Northern Highways - Alaska, the Yukon & northern British Columbia
The James Dalton Highway was built in 1974 to facilitate construction of the
Trans Alaska Pipeline. It was named to honour James William Dalton, an engineer involved in early oil exploration efforts on Alaska's North Slope.
Until December 1994, travellers needed a permit to drive north of Disaster Creek (Mile 211) in the summer, or north of the Yukon River crossing the rest of the year. Though still primarily an industrial haul road, the Dalton sees increasing numbers of adventurous tourists each year, from hikers and wildflower photographers to RVers and motorcoach passengers.
It is very important for the independent traveller to come well prepared.
A vehicle should carry two spare tires, and be equipped with emergency supplies suitable for
the season. The only places to get fuel, food (meals, not groceries), and lodging are at
the Yukon Crossing, Coldfoot and Deadhorse. Lodging is available in Wiseman. The most important points along the highway are:
- Mile 0: end of the Elliott Highway, 84 miles north of Fairbanks
- Mile 56: Yukon River Bridge
- Mile 115: Arctic Circle
- Mile 175: Coldfoot
- Mile 189: sideroad to Nolan (1.6 miles) and Wiseman (3 miles)
- Mile 194: view of Sukakpak Mountain (4,459 feet)
- Mile 244: Atigun Pass (4,800 feet)
- Mile 414: Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay)
"Paving" of the highway is ongoing, but the chipseal used on most sections breaks up fairly quickly, and in total about 3/4 of the road is still gravel. A 1999 report by the US Department of Transportation estimated that it would cost $165 million to pave the entire 414 miles.
Coldfoot, at Mile 175, was first settled by gold miners about 1898, but totally disappeared, only to be reborn as a service center for truckers and now tourists.
The Dalton Highway ends at Deadhorse, Mile 414. Deadhorse is the "public" part of Prudhoe Bay, a conglomeration of oil camps which is the official community (ZIP code 99734). Though Deadhorse only has a permanent population of about 25, it offers full services for the traveller, from groceries to lodging, RV parking, car rentals and tours. How does a community get a name like Deadhorse? Here's a tongue-in-cheek story by Deborah Bernard from the Prudhoe Bay Journal:
Some theorize that a miner rode a horse to this area, and decided to stay. The lack of
fillies and the abundance of mosquitoes drove the horse insane. (Hence "Crazyhorse Hotel"). But, soon, a doe-eyed caribou caught the horse's fancy, and a "meaningful relationship" between the two delighted the horse. ("Happy Horse Hotel" might be in tribute to the pair). And then, the brutal, merciless winter hit, and the poor horse couldn't survive. Yup, Deadhorse. Nice theory, but I don't believe it.
If you have questions about the Dalton Highway or any other routes, check the links below, or post your question on the Alaska Forum at TripAdvisor.
Dalton Highway Links
BLM's Dalton Highway Guide
This excellent resource includes maps, driving tips, photos and much more.
Alaska's Dalton Highway: the Adventure Awaits!
An article by the Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Weather and driving condition report for the length of the highway.
A Guide to Deadhorse & Prudhoe Bay
From accommodations and photos to job opportunities.
Dalton Highway Express
Passenger/freight service from Fairbanks to the Yukon River, Arctic Circle, Coldfoot, Wiseman, Galbraith Lake, and Prudhoe Bay.
Gravel road-ready automobile rentals, accommodation arrangements, travel packages and tours.
Located at Mile 175, offering a café, rustic overnight accommodations, tour services, fuel and tire repair.
Coyote Air Service
Based at Coldfoot, with Dehavilland Beaver and Piper Super Cub aircraft for flightseeing or transport.
Trans Alaska Pipeline
A great deal of information can be found here, from engineering facts to wildlife issues.
A 102-mile road running from the Dalton Highway across the Colville River to Nuiqsut was being planned until the project was killed in 2005.
Weather - Deadhorse Airport
Weather - Fairbanks
Weather - Galbraith Lake
May not be current.
Sport Fishing Along the Dalton Highway
A .pdf-format brochure from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
The motorcoach photo above is © by Ed Bovy, and is used here with permission from
the BLM Division of Community and Business Development.
The Prudhoe Bay photo is © by ARCO, and is used here with permission from
the Alaska Division of Tourism