Day Twenty Seven: Mile Zero

Dawson Creek is the start of the Alaska Highway.  They have the “Mile Zero” signpost, and a lot of the town is geared to the tourism this generates.  I have to admit, it’s a cool place to visit.  I learned all about the Alaska Highway and was excited to get going.  First, we had to meet in a log meeting house in the Pioneer Village, which is attached to the Mile Zero campground, where we were staying.

Presentation on the Alaska Highway.

Next, we drove to the Milepost sign for a group picture.  I gave a lift to Bill S. from Texas.  He’s here alone as well, driving a motorhome and he doesn’t have a car or anything.  He’s a real character and I’m usually laughing most of the time I’m around him.

The gang. Plus a random lady (bottom right kneeling and looking away from camera) who ran into the picture for reasons completely unknown.
Our silly picture. Marshall is standing on the rock marker.

After the group photos, several of us went through some of the museums dealing with the Highway and Dawson Creek.

There used to be 5 grain elevators. This is the last one standing, and is an art gallery.
Sign at the grain elevator.
More about the highway.

Starting in the early 1900s, American interests wanted to build a road to Alaska.  There was no overland route.  Supplies were shipped in, or later flown in.  Canada, however, had little interest in spending money on a road through their country that would have little benefit to Canadians; there were very few living in northern BC and the Yukon.  A military benefit was not lost to either nation, with Japan becoming more of a threat as the mid century approached.  Canada feared a road would prevent their neutrality; the USA feared they couldn’t protect Alaska without a better supply route.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in late 1941 and the subsequent Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands made all the differences between the two countries moot.  A road had to be built, in the time after snow melt and before the next winter. Construction began in March, 1942.  They chose Dawson Creek as a starting point as there was a railway that terminated there.  Nearly overnight the sleepy village of 600 was forever altered by the “invasion” of thousands of American soldiers.  About a third of the soldiers were African Americans.  They played a huge part in the construction of the road.  Over 1,500 miles were completed by the end of October; this road passed through terrain that had never even had a trail blazed through in many locations.  It is just an amazing feat to think about.

Today, the entire highway is paved (well, outside of inevitable construction) and it’s a wonderful drive into history.

Downtown Dawson Creek
Another marker and the Alaska Highway house in the background.

Besides the museums, there was also a wooden bridge that was still in operation.  When the highway was improved and paved for more to enjoy it, 35 miles were shaved off.  This wooden bridge was part that was bypassed, which is why it remains made of wood.  It was a very interesting structure.

Kiskatniwaw bridge. First curved wooden bridge built in Canada, in April, 1943.
The wood planking is graded so that everything is tilted to the right. It freaked me out to stand on it, especially on the right side railing, but driving across it was totally fine.
Rory waiting at the end of the bridge. You can still drive across it, but there’s no stopping to take pictures!
This gigantic beaver was swimming around down below.
Another trestle view. It’s amazing construction.

We had a dinner (burgers) and driver meeting at the cabin later that night, then off to bed in anticipation of driving to Fort Nelson the next day.  Everything was still going great, though I was going to wash Rory and the car wash I went to was closed.

Oh well; it was into bed and ready for the next day’s adventure.


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