Dawson Creek, BC is a place of anticipation and excitement. This is where RVs gather and set off north in convoys. And it’s where you’ll hear the thunderous rumble of motorcycles readying for the 1,500-mile journey up the Alaska Highway.
Visitors all start at the same place: Mile 0 in the centre of town, where a cairn and a familiar signpost mark the beginning of their drive to Delta Junction, Alaska.
In 1942, thousands of US Army personnel, engineers and contractors poured into Dawson Creek – the terminal of rail transport – to construct the Alaska Highway. It was completed in less than a year and even though workers involved in its construction went home, people kept moving to Dawson Creek and growing its economy.
The Mile “0” post, depicted in the city flag, is located in the historic downtown area, one block south of the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) Park. The park is the gathering point for travellers and includes the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, with work by local artists and craftsmen.
The Station Museum, connected to the art gallery, displays artifacts and exhibits associated with the construction of the NAR railway and the Alaska Highway.
The Walter Wright Pioneer Village features a schoolhouse, fire hall, church, telegraph/telephone office, houses, a general store and a blacksmith shop. There’s a photographer’s studio – with modern equipment — where you can have vintage photographs taken.
For a quick look at original Alaska Highway construction, consider making the 11-mile (18-km) jaunt west on Highway 97 to the Kiskatinaw River Bridge, the only original timber bridge that remains on the highway today.
Destination: Watson Lake, Yukon
The almost 12-hour journey to Watson Lake can be driven 1) in one shot, 2) with an overnight stop in Fort Nelson, or 3) as a leisurely sightseeing journey lasting three, four or as many days as you want.
If you choose the most leisurely option, you’ll be rewarded. The area features one of the largest, wildest protected nature zones anywhere in the world, Muskwa-Kechika, where you can hike to valleys with a variety of 1,000 foot, unnamed waterfalls. The 16 million acre zone is accessible from several points on the Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek and the Yukon border.
Here are some other interesting stops:
Fort St. John
One of the largest cities along the Alaska Highway, Fort St. John is the oldest European-established settlement in present-day British Columbia (1794 trading post). Located in the magnificent Peace Valley, in the summer the city offers boating, fishing, hunting, scenic drives, bird watching and wildlife viewing. Surrounded by this magnitude of natural beauty and varied terrain, you’ll be motivated to get out and do as much as possible.
Formerly a town, Fort Nelson amalgamated with the Northern Rockies Regional District to form the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, a first in BC. The community is situated in one of the most beautiful areas anywhere, and from it, you can access world class adventures. Shoot some selfies with the Polar Bears in the town hall or the albino moose at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum. Along with taxidermy, the museum features a mannequin in a moose-hide bikini, a trappers cabin, antique cars and highway construction equipment.
Liard River Hot Springs
This is the second largest hot spring in Canada. The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park is part of the larger Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. It is a welcoming stop on Alaska Highway road trips. There are 53 campsites, a boardwalk, a muskeg forest, changing houses and outdoor pools. The area, with 14 species of orchids, is known as the “Tropical Valley.”
Stone Mountain and the nearby provincial park offer a good chance of spotting Stone sheep. And just north of there, Muncho Lake Provincial Park offers excellent fishing and public camping beside the beautiful lake.