Dawson Creek is famous for being “mile zero” for the 1,400 plus mile Alaskan Highway. The road and series of airstrips to Alaska was built in 1942 during WWII for the defense of Alaska and to enable the ferrying of airplanes to Russia. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the importance of the project conceived in 1936 was elevated and the construction proceeded. The more than 25,000 soldiers and civilians who worked on this massive mission, completed the Dawson Creek, BC to Delta Junction, AK road in an amazing nine months. Native American scouts and others were used to determine the best routes for the road through uncharted wilderness.
Today the Alaskan Highway is a little shorter due to improvements that have resulted in fewer miles (about 40 less) than the original. You will see signs, notes, and lodge names in guidebooks using the “historical milepost numbers”. So all you have to deal with in the guidebooks is historical miles, kilometers, and actual miles. The road name has been modified also, first being called the Alaska Military Highway, while also called the ALCAN for many years. Most maps today simply label the road, the Alaska Highway. In many of the towns on this route, the “main street” is called the Alaska Highway.
The US engineers determined the “mile zero” point in Dawson Creek and the townspeople were moved away from it to accommodate the huge amount of equipment, personnel, and supplies transported for this project. At a cost of approximately $140 million US dollars, the road was the most expensive construction project of the war. After the war, the road that was paid for with US funds was given to the Canadians as part of the initial agreement.
Across the street from the mile zero monument is the Alaskan Highway Museum. It contains a restored military Willys Jeep that brings back memories for me as I owned one as a teenager.
The granary in the heart of town now serves as an art gallery and is adjacent to an excellent Visitor Center/Museum. Be sure to pick up the information that they have there. They even have premade information packets available if you arrive after hours. After seeing almost no US license plates in Jasper, this visitor center parking lot is where you see nothing but US tags. From this point forward, you will see the campgrounds, parking lots, and gas stations full of US travelers. Meeting these folks is another enjoyable part of the journey.
Unlike many travelers, we stayed in Dawson Creek for multiple days. The campgrounds fill up with Americans in the afternoon and everyone leaves the next morning. One recommendation we were given on a place to visit nearby while in Dawson Creek, was the Bear Mountain Wind Farm. This mountain ridge contains 43 German made wind turbines that is visible in the distance from the town, but is a 30 minute drive due to the gravel road access. Celia had little interest so I took off on an excursion.
I had never seen these type of wind turbines up close and was awestruck by the size, the sound, and the constant evolving shadows made by the blades.
The area is isolated and there are few people that you will encounter, except for occasional ATV rider during the weekends. I did meet some local folks who explained the vistas to me and offered to give me a ride to the farthest viewpoint, on a road the Silver Fox would never be able to navigate. I said, “Sure!”, and we were off in their little SUV.
After taking in the wonderful view, we returned to the car to find a flat tire. No problem, we will use the spare. Problem, the spare tire lowering cable is stuck in the frame. After a significant amount of time trying to retrieve the spare without success, some ATVers showed up! The couple encouraged me to hitch a ride back to the Silver Fox so I would not have to hike out. “Sure!” I said, and I was off in the ATV.