Big Delta is located at the junction of the Delta and Tanana Rivers, 73 miles southwest of
Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. It lies at approximately 64.1525° North Latitude and
-145.84222° West Longitude. (Sec. 08, T009S, R010E, Fairbanks Meridian.) Big Delta is
located in the Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 55.2 sq. miles of land and
5.9 sq. miles of water. This area of Interior Alaska experiences seasonal extremes. The
average low temperature in January is -11 degrees Fahrenheit. The average high temperature
during July is 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature extremes have been recorded, ranging from a
low of -63 to a high of 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The average annual liquid equivalent
precipitation is 11 inches, which includes an average annual snowfall of 37 inches.
Oral history and a substantial inventory of native place names suggest that Tanana Athabascan
Indians occupied the site throughout most of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Big Delta
Indians began leaving their ancestral homeland shortly after the peak of the Alaska gold rush
between 1898 and 1903.
In 1899 the Army sent parties to investigate the Susitna, Matanuska, and
Copper River valleys to find the best route for a trail north from Valdez, through the Copper
River valley. By 1901, the Army had completed the Trans-Alaska Military Road, which extended
from Valdez to Eagle City. In 1902, gold was discovered in the Tanana Valley and, shortly
after, a spur trail was created from Gulkana on the Valdez-Eagle route to the new mining camp
in Fairbanks. This trail became the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail.
During 1903, Lt. Billy Mitchell of
the U.S. Army Signal Corps supervised the construction of a telegraph line from Eagle to the
mouth of the Goodpaster River. The Goodpaster telegraph station was part of the
Washington/Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS). During the winter of 1904-05,
the Goodpaster station was destroyed by fire and relocated to Big Delta.
In April 1904, a
prospector named Ben Bennett staked out 80 acres and built a trading post at Big Delta on the
left bank of the Tanana River. In April 1905, Bennett sold his trading post to Daniel G.
McCarty. Although Bennett owned the trading post and surrounding acreage, he was grubstaked for
all of the merchandise by his partner, E.T. Barnette, the wealthy founder of the city of
Fairbanks. Thus, when Bennett decided to sell out to McCarty, all of the goods at the trading
post still belonged to Barnette. However, in the early 1900s, the trading post and roadhouse
built by Bennett was commonly known as McCarty's or McCarty Station. Another prospector named
Alonzo Maxey, along with a friend, set up Bradley's Roadhouse in the hope of diverting
travelers from McCarty's. By 1907, McCarty's passed into the hands of Maxey and then to John
Hajdukovich sometime after 1912. Hajdukovich built a new and bigger roadhouse, but he continued
to use the old trading post to store his gear. In 1917 Hajdukovich hired a Swedish immigrant
named Rika Wallen to operate the roadhouse. In 1923, Wallen acquired the roadhouse from
Hajdukovich presumably in lieu of wages. Today, Rika's Roadhouse is part of Big Delta's State
A work camp was established at Big Delta in 1919 during construction of the
Richardson Highway, which connected Valdez with Fairbanks. The Big Delta Post Office operated
from 1925 to 1959, from which the community received its present name. Construction of the
Alaska Highway in 1942-43, homesteading, construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from 1974 to
1977, and state-funded agricultural projects have each brought development to the area.
Today, many residents are members of "Whitestone Farms" (Church of the Living
Word, Inc.), who collectively pool individual assets and income for the good of the community.
A school, YMCA, and visitor center are among the available facilities.
It is anticipated that new jobs will be created with the development of the Pogo mine, expected
to be operational by mid-2006.
Alaska Community Histories Index
Alaska DCCED Community Database Online
History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development