
First Avenue or Front Street in Whitehorse. The Northern Commercial Company store is now Horwood's Mall, and the cabin to the right, the old telegraph station, is part of the MacBride Museum.


 in 1948
Sarge and Lorrie spent 3 nights in Whitehorse, but on September 19, 1948, were back on the Alaska Highway, passing Marsh Lake.


 in 1948
Looking back at the Nisutlin Bay bridge at Teslin.


 in 1948
The signpost forest in Watson Lake.


 in 1948
Sarge and Lorrie spent the night of the 19th near Contact Creek. This photo was shot along the Liard River on the 20th.


 in 1948
"Gussie", their 1941 Pontiac, takes a break along the Toad River.


 in 1948
In the Muncho Lake area.


 in 1948
The Liard River bridge, now the last remaining suspension bridge on the Alaska Highway.


 in 1948
Looking back at "The Gorge", at about Km 602, where the highway climbs steeply out of the MacDonald River valley for southbound traffic.


 in 1948
Summit Lake was the site of a large camp during and for a few years after construction of the highway, but all that's left now is a government campground and a long-abandoned lodge. Summit Lake is in Summit Pass, which at 1,295 meters (4,250 feet) elevation, is the highest summit on the Alaska Highway.


 in 1948
Descending southbound from Summit Lake.


 in 1948


 in 1948
The small sign to the right notes that this is "Good water". This is the last photo from September 20th, so that good water may have been a good reason to camp nearby.


 in 1948
"Quonsets & Teepees" seen on September 21, 1948.


 in 1948
"Near Fort Nelson".


 in 1948
This is the view from Trutch Mountain, Historic Mile 178, which was on a 30-mile-long section of the highway that was bypassed in 1987. The old road went to the top of the ridge at 4,134 feet in order to avoid the extensive muskeg below, while the new highway deals with the wet conditions in the bottom of the Minnaker River valley.


 in 1948


 in 1948
The next 4 photos are probably the most significant set in the collection, showing details of the crossing and bridge over the Sikanni Chief River at Historic Mile 162. The first photo, looking north from the bridge, shows the original road going down to the river where the first 2 bridges were. There are many comments online about the bridge over the Sikanni Chief River being built in 84 hours by 166 black soldiers from Company A of the 95th Regiment - it was the first permanent bridge, built of rough logs, that was built that fast, not the one shown in these photos. Before that bridge was built, there was a temporary pontoon bridge.


 in 1948


 in 1948


 in 1948
Looking back to the north. Today's bridge would be just out of view to the right of this view.


 in 1948


 in 1948
Mile 68, about 16 miles north of Charlie Lake.


 in 1948
This is the first permanent bridge over the Peace River at Taylor, Historic Mile 35. The 2,275 foot bridge, constructed at a cost of $1,750,000, was opened on August 30, 1943, replacing ferries which had moved enormous loads of freight, equipment, and people across the river, and by 3 trestle bridges which had been destroyed by high water or ice jams. I've posted a fairly lengthy article from the Whitehorse Star about the opening of that bridge - you can read it here.


 in 1948
The bridge had problems with the north pier sinking, and by 1948, crews were working to try to stabilize it - you can see their equipment in this photo. It was thought by some that the pier had been built on a lens of ice that had been mistaken for bedrock. The bridge collapsed on October 16, 1957, when a large landslide hit the already-unstable pier.




The story continues at:

Part 3: Dawson Creek in 1948 (7 photos)

Part 4: Driving from Dawson Creek to Edmonton in 1948 (12 photos)