Built very quickly in 1942 to defend Alaska against further attack and occupation by the Japanese, the Alaska Highway began as a US Army truck trail through the bush.
Today, the Alaska Highway begins at Mile ‘0’ in Dawson Creek, BC, exactly where it did then, although it’s RVs gathering for the road trip here, now, not equipment and army regiments.
The first 613 miles (987 km) of the Alaska Highway are in British Columbia, where it is designated BC Highway 97 North.
The highway travels in a northwesterly direction to the Yukon border near Watson Lake, YT (Historical Mile 635).
From there it continues as Yukon Highway 1, crossing 577 miles (929 km) of the remote Yukon to Port Alcan on the Alaska border.
The Alaska Highway crosses into Alaska at Historical Mile 1221.8, where it becomes Alaska Route 2. From this international border, it is 200 miles (322 km) to Delta Junction, AK (Historical Mile 1422), the official end of the Alaska Highway, and 298 miles to Fairbanks, the unofficial end of the highway, at Historical Mile 1520.
The Alaska Highway was built for military purposes and its route was not ideal for postwar development of northern Canada. Rerouting in Canada has shortened the highway by approximately 35 miles (56 km) since 1947, mostly by eliminating winding sections and sometimes by bypassing residential areas.
The historic milepost markings are therefore no longer accurate but are still important as local location references. Some old sections of the highway are still in use as local roads, while others have been left to deteriorate and still others plowed up. Four sections form local residential streets in Whitehorse and Fort Nelson, and others form country residential roadways outside of Whitehorse. Although Champagne, Yukon was bypassed in 2002, the old highway is still completely in service for that community until a new direct access road is built.
The pioneer road completed in 1942 was approximately 1,680 miles (2,700 km) from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction. The Army then turned the road over to the Public Roads Administration, which then began putting out section contracts to private road contractors to upgrade selected sections of the road. Upon hand-off to Canada in 1946, the route was 1,422 miles (2,288 km) from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction.