Our next Canadian crumb is unconventional albeit a testament to what humans can accomplish when we’re not acting like a bunch of idiots! Unconventional because this crumb is about the US Army and their impossible endeavour to connect Alaska by roadway to the rest of America as a step to protect themselves from another Japanese invasion.
Known as the Alaska highway or ALCAN for short this approximately 2400 km (1500 mi) highway snakes its way from Canada in northern British Columbia, through the Yukon wilderness, ending at the US Alaskan border where it meets up with a pre-existing road. Built in 1942 during the height of WWII the construction of the road challenged the some 16,000 soldiers that had to live and work in one of the harshest environments on the planet. The fact they built the ALCAN attests to their engineering prowess. The fact they did it in under a year, a testament to their will and determination.
These men didn’t just put their back into it – in some cases it was their life!
Upon completion of the road, politicians, military and laypersons from both sides of the border laid tribute to this exceptional feat of engineering on November 20, 1942, in what is now known as Kluane National Park & Reserve in the Yukon Territory. A special plaque commemorating the event stands guard over the Slims River Delta along with a walking trail that has been dedicated to the ceremony by Park’s Canada.
And for those American and Canadian history buffs out there – each half of the pair of scissors used in the ribbon cutting ceremony in 1942 to officially open the highway, were gifted to the then Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and the then US President Franklin Roosevelt. Each side was adorned with a plaque of Alaskan gold – and neither were on display at the Kluane Reserve – but I digress!
Should you be driving the Alaskan highway, check out the plaque and visitor centre in Kluane National Park and Reserve located approximately 154 km west of Whitehorse on the Alaskan highway. Read the history, soak in the nature and try to spot some mountain goats from the viewing platform.
~ True North Nomad
Have you driven the Alaskan highway? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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