Big Delta State Historical Park

Visitors can discover Alaska's bygone roadhouse culture at Rika's Roadhouse

This park is home to Rika’s Roadhouse, an essential stop for Alaskan travelers in the early 20th century

Big Delta State Historic Park is a 10-acre historical park on the Tanana River, eight miles north of Delta Junction. The park preserves Rika's Roadhouse and Landing, an important crossroads for travelers, miners and soldiers on the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail from 1909 to 1947.

History

At the turn of the century, the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail became one of the most important access routes to the Alaska Interior during the Fairbanks gold rush of 1902 and the 1903 construction of the Washington to Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS) telegraph line. Originally created for pack and saddle horses, the trail evolved into a winter road, and eventually was upgraded for wagon traffic, and ultimately automobile traffic. The road was designated the Richardson Highway in 1927.

To support the influx of travelers, enterprising citizens built roadhouses along the entire route. Typically owned by homesteaders, these inns provided travelers with a convenient stop to get a warm meal and good night’s rest. These establishments served as hubs of local commerce, and many, like Big Delta, were the foundation for townships.

John Hajdukovich built Rika's Roadhouse in 1910. In 1923, he sold it to Rika Wallen, a Swedish immigrant who had managed the roadhouse since 1917, for "$10.00 and other considerations," presumably in lieu of wages. The roadhouse was immediately renamed Rika's. Wallen ran the roadhouse into the late 1940s and lived there until her death in 1969. The roadhouse was restored, right down to the original kerosene crate floor, in the late 1970s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the centerpiece of the park.

Activities

Rika's Roadhouse, the adjacent outbuildings, and property have been preserved for visitors to explore and learn about the history of the roadhouse and surrounding community.

From mid-May to mid-September, guides lead tours through the museum complex, which includes the WAMCATS station, a Swedish-style barn, and a sod-roofed cabin with pioneer artifacts dating from 1900 to 1950. Some rooms have been decorated with 1920s-1930s period furniture and accessories donated by local residents.

A concessionaire located within the park operates Rika's Roadhouse Cafe and Gifts, which offers 'Arctic Fusion' cuisine celebrating the history of the area featuring locally grown food. In addition to homemade meals, visitors can shop for Alaska made gifts, take and bake meals and original artwork.

Learn More About Alaska's Interior