Dawson Creek, British Columbia - Mile Zero
Dawson Creek is Mile Zero: the starting point of one of the great iconic drives in North America. From here the Alaska Highway stretches north-west for 2232 km (1387 mi). You might as well settle comfortably in your driving position because you have a long, long way to go, but don't be in too much of a rush to leave town because as you go north civilisation shrinks. Until you arrive in Whitehorse, 1,404 km (872 mi) away, Dawson Creek and its neighbour Fort St. John are the only two sizeable towns you will pass through.
|Strangely, there are two Mile Zero posts. I suspect the second one (in the photograph at the beginning of this post) was built to take the pressure off this one which is in the middle of an intersection . Maybe too many photographers got run over.|
|Dawson Creek has a lovely collection of street art.|
- The Mile Zero markers. One is in the centre of 102 Ave and 10th Street and the other is in the carpark of the Visitor Center at 900 Alaska Ave.
- The wonderful street art. Pick up a walking tour brochure with locations and descriptions of Dawson Creek's murals at the Visitor Center.
- Probably not a 'don't miss' site but the Walter Wright Pioneer Village near the intersection of the Alaska Hwy and the John Hart Hwy is worth wandering around if you are interested in history.
Fort St. John, British Columbia - 75 km (46 mi) northwest of Dawson Creek.
With a population of 16,000 this is the big smoke. You won't find another large town until you reach Whitehorse so if you need supplies this is a good time to stock up.
|This monument to soldiers who drowned when a barge sank in May 1942 has a beautiful setting beside Charlie Lake just north of Fort St John|
Make sure you stop at some of the old mile markers. Many of them have storyboards with snippets of the highway's history. Don't miss Mile 148 which tells the story of Suicide Hill. The highway has since been re-routed but in its early days Suicide Hill was notoriously difficult to negotiate. A sign at the bottom declared "PREPARE TO MEET THY MAKER".
|An old mile marker at Suicide Hill.|
Fort Nelson - 381 km (236 mi) north of Fort St John
Between Fort St John and Fort Nelson you start to get a feel for just how vast the country ahead is. There are long, long stretches of endless bitumen and pine trees.
Our guide book described Fort Nelson as the largest town between Fort St John and the Yukon. Don't get too excited; it is still pretty small. We struck it on 1 July and had a great time watching the town prepare for a Canada Day parade. Parades, fairs and celebrations are always a lot of fun in small towns where you can enjoy the buzz without the traffic, stress and parking problems which go with these things in big cities.
|We woke up to a Canada Day (1 July) parade in Fort Nelson.|
|We didn't actually see that many animals. I think the signs are put there to break the monotony.|
Summit Lake - 140 km (87 mi) west of Fort Nelson
You can't miss Summit Lake. It is right next to the road. With its beautiful blue water it is well worth a stop.
|An alpine creek draining into Summit Lake|
Muncho Lake - 99 km (61 mi) north-west of Summit Lake
Another beautiful alpine lake, Muncho Lake runs along beside the highway for 12 km (7.7 mi). It is one of the few places along the highway where you might find accommodation outside the towns.
The stretch of highway between Muncho lake and Watson Lake is the only area where we saw much wildlife. Here however we were treated to the sight of a herd of Bison calmly holding up traffic by standing in the middle of the road, wild sheep licking salt from a roadside quarry and fleeting glimpses of an animal which I think was a woodland caribou.
|This is either Muncho Lake or Summit Lake - I'm not sure which. (Note to self: Label your photos!)|
|No-one really minds being held up by a bison.|
|These guys were right beside the road attracted by a natural mineral lick just north of Muncho Lake.|
|I'm fairly sure this is a woodland caribou.|
Liard River Hot Springs - 66 km (41 mi) north-west of Muncho Lake
I have included Liard River for the sake of completeness. Everyone we spoke to said 'don't miss it'. For reasons which I still don't understand we drove straight past. We knew it was there, we just didn't stop.
Sometimes long roads trips seem to take on a life of their own where you become mesmerised by the objective of reaching the next milestone and I think that is what happened to us at Liard River. We had a long way to go that day and even a quick look around felt like it would be too much of a break from the rhythm of our journey.
Watson Lake, Yukon Territory - 206 km (128 mi) north-west of Liard River Hot Springs.
966 km (600 mi) from Dawson Creek, Watson Lake is the first town you will reach in the Yukon. In 1942 a homesick G.I. added directions to his home town of Danville, Illinois to a local sign-post. It struck a chord and today there are 40,000 signs in the Signpost Forest. Don't miss it! We had a great time wandering around the forest reading the signs and searching for those to our own home town.
|I loved this one.|
|Watson Lake doesn't seem to have joined the rest of us in the 21st Century.|
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory - 438 km (272 mi) north-west of Watson lake.
1,404 km (872 mi) from Dawson Creek you will once again be in civilisation. Whitehorse was the northern most point in our journey. If you continue on you have another 794km ( 649 mi) to go before arriving at Delta Junction, Alaska where the highway ends.
We spent several days exploring Whitehorse and its surrounds. You will find my blog post on it - here.
Although I have written this post from south to north, if you have been following our journey you will know that we actually travelled the highway north to south, beginning at Whitehorse and ending at Dawson Creek. We reached Whitehorse from Haines where we had travelled from Seattle by car ferry on the Alaska Marine highway.
This is the last post in this series.
For all my posts on the Alaska Marine Highway and our Alaska/Canada road trip click - here
If you have travelled the Alaska Highway please leave a comment and say hello.
6 Sept 2015