ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

Alaska Highway, 1950

Alaska Highway, 1950 The information and maps below have been copied from a 24-page brochure, "Alaska and the Alaska Highway", published by the American Automobile Association in the Spring of 1950. The original is 5½ x 9¼ inches in size. The large map from the centre of the booklet can be seen here, and you can download and read the entire brochure (19MB) on our download site at Dropbox.

More Alaska Highway History

Strip Map #5 of Alaska Highway, 1950 Strip Map #4 of Alaska Highway, 1950 Strip Map #3 of Alaska Highway, 1950 Strip Map #2 of Alaska Highway, 1950 Strip Map #1 of Alaska Highway, 1950

Driving the Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway starts at Dawson Creek, B. C. lts total length is 1,527 miles, of which 1,221 miles are in Canada and 306 miles in Alaska. The road has a graveled, all weather surface from Dawson Creek to the Yukon - Alaska boundary. The paved-road driver will find that he must take it a good bit slower on gravel surface until he is used to the roll of the gravel under the wheels. Some of the curves on the highway are quite tricky and not all the curves are superelevated. Braking must be smooth, and every effort and attention turned toward avoiding sudden starts and stops. The greatest length of the highway can be driven at a comfortable 45 miles per hour. On short stretches, on curves, over hills and on soft surface, the speed must be reduced to 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Covering approximately 2,350 miles from the United States border to Fairbanks, the trip over the Alaska Highway is definitely not for the motorist vacationing on a time and money budget. Thirty days would be a minimum for this jaunt from Great Falls, Mont., or Spokane, Wash., to Fairbanks and return. An estimated minimum of $800 for two persons in one car for the trip does not include elaborate meals or lodgings. The motorist's money will buy only what is available - extremely modest accommodations and very plain fare in cafes that range from the homespun frontier cabin type to modest but clean lunch counters. It is important to note that credit cards written on major oil companies are not honored in the Yukon or in Alaska. Many motorists taking just enough money for expenses, exclusive of gas and oil, have had to wire home for money to continue the trip, or have had to turn back.

United States currency is accepted at par throughout Canada. Canadian currency may be exchanged for United States money by persons entering continental United States or Alaska at a rate of about 90c United States money for a Canadian dollar.

Car Equipment and Service

Travelers cannot expect assistance in matters of food and shelter nor of automotive repairs from the highway maintenance camps. Service offered by repair stations is sufficient for the driver operating good equipment. The following is considered necessary for all vehicles: two mounted spare tires and tubes, spark plugs, fan belt, light fuses, tire gauge, car tools, tire pump, tow rope or cable and a first-aid kit. A spare 5-gallon can of gas will serve to supply peace of mind.

For winter driving automobiles must be prepared for extreme cold weather operation. Vehicles should be in good operating condition and be equipped with anti-freeze, rear wheel chains, heater, defroster and radiator grille covers. Winterizing with light oils and greases is necessary, and the use of a fuel additive to prevent frost and ice in the fuel system is recommended. Travelers should be equipped with sufficient heavy winter clothing and foot gear to protect them from the weather in case of breakdown, stall or accident.

Accommodations on the Highway

The highway cuts mainly through unsettled areas formerly inaccessible except by dog sled, by plane or by river routes in summer. Most of the country between the infrequent small settlements is wilderness with few signs of life. These settlements, together with the occasional mining projects and highway maintenance camps, furnish the only human contacts along the road.

Distances between stores, repair facilities and overnight accommodations are great. The only solution to the present problem of accommodations is the careful consideration of comfortable day's drives, so that the motorist stages himself over the length of the highway in daily trips that will bring him each afternoon to points where there are the better run of establishments.

Several free campgrounds have been established for the convenience of those equipped for camping, carrying their own food and supplies. In the Yukon, in addition to an area for the erection of tents, the grounds provide cooking and dining shelters equipped with stoves and tables. Existing roadside facilities have been spotted on the strip maps following.

Establishments listed below have been inspected by the AAA and are logged according to their location along the Alaska Highway in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. Accommodations in Alaska are listed under their respective cities in the first section of this booklet.

  Dawson Hotel. 54 rooms, 8 baths. Single $2 to $5, double $3 to $7.50. Modern.

Condill Hotel, 35 rooms, 6 baths. Single $2 to $3.50, double $3 to $5.50. Comfortable, well kept.

MILE 233
  Lum and Abner, 9 units, 2 baths. Double $4 to $5. Plain. (P.O. Fort Nelson)

MILE 300
  Fort Nelson Hotel, 40 rooms, 6 baths. Single $1.25 to $3, double $3 to $5.50. (P.0. Fort Nelson)

  The Summit. acc. 21. Double $3 to $4. Very plain rooms. (P.O. Fort Nelson)

MILE 397
  Rocky Mountain Auto Court. 8 units, 2 baths. Double $3.50 to $4.50. Neat, modest rooms; good wholesome food. (P.O. Fort Nelson)

  Muncho Lake Lodge, 12 units, 2 baths. Double $2.50 to $4. (P.O. Fort Nelson)

  Liard Lodge. 25 rooms. 8 baths. Single $2 to $2.50, double $1. Meals 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (P.O. Watson Lake)

  Rancheria, Hotel, 13 rooms, 4 baths. Single $1.25 to $2.50, double $3 to $4. Very plain rooms but a better than average meal stop for this area. (P.0. Whitehorse)

MILE 804.5 - TESLIN, Y.T.
  Nisutlin Bay Lodge, 8 rooms, 3 baths. Single $5, double $7.50. Unusually nice.

MILE 843
  Silver Dollar Lodge 8 rooms. 2 showers. Single $1.50, double $3. (P.O. Whitehorse)

  Marsh Lake Lodge, 8 rooms, 2 baths. Single $3, double $6 to $7. One of the nicer rustic log lodges. (P.O. Whitehorse)

  Regina Hotel. 30 rooms, 4 baths. Single $2.50, double $3.50 to $5. Very plain but well kept.
  Whitehorse Inn. 57 rooms, 33 baths. Single $3, double $5.50 to $8. Leading hotel.
  Whitehorse Auto Camp, n. edge of town. 31 units, 15 baths. Double $6 to $10.

  Dezadeash Camp, 34 mi. s.w. on Haines Cutoff. 15 rooms, 4 baths. Single $2 to $4. Open June 1 to Nov. 1. Adequate.

MILE 1022
  Mackintosh Trading Post, 7 rooms, 1 bath. Single $1.75 to $2.25, double $3.25 to $4. Modest. (P.O. Whitehorse)

  Kluane Inn, 19 rooms, 4 showers. Single $2.50, double $4.50. Rustic, very comfortable.

MILE 1184
  Dry Creek Lodge, 18 rooms, 2 showers. Single $1.50, double $3. Adequate overnight stop. Food is extremely plain but good enough.

Alaska Highway near Whitehorse, 1950

Dawson Creek, B. C. - Whitehorse, Y. T.

From the "0" mile post at Dawson Creek, the 1,527-mile trip to Fairbanks begins on a very good, wide, well-engineered gravel road. The 26-foot gravel surface varies somewhat in quality according to the character of gravel deposits along the highway. The road has not been surface treated and is very dusty in summer.

From this point on, all rivers and creeks are bridged. The Peace River Bridge between Dawson Creek and Fort St. John is one of the two suspension bridges along the highway, the other being the Liard River Bridge beyond Muncho Lake.

Sixty miles beyond Fort Nelson the route crosses the northerly extension of the Rocky Mountain Range at an elevation of 4,251 feet, the highest point on the highway. From Summit Lake, the road descends gradually to Muncho Lake offering very satisfying scenic views.

Beyond Muncho Lake, the road is good and views of the distant Rockies are pleasant. The trees that wall the highway for nearly all its length obscure many otherwise fine views.

Approaching Lower Post, a sign along the highway indicates Contact Creek, where in November 1942 U. S. Army Engineers working with bulldozers from the north were met by engineers from the south. This marked the breaking through of the Alcan Highway.

From Lower Post, the highway makes an "S" curve over the British Columbia - Yukon Territory line, crossing the line several times before reaching Teslin. The Territory line is also the time zone boundary; northbound travelers gain one hour. Nisutlin Lodge, on the shore of Nisutlin Bay, is the best stop on the highway and one of the nicest in the north country.

Just this side of Whitehorse, to the east of the highway, is a scenic loop drive to picturesque Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids on the Yukon River. The canyon, which is traversed by the rushing river, may be crossed on foot by a suspension bridge.

FORT ST. JOHN (pop. 1,700). Center of a rich grain growing and lumbering district. This region is noted for its anthracite coal mines and natural gas is being discovered in large quantities. The old trail which crosses the highway at several intervals was used for over a hundred years by fur traders and trappers.

WHITEHORSE (pop. 3,500). Transportation center of the Yukon, Whitehorse is the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railway to Skagway and the head of navigation on the Yukon River. Gold was found in this district as early as 1850.

Whitehorse Rapids, 1950

Whitehorse, Y. T. - Fairbanks, Alaska

WHITEHORSE (pop. 3,500). Some of the flavor of the storybook Yukon still lingers at this historic point on the Alaska Highway. A stroll to the river front and a few steps up the gangplank of an old river boat will take the sightseer back to his history books and an era of other modes of transportation. Points of interest include the Old Log Church, a picturesque little frontier log church built in 1900, and Sam McGee's Cabin, built in 1899 and now used to house historical items of the Yukon.

An interesting trip may be taken by rail to Skagway or by river boat to Dawson City. The town is also an outfitting point for fishing and hunting trips to the White River and Kluane Lake districts; guides and equipment available.

From Whitehorse, the highway crosses the Takhini River and reaches Champagne, a little Indian village with log huts and a gas pump. Just beyond the village is an interesting Indian graveyard. An unusual feature of each plot is the doll-size frame house with doors and windows, intended as a shelter for the spirits of the departed.

Some 20 miles beyond this point in the vicinity of Canyon Creek, a narrow rather primitive road to the right leads to Otter Lake Falls and Canyon Bridge.

Finally the highway reaches Kluane Lake, the scenic highlight of the entire trip. The lake is first seen from a fairly good elevation, and then the road descends, turning around the tip of the lake and skirting its southwestern shore. In the afternoon light, the mountains across the lake are reflected in its mirror-like surface. At Burwash Landing is situated Kluane Inn, a new rustic log lodge - the second best stopping place on the highway.

From Burwash Landing, the road crosses the Donjek River on six wooden trestles over that many channels. These are mostly dry river beds, except during the spring when the mountains release the snow.

Canadian Customs, located 1/2 miles from the Alaska border, will pick up the permit given the motorist when he entered Canada. Since this is the beginning of another time zone, watches must be set back another hour.

At Tok Junction, the U. S. Customs-Immigration issues an Alaska Visitor Sticker for the windshield, and the tourist is officially a "Cheechako." At this point the Tok-Slana Cutoff and the Glenn Highway connect with Anchorage.

Beyond Tok Junction lies the final lap of the trip to Fairbanks. Last-minute scenic surprises appear as the car crosses the Robertson and Big Gerstle river bridges. At Big Delta Junction the highway becomes a part of the Richardson Highway which connects Fairbanks with the southern port of Valdez.

FAIRBANKS (pop. 8,500). In addition to being northern terminus for the Alaska and Richardson highways, Fairbanks is southern terminus of the Steese Highway which runs to Circle on the Yukon River.