The Alaska Highway

Begins at Dawson Creek, 882 km from Calgary.

The Alaska Highway has a bit of an interesting history and is a great bonus for Canada since the U.S. paid for its construction. The highway links the town of Dawson Creek, BC to with Fairbanks, Alaska and stretches through some of the most desolate and wild country in North America.

Prior to the 1940s there was no road that linked the towns in the north to the rest of North America. If you wanted to get to the gold mining towns of Yukon and Alaska you needed to take a boat north and then make your way inland using dog sleds. The U.S. planned, plotted and dreamed of having a road that linked the north to the rest of the continent, but it wasn’t until after the bombing of Pearl Harbour that the dream became a reality.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbour the U.S. realized that the great vast land to the north was also a great vast security risk and Roosevelt immediately gave the go ahead to build a road north. So, in 1942, the U.S. assembled some 11,000 soldiers and 7,500 civilians in Dawson Creek and in less than a year hacked out a road through the wilderness. They were known by locals as the American Army of Invasion and often appeared without any prior warning other than the noise the bulldozers made as they ripped apart the landscape.

The highway was really built by Black Americans. In 1942, the army still had a policy that didn’t allow Afro Americans to fight overseas, so these soldiers were sent north to “serve their country” by eking out a road through the wilderness. The job wasn’t easy for many reasons — obviously the cold, harsh and dangerous conditions made their job difficult. But also, discriminatory policies, racism and hostility made a bad situation worse. Even though they were poorly equipped and treated poorly, these soldiers proved their mettle and are a testimony to human strength. Because of their “training” in the North, many Afro Americans soldiers were sent overseas after the Alaska Highway project was over.

We hit Dawson Creek and the beginning of the highway in the early morning and drove straight through without stopping. The Alaska Highway has only two lanes and we were hoping to make some distance on it before the caravans of RVs came out.

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