Located at the northernmost reaches of the Alaska road system, Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay sit on the coast of the Arctic Ocean at the heart of Alaska’s oil patch.
About Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay
Deadhorse is more of a work camp than a town in the traditional sense, located in the Prudhoe Bay area. It was established to support oil development in the surrounding area. Most buildings are modular, pre-fabricated types, situated on gravel pads on tundra bog. Virtually all the businesses are engaged in oil field or pipeline support such as drilling, construction, and maintenance. In the summer, the midnight sun doesn’t set for almost 64 days, with constant daylight from May 20 to July 22, while in winter the area gets 55 days of darkness, from November 24 to January 18.
Things to do
For the truly adventurous, the 414-mile Dalton Highway, or “Haul Road,” as it’s known to Alaskans, is unique in its scenic beauty, wildlife, and recreational opportunities. The highway begins just north of Fairbanks in Interior Alaska and ends at Deadhorse in the Arctic region. It is Alaska’s most remote and challenging road, with little in the way of highway services. The road is mostly gravel, and motorists need to watch for ruts, rocks, dust in dry weather, potholes in wet weather, and trucks and road maintenance equipment at all times.
If you choose to drive the Dalton Highway, however, you will be rewarded for your troubles by several exciting sites along the way, including crossing the Yukon River, the Arctic Circle (one of the best photo opportunities in the state is standing next to the sign that marks the Arctic Circle along the Dalton Highway), the ruggedly beautiful Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife viewing opportunities include caribou, grizzly bears, arctic foxes, over 200 species of birds, and musk oxen.
Access to Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic Ocean is restricted to oilfield workers and tour groups with special permits. For security and safety reasons, unescorted visitors are not allowed on the docks or on area roads. A number of tour companies out of Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Deadhorse offer excursions to the Arctic Ocean as well as tours of the Prudhoe Bay oil facility. Most rental car companies won’t allow their cars to be driven on the Dalton Highway, but Fairbanks-based tour providers also offer bus tours north to Coldfoot and beyond, or fly-drive combination tours.
In Deadhorse tours are available that visit the oil fields and then move out to Prudhoe Bay where visitors can dip their toes into the Arctic Ocean or even jump in if they're brave enough. Tours also view the area's marshy tundra and shallow lakes where at times a variety of wildlife can be encountered including waterfowl and caribou. There is also shuttle service that takes visitors from Deadhorse to the Arctic Ocean for a quick visit.
Staying in Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay
There are a handful of basic hotels in Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay catering to visitors, some offering full-service cafeteria-style dining. The only dining options are available in the area’s hotels. There are also two coffee shops and a general store.
Getting to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay
Deadhorse is located 498 miles north of Fairbanks via the Dalton Highway. The volume of truck traffic hauling materials between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay can be high and it is recommended that motorists give these trucks the right of way. Slow down and pull over to the side of the road when meeting oncoming trucks. Deadhorse is also accessible via daily jet service from Anchorage or Fairbanks.