Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information
Chugach National Forest
by: Michael DeYoung
by: Frank Flavin
JULY MY ALASKA NEWSIn 2012 and 2013, Alaska will celebrate anniversaries of several monumental events in the state’s history. Two hundred years ago, on June 6, 1812, residents as far away as Juneau heard the explosion from the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century as it buried the Alaska Peninsula under a thick layer of ash. The aftermath of the Novarupta-Katmai eruption can be seen in vivid colors at Katmai National Park and Preserve, home to bountiful wildlife and a popular destination for world-class brown bear viewing and fishing. Skip 30 years ahead to 1942, the year construction workers carved out the first chunk of rock on what would become the famous Alaska Highway. Built in just 10 months during the height of World War II, now, 70 years later, the Alaska Highway is a modern road connecting Alaska to Canada, allowing overland travel to the Lower 48 states. Skip ahead another 20 years, and an alternative travel route was established in the form of a state-owned ferry system known as the Alaska Marine Highway. From its beginnings in 1963, the state-owned and operated ferry system now serves communities from the Inside Passage all the way out to the Aleutian Chain. Together these two highways – one paved, one ocean-based – make Alaska’s coastal communities accessible to visitors of all types. Read on to learn how these anniversaries are being recognized this year and how these big events shaped both Alaska’s history and its present.
Day 1 Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks is Alaska’s second-largest city and the unofficial end of the Alaska Highway and boasts a wide range of visitor activities and attractions. Visit the new Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center to get your bearings, pick up maps and tips for planning your stay and watch one of the informational movies in the visitor center’s theater. Lots of special events take place in Fairbanks throughout the year so be sure to check the local calendar. Pick up some fresh produce from the local farmer’s market and head 13 miles down the Richardson Highway for a day trip to North Pole and do some early Christmas shopping before having a picnic at Chena Lakes Recreation Area.
Day 2 Delta Junction, Alaska
About 100 miles south of Fairbanks, Delta Junction is the official end of the Alaska Highway, 1390 miles from its starting point in Dawson Creek, B.C. On your way into town, stop for a photo at the large monument signifying the end of the highway in front of the visitors center at physical mile 1422, or with one of the oversized mosquito sculptures nearby. Be sure to stop in at the Sullivan Roadhouse Historical Museum, located across the highway from the visitors center. The roadhouse was originally constructed in 1905 and sat on the Valdez to Fairbanks trail. Today, the museum interprets this history with a variety of artifacts and information about the building’s original owners and life in Alaska at the time. Before you leave town, take a slight detour and drive 25 miles south of Delta Junction on the Richardson Highway to visit the 90,000-acre Delta Bison Sanctuary to see the large beasts on their home range.
Day 3 Tok, Alaska
Tok lies another easy 100 miles or so south on the Alaska Highway. Owing to its strategic location at the entry to Alaska at mile 1279...
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Since it first started with a single vessel in 1963, the Alaska Marine Highway System’s iconic blue and gold ferries have become a main mode of transportation for passengers traveling to and from Washington state, British Columbia or Alaska’s 35 coastal communities – many of which are not connected to the rest of Alaska by road. Calving glaciers, enchanting wildlife and beautiful scenery are constant – and very welcome – distractions for passengers on board the ferry as it sails the waters of the North Pacific. The wonder doesn’t stop there: Alaska’s coast is studded with charming communities full of cultural wealth and interesting history.
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The Alaska Highway has come a long way from the single-lane, bumpy dirt road it was 70 years ago. Today’s modern highway is a worry-free, smooth ride, ideal for a long summer road trip and popular with thousands of motorists.
On June 6, 1912, the skies over the Alaska Peninsula turned black. For three days, ash spewed out from the mouth of Novarupta Volcano in what was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. While only one volcano-related casualty was recorded, the area’s landscape was changed completely, leaving behind an ash-filled valley known as the Valley of 10,000 Smokes that today is part of Katmai National Park. A trip to this area is guaranteed to make an impression, as will the opportunity to get up close to brown bears feeding on Brooks River salmon – the park’s two most iconic experiences.
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