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Historic Mileposts on the Alaska Highway (Alcan)

by Murray Lundberg

      The legendary Alaska Highway is pretty well history now - no more gravel, no more Suicide Hills, far fewer curves...

      What lies in front of you now is a modern highway through a spectacular, mostly uninhabited land. But if you care to look, the ghosts of the old highway are everywhere. As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the highway in 1992, 40 interpretive panels were installed at historically significant points. The information that follows is largely reprinted from a 1992 brochure published jointly by the governments of B.C., the Yukon, and Alaska. For a look at the entire 1422-mile (2288.4 kilometer) highway in all seasons, have a look at our Alaska Highway Photo Album.

Historic Mile 0 - Dawson Creek

  • Start of the Alaska Highway; Dawson Creek Flight Strip; Public Roads Administration (PRA) offices; R. Melville Smith Camp; U.S. Engineers Camp; M.H.K.C.B. Construction Company Camp; Area No. 1 and 2 Army Camp; Dowell Construction Company Camp; U.S. Quartermaster Corps.
  • In the spring of 1942, the 'end of steel' became a major terminus for troops, supplies and equipment arriving from Edmonton and destined for the north.
  • For more information and photos about where the highway starts and ends, see this article.

Historic Mile 2 - Cantel Repeater Station

  • Cantel telephone-teletype lines stretched from Alberta to Fairbanks, making it one of the world's longest open wire toll circuits at the time.

Historic Mile 21 - Kiskatinaw Bridge; Wallace A. Mackey Ltd.

  • A 162-meter curved structure, one of the first of its kind in Canada, is the only original timber bridge built along the highway that is still in use today.

Historic Mile 35 - Taylor, BC

  • Peace River Bridge; 1st Main Army Camp 341st Engineers
  • Before the Peace was bridged in 1943, the ferry from Taylor served as the major link across the river. The original Peace River suspension bridge, the longest bridge on the highway, collapsed in 1957.
  • In 2000, a memorial garden and cenotaph were dedicated as a veterans memorial generally, and to the 341st Engineers specifically.

Historic Mile 47 - Fort St. John

  • In 1942, the population of Fort St. John suddenly exploded from 200 people to 6,000 with the construction of the camp for highway crews.
  • As the southern sector headquarters for the United States military and the PRA, Fort St. John was the site of two large camps of tents and Quonset huts, erected in open fields just outside of town.

Historic Mile 49 - Camp Alcan

  • Public Roads Administration HQ; Okes Management Contracting headquarters; Standard Salt & Cement Company; Coghlan Construction Company; M. G. Astleford Company; Southern Minnesota Construction Company; Art Bolier; Sorenson & Volden; R. M. Smith Headquarters.

Historic Mile 52 - Charley Lake Mile 0 Army Tote Road

  • Site of a major distribution camp for workers and supplies heading north.
  • On May 14, 1942, 12 of the 17 men on a pontoon boat crossing the lake drowned after the boat sank. In 2008, a monument to commemorate the tragedy was built on the shore of the south end of Charlie Lake, in Ross McLean Rotary Park.

Historic Mile 73 - Beatton River Flight Strip

  • One of the gravel air strips constructed to provide emergency landing facilities for American military aircraft heading north.

Historic Mile 101 - Blueberry Control Station

  • Site of the Blueberry Control Gate, a 24-hour military checkpoint operated by U.S. Army personnel throughout the war years.
  • The site is now the community of Wonowon - the name was taken from "101".

Historic Mile 148 - Suicide Hill

  • One of the most treacherous hills on the original highway, noted for its ominous greeting: "Prepare to Meet Thy Maker."

Historic Mile 191 - Trutch Mountain Summit

  • At 4,134 feet, the 2nd-highest summit on the original highway. The bypass route, completed in 1987, eliminated the steep, winding section of road.

Historic Mile 234 - Adsett Creek

  • A major re-routing between here and mile 275, completed in 1992, eliminated 132 curves in the highway.

Historic Mile 300 - Fort Nelson

  • End of Section "D", start of Section "E", which was contracted by the Don Construction Company. Called "Zero" by the troops because it was the beginning of the roads to Whitehorse and Fort Simpson. Home to approximately 2,000 troops during construction.

Historic Mile 392 - Summit Lake

  • At 4,250 feet (1,295 meters), this is the highest summit on the highway.

Historic Mile 422 - Toad River

  • Camp 138, Jupp Construction.
  • The community was established by Dennis and John Callison, after guiding PRA surveyors into the area in 1941.

Historic Mile 456 - Muncho Lake

  • Refueling Stop and Checkpoint. The road around the lake was a particular challenge. Workers had to cut their way through the lake's rocky banks and use horse-drawn "stone boats" to haul the rock away.

Historic Mile 496 - Liard Hot Springs

  • Site of a major construction camp. The natural hot springs were used by the troops daily, although once a week they left the springs to the women of the camp.

Historic Mile 514 - Smith River Bridge

  • A narrow gravel side road just north of the bridge will take you 1.6 miles to Smith River Falls. About 22 air miles NNE of the bridge lies a mountain-ringed valley that has become known as Million Dollar Valley due to the forced landing/crash of 3 Martin B-26 Marauder bombers in 1942.

Historic Mile 533 - Coal River Bridge

  • 1943, a sawmill along the Liard River cut timbers for the bridge over the Coal River as well as others in the area.
  • Coal River Lodge opened in 1949 - still operating seasonally (2019).

Historic Mile 588 - Contact Creek

  • On September 24, 1942, the soldiers of the 36th Regiment from the south and the 340th Regiment from the north met here, completing the southern section of the highway.

Historic Mile 627 - BC/Yukon Border Crossing

  • Between Contact Creek and here, the highway crosses the border 7 times. This is the final, and official, crossing into the Yukon.

Historic Mile 635 - Watson Lake

  • During the early years of World War II, the existing airfield at Watson Lake was expanded to accommodate the steady stream of fighter aircraft en route from the United States to Russia along the Northwest Staging Route.

Historic Mile 710 - Rancheria

  • One of the first lodges to be built after the highway was opened to civilian traffic in 1947.

Historic Mile 836 - Johnson's Crossing

  • The junction of the Alaska Highway and the Canol Road, which was part of the project to pipe oil from the Mackenzie River to a refinery at Whitehorse, then on to Fairbanks.

Historic Mile 910 - Macrae (or McCrae)

  • There were 3 major construction camps in the area, the Utah Construction Company Camp, Camp 1-E, and the K.C.B. Camp

Historic Mile 918 - Whitehorse

  • A major transportation hub since the Klondike Gold Rush, Whitehorse would become the capital of the Yukon Territory largely as a result of the Alaska Highway construction.

Historic Mile 974 - Champagne

  • A historic Indian village, Champagne was in the center of one of the easiest sections of the highway to construct, due to both topography and to the fact that there was an existing wagon road that had been in use since 1902. The highway was re-routed to bypass Champagne in 2002.

Historic Mile 995 - Aishihik Road

  • 17 miles north on this road which led to an airfield at Aishihik Lake is Otter Falls, featured on the 1954 Canadian $5 bill. You can see the falls and bill here.

Historic Mile 1016 - Haines Junction

  • The Junction of the Alaska Highway with the Haines Road, a 160-mile highway built to access the coast, for supplying crews by ship.

Historic Mile 1053 - Silver City

  • Barges and boats were used extensively to transport men and materials across Kluane Lake.

Historic Mile 1061 - Soldiers' Summit

  • On November 20, 1942, at -35 degrees, the highway was officially opened at a ceremony here.

Historic Mile 1083 - Destruction Bay

  • During the early years, driving the highway was diffcult and often dangerous, causing wear and tear on both men and machines. Destruction Bay was one of the relay stations which were spaced at 100-mile intervals to give drivers a break and to service vehicles.

Historic Mile 1093 - Burwash Landing

  • After months of rough camp life, soldiers were surprised to find this prosperous little settlement. Father Eusebe Morisset, an Oblate missionary who served as auxiliary chaplain for the U.S. Army, was based here.

Historic Mile 1117 - Lieutenant Small Memorial

  • First Lieutenant Roland Small of the 18th Engineers Regiment was killed here in 1942 in a jeep accident.

Historic Mile 1130 - Donjek River Bridge

  • The current bridge is three miles downriver from the original, which crossed at a narrower location.

Historic Mile 1202 - Beaver Creek

  • On October 28, 1942, the final connection was completed here when the 97th Engineers met the 18th Engineers.

Historic Mile 1271 - The Alaska Skyway

  • Alaskan airfleds like the Northway field, south of here, played a significant role in the construction of the highway.

Historic Mile 1292 - Dusenberg Camp No. 2

  • The E.M. Dusenberg Company was one of about 50 civil road construction contractors working on the highway in 1943.

Historic Mile 1420 - Delta Junction

References & Further Reading:

©1998-2017 by Murray Lundberg: Use for other than research purposes must be approved by the author.