As a constant observer of events in Alaska for seven years past, the question
whether a wagon road could be built from some point on the coast into the interior of the Territory,
has often sprung up in the writer's mind and it is only now, that the preliminary reports have
come to our knowledge of the expedition under the leadership of Lieut. Frederick Schwatka, and on
the other hand that of Lieut. E. J. Glave, each of which parties crossed the coast range at a
different initial point, that an idea of the question can be formed more definitely. Both
explorers report that they have met with a rich mineral country between the coast and the left
bank of the Yukon River, the affluents of which, as is already well known, are pregnant with gold
dust of a remarkably fine quality. The discoveries of Schwatka and Glave, taken in connection with
Russell's explorations during the past two summers and also those of Dawson and Ogilvie,
respectively four and three years ago, to the boarders of the recently visited country, dissolve
at last the old theory that a great ice belt, extends from the coast ranges to the Arctic Circle.
Schwatka has definitely fixed the actual limit of the belt as forty miles beyond these ranges,
the country to the northward of that line being in several months of the year quite free from ice
and snow. The warmest weather experienced during his trip being 87 degrees, and no frost was
encountered till Copper River was reached in the middle of September.
Speaking of the immense number of geological specimens which the party collected,
Schwatka says: "One specimen in particular will without doubt be the means of opening up a large
section of new country. It is a large piece of pure native copper that was torn off a flint rock
at the great canyon, gone through at the risk of their lives. The specimen contains 97 per cent
of pure copper, and is to be taken to a party of capitalists in New York, who will, it is believed,
at once start to develop what Schwatka declares is the richest copper mine in the world. It is
comparatively easy of access, and there is a good watercourse all the way to the ocean from the
deposit of ore."
Glave reports from Pyramid Harbor in October last, "Altogether we had a most
successful journey, for we covered a lot of new territory hitherto unexplored. I have mapped out
quite an interesting section of land, and we experienced all the usual incidents, strange and
exciting, of a journey through a wild country.
Our experiment with pack horses is destined to play an important part in
Alaskan history. It proves a possible transport where none before existed, except the Indian
carrier, a mode of conveyance upon which the solid development of the country could not be made.
The inaccessibility of the interior of Alaska has barred out the miner and the prospector, but
now the road is open. Gold is said to be in those regions, and the search for those treasures
can now be made. The United States and the Dominion Governments can now follow our footsteps and
survey the land they claim; they can go in and fill in the big blank chart with the lakes and
streams belonging there."
From Schwatka's, as well as Glave's report, it will therefore be seen that the
practicability of roads leading into the interior has not been barred out by Nature, and if the
route followed by Glave were only within the limits of U. S. territory, the highway opened up
by him from the Chilcat River to the northwest would be more preferable than the one pointed out
by Schwatka, by the way of the Copper River, the entrance of which is some 500 miles from Sitka,
only to be reached through an open sea. The Glave route being more easy of access, as it can be
approached from the protected waters of the Inside Passage, it will doubt become incumbent upon
pour government, in the near future, to make arrangements with that of Canada to allow the road
to pass through its territory, as the American strip of land in that section of Alaska only
covers 30 nautical miles from the summit of the mountains which extend in a direction parallel
to the coast, as provided by Sec. 2, Art. 4 of the convention between Great Britain and Russia,
signed at St. Petersburg, February 16-28, 1825, which treaty is still binding upon the United
States at the present day.
Should that highway be opened as a result of the mining enterprise which is
bound to gradually develop in Central Alaska, great benefits will be reaped therefore by Juneau,
our sister city, as it is lying on the direct route between Puget Sound and the Chilcat River,
or Pyramid Harbor, as the landing place of the steamers at that point is named, and it is
thought most advisable for the residents of the mining metropolis not to lose sight of the
advantages which it may gain from its proximity to the entrance of the first road possibly to
be built at the Government's expense in this Territory.