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Fairbanks, Alaska Photo Album

An Explorer's Guide to Fairbanks, Alaska

Click on each photo to enlarge it
These images are all © 2006-2024 by Murray Lundberg.

'Unknown First Family' statue - Fairbanks, Alaska Development of Golden Heart Plaza, on the banks of the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks, was the first major step in what has turned out to be a very successful downtown revitalization program. In the center of the plaza, which opened in 1987, is an 18-foot-high statue, "Unknown First Family", by Malcolm Alexander. At the opening, the artist said about it: "Portraying the family of all mankind, the family of Fairbanks, and the nuclear family, let this statue symbolize, for families present and future, the pride and dignity of this great land." The clock tower in the background of this photo was donated by the Fairbanks Rotary Club in 1990 to mark 50 years of service to the region by Rotary.

'Unknown First Family' statue - Fairbanks, Alaska A closer look at the unknown first family. The flowers at the plaza attract a large number of people, and many events are held here, including evening concerts. In the winter, thousands of lights are strung, and it continues to be a popular place to visit.

Dog sled fence along the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska Much of the sidewalk along the Chena River downtown is lined with decorative panels and flower boxes, and there are many benches where walkers can sit and just enjoy the river.

Historic Oddfellows House, Fairbanks, Alaska There are still many historic buildings in downtown Fairbanks, and an entire historic district at 300-700 Illinois Street. This antique store was built in 1907 as Mrs. Madole's First Avenue Bathhouse and Clinic, and has been owned by the Oddfellows Lodge since 1910. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Coal fired power plant at Fairbanks, Alaska The Aurora Energy Coal Power Plant and District Heat System is located on the Chena River at the edge of the downtown core. With 4 boilers and 3 turbine generators, it produces steam and hot water that is distributed to 165 customers through 15 miles of pipe, and 32 megawatts of electricity that it sells to the Golden Valley Electric Association for distribution. Built in 1951, it is coal fired, and burns about 210,000 tons of coal from the Usibelli mines near Healy each year.

Electric vehicles in Fairbanks, Alaska All those electric cords aren't for charging electric vehicles, they're for keeping the engines warm enough that they'll start when it gets very cold. Depending on the owner's preference, a vehicle may just have a block heater that warms the water, or that plus an electric blanket around the battery, and/or electric blankets on the oil pan and transmission. Some people warm their vehicle interiors as well, but that gets very expensive.

Fairbanks, Alaska This is a quiet corner in the Georgeson Botanical Garden, the northernmost botanical garden in North America. Dedicated to high latitude horticulture (anything about growing plants in the Far North)

Fairbanks, Alaska The view over the Tanana River Valley from the University of Alaska Museum of the North, looking past the Institute of Arctic Biology Greenhouse, a state-of-the-art facility for conducting research and teaching.

Fairbanks, Alaska If there is one "must-see" in Fairbanks, it's the University of Alaska Museum of the North, whose exhibits include the state's largest public display of gold, and many significant pieces from 2,000 years of Alaskan art. Behind the scenes, the museum has research collections that total some 1.4 million artifacts and specimens, organized into 10 disciplines (archaeology, birds, documentary film, earth sciences, ethnology/history, fine arts, fishes/marine invertebrates, insects, mammals, and plants).

Fairbanks, Alaska The Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery in the Museum of the North is a stunning facility on the top floor of a new building that opened in 2005. It displays a vast array of artistic pieces including the Okvik Madonna, a 2,000-year-old ivory carving from the Okvik Eskimo culture of the Bering Strait region; Sydney Laurence's painting Mt. McKinley; and a photograph by Ansel Adams, Mt. McKinley and Wonder Lake.

Fairbanks, Alaska The permanently frozen ground known as permafrost may be one of an engineer's worst enemies in Alaska, but it also preserves some amazing treasures from the distant past. One of those treasures is "Blue Babe", a 36,000-year-old steppe bison that is displayed in the main Gallery of Alaska at the Museum of the North. It was discovered at a placer gold mine near Fairbanks in 1979, while frozen muck was being melted and washed away with water. Luckily, the miners had at least some idea of what they had found, and contacted the university, who recovered it. Claw and tooth marks on the carcass indicate that the bison was killed by an Ice Age American lion (Panthera leoatrox).

Fairbanks, Alaska To see caribou/reindeer and musk oxen up close, the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station (LARS) is where you want to go. LARS was created in 1979 on 134 acres donated by Mike Yankovich. The plan was to establish a colony of muskoxen that would be available for nutritional, physiological and behavioral research, starting with 16 muskoxen captured on Nunivak Island. Caribou, reindeer and moose were added within the next 3 years but moose were later dropped from the program.

Fairbanks, Alaska Tours, generally 45-60 minutes long, are offered at the Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station (LARS) throughout the summer, from early June until late August. The center also sells qiviut, the incredibly soft and warm underwool that allows muskoxen to survive Arctic winters.

Fairbanks, Alaska Life along the Chena River close to downtown Fairbanks, with a tiny private airstrip suitable for STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) aircraft, float planes on the river, and large homes being built further and further up the hillsides to get into the great views and out of the ice fog that can settle in the valley during particularly cold spells in the winter.

Fairbanks, Alaska The Binkley family has been in the Northern steamboat business for over 100 years, and running boat tours in Fairbanks since 1950. Their Riverboat Discovery takes guests down the Chena River to a replica Indian village, on a 3-hour tour that is highly educational as well as fun. There are actually now 3 sternwheelers, Discovery I, II and III, holding 150, 400 and 900 passengers respectively.

Fairbanks, Alaska Looking down on the Chena Indian Village from the highest deck of Discovery III on a particularly busy day. Visitors rotate to several stations where guides explain various aspects of traditional life - the sled dog demonstration, seen to the left in this photo, is always one of the most popular ones.

Fairbanks, Alaska One of the guides at the Chena Indian Village sits on a cache while she tells visitors about hunting and trapping in the old days. The guides are all Native Alaskans, and most are university students - the quality of the tours is notably good.

Fairbanks, Alaska Until a new sandbar was created by the silt in the Tanana River in about 2008, passengers aboard the Riverboat Discovery could see the "wedding of the rivers", where the clear waters of the Chena River flowed into the silt-laden Tanana. The sandbar effectively blocked large boats from entering the Tanana, and a new entrance to the Chena Indian Village even had to be built. This is also a very popular fishing spot.

Fairbanks, Alaska The fine-silt banks of the glacier-fed Tanana River are constantly being eroded, taking trees and forcing some riverside homeowners to spend huge amount of money on rockwork to stop the erosion.

Fairbanks, Alaska Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge covers 2000 acres of open fields, woods, and wetlands, managed by the Alaska State Department of Fish and Game. The farmhouse, barns, and 12 acres of the original homestead are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Fairbanks, Alaska The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is a world-class museum with over 80 vehicles, including horseless carriages, steamers, electric cars, speedsters, cyclecars, midget racers and Brass Era and 1930s classics.

Fairbanks, Alaska When the Alaska Railroad built their new Fairbanks depot in 2000, a special room was added for the Tanana Valley Model Railroad Club, whose members have built a very impressive model railroad layout. In the summer, club members operate the layout for visitors "as a diversion to just sitting and waiting for the train", from 06:45 until 08:00 daily.

Fairbanks, Alaska There are several good places to view the 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Pipeline, including this spot along the Steese Expressway north of Fairbanks. There used to be an interpretive center here, but it was closed in about 2010. When construction of the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez was completed in 1977, the $8 billion price tag was the highest for any privately-funded project in history, and the engineering really is quite remarkable, as it crosses unstable permafrost, punches through thick boreal forests, and crosses 800 rivers and streams, 3 major earthquake faults and 3 mountain ranges.

Fairbanks, Alaska You can explore Alaska's gold mining past at Gold Dredge 8 north of Fairbanks, where tours begin with a ride on a replica of the narrow-gauge Tanana Valley Railroad.

Fairbanks, Alaska The centerpiece of the Gold Dredge 8 operation is the Goldstream Dredge No. 8, a floating ladder or bucket-line dredge that was operated by the Fairbanks Exploration Company from 1928 to 1959, during which time it produced 7.5 million ounces of gold. In 1984, it was listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and 2 years later it was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It is one of 3 gold dredges currently open for tours in Alaska (the others are in Skagway and Chicken).

Fairbanks, Alaska The next-to-final stop on the Gold Dredge 8 tour is the gold panning troughs, where it's fun to watch even the most jaded traveller get excited about seeing a few tint flakes of gold in the bottom of their pan. Yes, "gold fever" is real! The final stop is the adjacent gift shop, where successful panners (everyone is) can have their gold put into a necklace or other piece of jewelry.

North Pole, Alaska Santa Claus House, a popular tour bus stop, is located in North Pole, on the Richardson Highway a few miles east of Fairbanks. As well as the gift shop and Christmas store, there are reindeer to be seen.

Fairbanks, Alaska Birch Lake State Recreation Site is located along the Richardson Highway about 60 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Birch Lake offers excellent boat-fishing year round for rainbow trout, king and silver salmon, grayling, and arctic char, all of which are stocked. In the winter, ice-fishing huts are available for rent. Home son Birch Lake don't seem to come up for sale very often, and when they do, prices are high.