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Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska







The Allure of Alaska

Means of Access to Alaska

Major Roads of Alaska

Provisions for Recreational Use

A Plan for Recreational Facilities

Putting the Plan into Effect

Recreational Resources of the Alaska Highway and Other Roads in Alaska
National Park Service Arrowhead

Chapter V:

After considering the character and volume of use which may be made of the roads in Alaska, the ways in which they must be improved if recreational use is to be commensurate with opportunities offered, and types of facilities which must be provided for the convenience of users, the next step is to plan for devoting to recreational use such lands along the highways as are most valuable or necessary for that use, and to recommend an adequate but not excessive distribution of related facilities.

Figure 48.—Chickaloon country.

To accomplish this step involves propounding and solving several questions, as follows:

(1) What is the minimum amount of land needed for recreational use?

(2) Are the lands selected better used for this than for any other purpose?

(3) Under what orderly procedure must this use of lands be made?

(4) For the entertainment of visitors, what must be the distribution of the facilities previously determined as needed?

(5) How can these facilities be arranged to best serve each type of recreational use, or to meet, at once, the needs of several kinds of use?

(6) What form should be followed by additional or subordinate installations functioning primarily as conveniences to the traveler?

THE LAND PROGRAM. The survey has revealed little need to set aside large tracts along the highway to protect scenic, scientific, or historical values, or to use these values for recreational purposes. Such a result, with or without foundation of fact, has been feared in some quarters. In Alaska as in the States, bitter antipathy has been fostered toward actions which seek, for whatever purpose, to reserve land in public ownership. Advocates of unrestricted private opportunism should have little ground for complaint in land actions which will be recommended by this survey.

Highway Rights-of-Way. To protect the scenic attractiveness of Alaskan roads, full consideration should be given to establishing definite minimum widths of right-of-way for all highways beyond the precincts of planned or developed communities. The charm of the countryside would thus be retained, offensive intrusion of billboards prevented, and the value of the roads to attract favor for Alaska maintained without impairment.

It is recommended that a uniform width of 300' on each side of the center line of the traveled way be adopted as a minimum, subject to further increase in locations of particular or peculiar attraction. Application should be to all roads in the Territory and not alone to the Alaska Highway. Withdrawal of at least one-half mile on each side of the Alaska Highway and the Abercrombie Trail from Gulkana to Slana should be kept in effect long enough to allow further study and final determination of right-of-way widths in these sections. Lands previously patented within 300' of the traveled way obviously would be exempt from the provisions of right-of-way establishment. Possibility is suggested of buying privately-owned property within the specified belt which is likely to be developed unfortunately.

Within the right-of-way no private construction should be allowed, except necessary access roads to holdings beyond it. Encroachment of buildings and advertising signs should be prohibited. Cutting of timber within the right-of-way should be solely the function of the administering agency, practiced for betterment of the scenic environment. Latitude is indicated in carrying out the process of judicious cutting; the administering agency might elect in one location to do the work with its own personnel, in another to mark the trees to be removed under its supervision by the owners of abutting property. Unrestricted activities of this nature may wreak permanent harm; properly directed selective cutting will act to the advantage of the highway and all those who pass over it.

Communities. Development of communities along the highways will key closely with tourist use. Growth of these nuclei will be stimulated by cash expenditures by travelers for refreshments, food, lodging, souvenirs, and services to automobiles. Conversely, the amount of use to be made of the new communities by tourists will depend upon the manner in which they are planned and their growth guided. The older towns in Alaska, rich in their historical background, will compel attention from the traveler by that simple fact, often in spite of haphazard arrangement and growth which adds little attraction or comfort. New communities, lacking this background, must depend for tourist appeal on the appearance which they present and comforts which they make available. After the first flush of curiosity—travel has subsided, continued travel to Alaska will be affected by these factors.

Necessary legal machinery already exists, under various legislative acts and executive orders, to effect the required results. The establishment of townsites and control over settlements until they reach the proportions of cities vests with the General Land Office. Officials of that agency, in Alaska and in Washington, are keenly aware of the effect which the new highway network will have upon the development of communities, realize the value of attractive communities to the future economic welfare of Alaska, and are giving careful thought to revisions of procedure or policy necessitated by the increased import of tourist travel in the Territorial picture. Their sympathetic and forward looking attention augurs well for the success of future Alaskan communities.

It is recommended that withdrawals from entry be maintained, or established if not already in force, within a two-mile radius from points about which the General Land Office may expect development of communities, that the period of such withdrawals be devoted to preparing definite plans for suitable development, and that these withdrawals be relaxed at the earliest possible moment, individually or as a group, to permit installation by governmental agencies of such facilities as may be needed to carry on their respective functions, and by private capital of the different enterprises which go to make up a community, all in conformity with the plans which shall have been prepared. These plans would define more desirable arrangements than the standard rectangular 5-acre plots which have been adequate heretofore, and would serve as instruments of zoning for the localities concerned. Careful advance planning would largely avoid the necessity for later adjustment to ultimate plans, perhaps not too easily made because of unplanned construction.

Provision of space for playgrounds and small city parks is an important consideration in planning for potential communities, and should be included in the suggested program of plans.

Review of sketch plans, worked out broadly but not in detail needed as a prelude to development, indicates that the average area set aside for each of the new communities should be about 4,500 acres, or seven sections of land.

Vacation Areas. Reservations of land for public use are necessary beyond the usual right-of-way in all locations selected as of primary value for recreational centers. The General Land Office has looked well to the future in setting aside for a recreational reserve a certain portion of the lands adjacent to the shore of Salchaket Lake, to serve particularly the day-use needs of families from the Fairbanks district. Recent withdrawals of public lands within one-half mile of the shores of Birch, Summit, and Paxson Lakes are clear indications of recognition of the necessity for safeguarding the rights of the general public to use the resources which are its property.

In consideration of the past and probable future rapidity of growth at Anchorage, similar action to care for the needs of citizens of that metropolis appears advisable. No one particular site has yet demonstrated its peculiar fitness for selection.

Of the areas to be recommended for development as vacation centers, Mentasta Lake may be regarded as typical. Here is one of the few instances in which it will be desirable to designate a considerable acreage of land as excluded from uses inimical to realization of fullest recreational potentialities. Lands adjacent to the lake and within range of view from its shores are better suited and more valuable for recreation than for any other end. Therefore no incidental use which would detract from this end should be permitted. Reservation to recreational purposes should entirely encompass the lake, and extend far enough in all directions to control the character of the setting. It is estimated that about 6,400 acres of land, exclusive of the area of the lake, will be adequate.

Roadside Overnight Stops. Not much land beyond normal right-of-way limits will be needed for the facilities planned especially for overnight tourist stops in natural surroundings. Sites which meet all criteria of scenic desirability and convenient spacing are apt to be so restricted in workable area that the units must perforce be set close to the traveled way. In most cases, all the land that will be needed beyond the confines of the building groups is a buffer strip deep enough to preserve the naturalistic character of the setting. About 600 acres for each site appears to be the average requirement for this purpose.

Scenic Easements. The Alaska Highway is not and probably never should be a parkway. However, while the withdrawal is in effect and before more lands are patented, there is a chance to protect forever such scenic values as are evident, without unduly detracting from the utilitarian possibilities for settlers and commercial interests.

The long, level tangents near the Richardson Highway and Tok Junction are in a country which may eventually be developed for agriculture. Complete clearing of farming lands up to the right-of-way line in such situations will not invalidate the scenic interest; distant views now screened by walls of standing timber may thereby be opened to vision; well-kept farm lands are matters of significance and interest to the thoughtful motorist.

East of the Tanana River crossing, and sometimes between there and Delta Junction, the story is not the same. The road skirts the foothills, sometimes climbing to view-commanding heights which afford intermittent vistas of the valley floor and the lakes dappling its surface. Conditions are similar over almost the entire length of the Mentasta Road, in midsection Glenn, and on the Richardson.

Uphill views are not so significant; therefore clearing or construction needs little restriction on that side. The valley foreground below the roads should be maintained in a natural state, with no distracting evidences of human occupation to detract from Nature's panoply. Patents to lands abutting the roads from the lower side could well stipulate that no clearing or construction be made within one-quarter mile of the road, except to permit access to properties beyond, and then not more frequently than at set minimum distances. Special legislation would be needed for insertion of such scenic easements.

Figure 49.—Foreground views require protection.


New Communities. New communities often arise at or near the intersections of major highways. The site in the Territory which promises to develop to most pretentious dimensions is beyond the Alaska Highway, although affected by it and by other military installations. This is the junction of the Richardson and Glenn Highways, about 2 miles east of Glennallen. Traffic originating from Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez, and Whitehorse must pass through this junction to reach any of the other places named, save only between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. In addition, its relative nearness to airport and radio installations will favor an early and rapid settlement. If an extensive system of bus lines is inaugurated, as seems probable, the importance of the intersection as a transfer point will be second to no other except Fairbanks.

The other junctions are at Delta, Tok, Northway, Tanacross, and Gulkana. Probably only the first two of these merit immediate consideration. Delta Junction is near an airport and in a region of good agricultural possibilities. Tok Junction places high on the list only because of strategic location at the point where traffic from Canada and the States is divided, to go on to Fairbanks or south to the seaport cities. Its physical site has not much to recommend it, lying in a flat, spruce-clad, gravelly plain, with good sub-surface drainage its sole attraction. Northway and Tanacross are both near airfields; Tanacross is only 14 miles from Tok Junction and its development will thereby probably be retarded.

Concerning the place which present and possible communities will fill in postwar automobile travel to Alaska, it may be said (1) that accommodations of truly urban character are already to be found at Fairbanks and Anchorage; (2) that Glennallen may be developed within a few years by private enterprise to include a country hotel; (3) that similar development may follow more slowly at Delta Junction and at Tok Junction; and (4) that other intersections will probably boast little more than tourist cabin groups for some years to come.

Vacation Areas. The following list includes some of the existing and potential major vacation areas which will appear in Alaska if adequate coverage is to be assured. It is to be noted that some of them are not reached by road, and so do not come within the province of this report, but should be included in future studies and investigations.

A. Mount McKinley National Park. Established facilities for public accommodation; serves a national purpose.

B. Glacier Bay National Monument. As yet not developed for public reception; will serve nationally.

C. Katmai National Monument. Undeveloped to accommodate the public; will serve national purposes.

D. Salchaket Lake. A colony of private cottages; needs public day-use facilities; of particular service to Fairbanks.

E. Circle Springs. A commercial resort; now serving Alaska at large, but especially Fairbanks; must be considerably improved if its field is to be broadened.

F. A potential area. To serve Anchorage as Salchaket does Fairbanks; perhaps the Chickaloon, north of the Glenn.

G. Mentasta Lake. A potential area; south of the lake and on the road; will serve both Alaskan and national use.

H. Summit Lake. A potential area; southwest of the lake; highway connection required; same character as Mentasta.

I. The vicinity of Nabesna. A potential site; accessible to the big-game country; scenic environment.

J. The vicinity of McCarthy. Similar to Nabesna in setting and potential use; dependent upon access from Chitina.

Roadside Overnight Stops. Vacation centers and communities will not serve all the needs of Alaskan travelers. They must be supplemented by overnight stopping places, conveniently spaced along the way. At what interval along the roads should provision be made to entertain the tourist, and how extensive should the average unit be? It is appropriate to examine in some detail the way in which the answer to this question is affected by the medium of highway transport, whether by privately-owned motor car or by commercially-operated bus.

It is estimated that average tourist travel per hour in Alaska will not exceed 25 miles, a lower figure than prevails in the States. This is not because of road conditions unfavorable to higher speeds, but because there is much to be seen from the roadsides of Alaska and because so many of the passers-by will be traveling Alaskan roads mainly for the purpose of seeing these things.

On this basis, average daily travel by private car would be about 200 miles, with due allowance for sightseeing, photography, relaxation, meals, and incidental activities. Assuming that there is no special provision for roadside restaurants, that mid-day meals are obtained at inns which afford beds as well, and that there will be no travel before breakfast or after the evening meal, the greatest spacing possible for such facilities is 100 miles.

Such separation serves basic preliminary needs for accommodations, but is far from the optimum for eventual development. The tourist becomes tired, even amid superlative scenic surroundings, after uninterrupted hours of riding; the "pause which refreshes" is not just advertising hokum. Again, Alaska's long, light summer evenings tempt travel after the evening meal, but not to the extent of 100 miles if it is known to be that far to the next potential stopping place.

The same total number of rooms will be required to house the visitors to Alaska, whether they are assembled in large establishments far apart or in smaller groupings closer together. In keeping with the character of the country to be traveled, it seems desirable to accept the latter arrangement, particularly since it admits of greater flexibility in the tourist's schedule and adds largely to his convenience. So far as the requirements of the independent traveler are concerned, a spacing of about 35 miles between accommodations available for overnight stops appears most logical.

Consideration of the welfare of those who will travel by bus and of the convenience of those who will operate them proceeds by various channels but arrives at conclusions not greatly at variance with those which stem from regard for private drivers. Those who operate bus systems to serve Alaska and its visitors will need to take into account certain differences in conditions from those which pertain in the States.

A schedule of 30 miles an hour over the major length of the Alaska Highway appears feasible. It may be necessary to adhere to a slightly slower pace in the long climb from Haines and the tortuous journey through Mentasta Pass. Similarly, ascent of the Richardson Highway from Valdez to Thompson Pass may be slowed. The sections north and south of Isabelle Pass are not as easily traversable as the Alaska, but a speed of 25 miles an hour can probably be maintained. The Steese Highway from Fairbanks to Circle is currently below the standard of the Alaska Highway, but will perhaps be improved as demands of traffic increase. In any event, bus operation between these two termini will probably constitute a unit independent from that over other roads, even though jointly managed, because most of those who take the trip will stop overnight at Fairbanks and start northward early in the day.

Because of the expected preponderance of tourist travel over that for business reasons, especially in the summer season, schedules should not be put on the 24-hour basis which is common in intercity runs throughout the United States. Travel should be suspended at night and passengers permitted the opportunity to rest in comfort. Particularly is this true in the case of those whose whole journey, from the States and returning thereto, is made by road. The long, light evenings have been cited as suitable for travel, and it would be possible to split the bus-travel day into three equal portions, set apart by stops for meals at noon and in the late afternoon. For general purposes, however, the two-trick day appears more advantageous.

From an operating viewpoint, runs should be based upon units of about 150 miles, the distance which will be covered in each of the two equal daily periods if feasible speeds are as contemplated. Each driver would round-trip his 150-mile division daily, eating once with his passengers at the point most distant from his home. In the States, travel is usually interrupted by relaxation stops not more than two hours apart. The 35-mile spacing adopted for the accommodation of private car passengers is less than this, but would perhaps not come amiss.

The present roads in Alaska lend themselves well to such a setup. Consideration must be given to operation over those parts of the Alaska Highway which lie in Canada, although such come within the purlieus of this survey only collaterally. It is assumed that Whitehorse, as the only significant community along the Highway, and as a junction with rail and steamship lines, will be an important stop on any bus system which may be inaugurated. From Whitehorse it is 100 miles to the Haines Cutoff and 307 miles to the 141st meridian.

Assume "through" coaches traversing the Highway from Fairbanks to the States, or even only as far as Whitehorse. Starting from the Interior city it is 104 miles to Delta Junction, transfer station for persons bound for Anchorage or Valdez. From this point it is 108 miles to Tok Junction, where passengers from the States are transferring for the seacoast cities. The distance from Tok Junction to the Yukon boundary is but 94 miles; the traveler is now half way to Whitehorse. The necessity for a stop at the Border, for customs and immigration formalities, makes it an important station in the schedule of operations.

Other "through" runs might be operated from Delta Junction to Valdez, along the Richardson Highway, and from Tok Junction to Anchorage by way of the Mentasta Road and the Glenn Highway. Scheduling with respect to arrival at and departure from the transfer point at Glennallen must be carefully made if interchange of traffic in all directions without long waits is to be facilitated.

Probably a single trip daily in each direction will satisfy normal requirements over the Steese Highway. Special service from Fairbanks to connect with Yukon River steamers can be instituted if the need arises. Shuttle trips on the Edgerton Cutoff can probably be accomplished by station wagon or by some other light type of equipment, without resort to the conventional cross-country bus.

Accommodations for bus passengers will not differ from those required by travelers by private motor car. The same facilities will entertain both types of tourists. Because of schedule restrictions, bus stops for meals and lodgings will include perhaps only a third of the stopping places which are made available to the general public.

Tentative locations for major and secondary sites proposed for traveler accommodation appear in both figures 22 and 50. Salient information concerning the individual sites which lie in surroundings of natural character will be found in the tabulation which appears below. Site numbers in the table are the same as those which designate the locations on the maps. Asterisks mark sites which have been selected with particular reference to possible use as headquarters for fishermen and hunters. They will serve additionally as overnight and meal stops for the ordinary tourist.

Sites recommended for development as overnight stops by the roadside.

Site Highway Location Mile From Acreage
1 Alaska British Columbia boundary, Haines Cutoff 42.0 Haines 160
2 Alaska 0.2 miles west of the Alaska-Yukon boundary 1,221.6 Dawson Creek 800
3 Alaska 8.0 miles east of Northway Junction 1,256.8 Dawson Creek 270
4 Alaska At Midway Lake 1,291.9 Dawson Creek 1,070
5 Alaska 2.0 miles east of the Robertson River 1,351.6 Dawson Creek 540
6* Alaska 0.1 mile east of Berry Creek 1,377.3 Dawson Creek 480
7 Alaska 1.4 miles west of the Johnson River 1,387.8 Dawson Creek 680
8 Richardson 1.5 miles west of Shaw Creek 80.4 Fairbanks 160
9 Steese 1.5 miles north of the Chatanika River bridge 40.0 Fairbanks 510
10 Steese 1.2 miles north of Twelve-mile Summit 87.7 Fairbanks 280
11 Richardson Site of the Old Meiers roadhouse 175.0 Valdez 800
12 Richardson South side of Willow Lake 89.5 Valdez 520
13 Richardson Site of the old Ernestine roadhouse 63.0 Valdez 640
14 Richardson 1.0 mile north of Thompson Pass 26.8 Valdez 960
15 Edgerton In vicinity of Chitina Lakes 2 ± Chitina 540
16* Mentasta 0.2 miles north of Clearwater Creek 57.2 Slana 480
17* Mentasta West shore of Mineral Lakes 37.4 Slana 600
18 Abercrombie Overlooking Cobb Lakes 59.2 Richardson Hwy 480
19 Abercrombie Overlooking the Copper River Valley 25.2 Richardson Hwy 270
20 Glenn View of the Tazlina Glacier 33.2 Richardson Hwy 460
21 Glenn View of the Nelchina Glacier 85.7 Palmer 600
22 Glenn View of the Matanuska Glacier 52.3 Palmer 860
23* Glenn At the west end of Long Lake 38.7 Palmer 640

View Overlooks. As a guide to future provision of parking pull-offs on all the Alaskan roads, the Alaska Highway has been reviewed with particular reference to this phase. The following tabulation lists sites which have been selected. It is not intended to be all-inclusive; hundreds of locations would fill the requirements. It will establish site standards which may later be applied to the other roads of the Territory. The listing indicates milepost distances from Dawson Creek and the appropriate side of the road for installing the overlook. For the purpose of this listing it is assumed that the Alaska Highway runs east and west.

MileSide Featured view
1,230.6NorthMirror Lake
1,243.8NorthRolling terrain
1,254.5SouthLake country
1,256.0SouthTwin lakes
1,263.6SouthValley lakes
1,269.5NorthChisana and Nabesna Rivers
1,272.0SouthValley of the Tanana
1,277.0SouthTanana River oxbow
1,278.4SouthTanana River oxbow
1,285.6NorthLake-studded valley
1,288.0NorthMidway Lake
1,295.3SouthAlaska Range
1,307.5SouthTanana River crossing
1,336.6NorthSmall lake
1,343.1NorthTanana River loop
1,355.7SouthNutzotin Mountains
1,367.5NorthRoadside lake
1,383.1NorthMarsh and mountains
1,386.2NorthMouth of Johnson River
1,389.7NorthGeorge Lake and mountains

CAPACITY OF FACILITIES. The previous chapter has revealed the conjectural possibility that by 1950 there may be as many as 6,000 tourists in Alaska on an average summer day. How will this horde be distributed, and what will be its effect upon the capacities of the facilities which must be planned for roadside accommodation?

Reference to figure 22 will indicate that the present highway network of the Territory reaches as many as eight existing communities and three locations for probable future communities, places where the traveler may stop for one or more nights. In addition, certain long-established roadhouses will probably continue and flourish in the tourist picture, because of their advantageous location, quality of accommodations which are offered, or a combination of both reasons.

Ten existing or potential vacation centers have been listed on page 50. Five of these are reached by highway and so will serve as overnight stopping places in addition to their primary function. They are Salchaket Lake, Circle Springs, Mentasta Lake, Summit Lake, and Nabesna. Mount McKinley National Park, although not currently available by road, is so easily reached by rail from Fairbanks that it should be considered to account for a definite portion of the nights which will be spent in Alaska by motorists. Further study of figure 22 and of the table on page 52 reveals that 19 major and 4 secondary sites for overnight stops in natural surroundings are recommended for development.

All these stopping places will not participate alike in the tourist business which is attracted to Alaska; secondary stops along the highways will not benefit as will the communities; variations will be evident in the daily transient population of the communities themselves. Fairbanks will probably rate highest among all the sites, not only because of its own attraction, but because, in addition, it will serve as an overnight stop for most of the tourists who are going to or coming from Circle, Circle Springs, or Mount McKinley National Park.

Figure 50.—Distribution of Accommodations Proposed Along Alaska Roads. (click on image for a PDF version)

In the tabulation which follows, an attempt has been made to evaluate the amount of tourist use which will accrue to the various stopping places. The estimate takes into account such factors as intrinsic site-attractiveness, traveler interest, accessibility, location with respect to similar facilities, and necessary duplication of travel.

Full recognition is conceded to the arbitrary nature of the assumptions in the tabulation, and to the currently unprovable character of the earlier derivation of the possible extent of travel by tourists to Alaska. There still emerges an indication of the pattern which traveler visitation will impose upon the economy of Alaska, and of arrangements necessary to care for it.

Accepting the assumptions as sound, it appears that about 45 percent of the tourist-nights in the Territory will be spent in cities, that existing roadhouses will be called upon to shelter approximately 8 percent of the visitors, and that designs for major and secondary overnight stopping places should be capable of expansion to serve as many as 75 and 25 daily patrons.

Estimated proportions of business accruing daily to the tourist stopping places of Alaska



Potential Communities
Delta Junction175
Tok Junction175


Vacation Areas


Big Delta25
Copper Center75


Overnight Stops by the Roadside


It will hardly be possible to provide immediately all the accommodations which appear necessary for ultimate usage, nor is such procedure advocated as desirable or wise. After nucleal facilities have been established in locations spaced to allow planned travel without dependence upon camp-out techniques, expansion of sites and development of new ones may be stimulated gradually, as the demand becomes apparent. It is recommended that attention be given first to those locations which will be probable division points for bus operation, but which will also serve for private car passengers, and to the recreational or vacation area suggested for Mentasta Lake.

Figure 51.—Anchorage, Alaska—1944.

PLANS FOR UTILIZATION OF SELECTED SITES. It is a primary function of this survey to provide a basis for the establishment of a comprehensive system of facilities for the accommodation of travelers, and to set the theme for component units of the system, by means of sketch plans for typical installations. Preparation of detailed plans or working drawings for the individual buildings is beyond the scope of currently authorized activities, and rightly so, as such action falls within the field of preliminaries to actual construction which may be determined upon the basis of this survey. Detailed plans should be made for any individual site only after that site has been accepted for precedence of construction in the plan for ultimate development, and has been acquired or set aside for the purpose. They should be based upon rather detailed topographic surveys, costs for the preparation of which would hardly be justified for the purpose of deciding whether the particular site should be utilized.

In order to "set the theme", and with no thought of recommending slavish adherence thereto, sample plans are included which suggest the general nature of development which is deemed fitting for each of the several kinds of facilities which have been discussed heretofore as being of significance to the recreational future of Alaska. A layout for a typical community, possibilities for enhancing vacation pleasures at Mentasta, the combination of governmental functions and tourist entertainment at the international boundary, a major overnight stopping place along the highway, accommodations of lesser capacity, incidental conveniences to the traveler; all are suggested rather than imposed.

Figure 52.—Opportunity for a planned community.

The Alaskan Community of the Future. Most Alaska communities have grown to their present size with no particular plan. Like many of their prototypes in the States, they show it, perhaps more because they are so few that they focus greater attention upon themselves. Whatever their genesis, be it the mining camp, fishing port, crossing of trails, or trading post, the pattern of growth has followed largely that of the remembered small town at home. The main street strings out one, two, or six blocks long, the warehouse may be next to the postoffice, the laundry and cleaning establishment across the street from the swanky hotel, or the liquor store next to the evangelist meeting place. Here is a vast country, with perhaps more room than anything else, yet town lots crowd each other in typical American fashion.

The manner in which communities arise upon lands now in the public domain is a matter of particular interest to the General Land Office. As earlier related, it is keenly aware of the effect which the new highway will have upon such developments, and is giving thought to means for helping Alaska to obtain the most desirable results along such lines. This report is concerned with the subject because of the effect which the character and appearance of all the communities of Alaska will have upon the continuing volume of tourist travel. As the result of various discussions with representatives of the General Land Office, and prompted by suggestions from them, sketches have been prepared to show the manner in which attractive, functional communities may be developed through proper planning.

Figure 53.—Fairbanks, Alaska. (Copyright 1938, Pacific Aerial Surveys, Inc., Seattle)

Figures 54 and 55 present suggestions for the type of new community which will be dependent for its existence chiefly upon the tourist business flowing through it. The plans do not mean to say "This is just the way a new community should look". They do attempt to say "This is the way in which layout patterns of new communities and towns should be determined". Whatever their location, size, or reason for being, all communities are composed of certain necessary elements. These vary in number, space requirements, and function. The wise plan prevents all the wrong things from getting into the wrong places, and makes it easy for the right ones to be put in the right places.

Figure 54. (click on image for a PDF version)

Figure 55. (click on image for a PDF version)

In this suggested plan for the intersection of two major highways, the community itself is placed off the main traveled road and separated from it by a protective right-of-way. Consideration has been given to a zoned relationship of all the community elements around which the street plan evolves. Commercial activities have been centrally located with reference to residential and industrial areas. Provision is made for future commercial expansion by the establishment of reserved areas around the commercial center. The space on either side of the town square has been designated for park purposes. Spacious off-the-street areas for vehicle parking appear in the initial plan in direct relation to business functions. Tourist hotel accommodations are provided close to the business section.

The street pattern indicates a minimum number of cross-street intersections, and provides for direct circulation between residential neighborhoods and the business section. Combination school and park sites are so placed as to serve neighborhood units. Industrial functions occupy an isolated location away from residential and business zones, and yet easily accessible from them. A buffer reserve area surrounds the industrial section. Land within the confines of an established protective zone which surrounds the community should be held to limited agricultural usage. By this means, possible future expansion of the community will not be hindered.

Figure 55 is an enlarged presentation, in plan and perspective, of the commercial center which is a part of the general community plan.

Figure 56. (click on image for a PDF version)

Figure 57.—Mentasta lodge site, from the upper end of the lake.

A Typical Vacation Area. Not all the potential vacation areas suggested in the list on page 50 can be reached by highway. The one at Mentasta Lake does fall in that category, and is recommended for early development as well. Since it is typical of vacation areas as a class, general suggestions for its development have been incorporated in sketches which appear as figures 56, 58, and 59.

Figure 59 shows the relation of the selected site to the lake, to the surrounding countryside, and to the alignment of the Mentasta Road. Approximate limits are suggested for the reservation of enough land to protect scenic merits of the environment. These enclose about 7,360 acres, of which roughly 925 are in the waters of the lake.

Figure 58. (click on image for a PDF version)

Figure 59. (click on image for a PDF version)

Preliminary highway surveys by the Public Roads Administration contemplated a location through the pass about 3 miles east of the lake, rather than around its western tip. It is possible that future improvements to the Mentasta Road may follow this shorter route. In such event, about 8 miles of the existing road which passes north and west of the lake should be retained, for access to the vacation area. The section southward toward Slana could be abandoned, particularly in view of the necessity for maintaining a second bridge across the Slana River, the largest stream in the neighborhood.

If the potential highway connection from Mount McKinley National Park to Mentasta Lake comes into being, it will perhaps drop down the northeast side of the Slana River to join the existing road northwest of Mentasta Lake. Revisions of the vacation area reservation may then be involved.

If there is real probability of this connection, an alternative vacation center site on the northern shore of the lake merits serious consideration. It does not offer as scenic vistas as those which are apparent from the selected site, however.

Physical characteristics of the Mentasta site are outlined briefly in Chapter IV, but a better idea of its beauty may be gained from figure 9. The photograph was taken from the spot suggested as a location for public accommodations.

The development outlined in figure 56 groups all facilities rather closely around a central lodge building located on a short spur road from the main highway. Besides its guest facilities, the lodge includes a general store, space for garage service and motor repair, equipment storage, warehouses for goods and food, and a screened service yard.

Beyond the lodge is planned a modest colony of tourist or vacation cabins, equipped for sleeping and cooking. This group can be extended at will. Since Mentasta Lake is expected to appeal to the fisherman, the housekeeping cabin appears to be a necessary and desirable adjunct to his enjoyment of the area, whether his stay be restricted to a few days or of several weeks duration. This type of facility, too, would better suit the pocketbook of the tourist with a large family.

Even less costly opportunity for a stopover at Mentasta is afforded by the campground, serviced with necessary sanitation and cooking facilities. While the demand for campgrounds in Alaska is not expected to be heavy, some will no doubt be needed. An area suitable for such use should be designated and made usable, although its extent should be kept to limited proportions until the need for further expansion is proved.

Recreational activities at Mentasta will probably center around such uses of the lake as boating and fishing. There is swimming in Alaska, and perhaps guests at the lodge will use Mentasta Lake for that purpose, but it appears hardly necessary to plan bathhouses or other special facilities.

At the water edge, some 35 or 40 feet below the lodge and accessible from it by a proposed ramp and steps, are the boathouse and pier. These features are designed to offer storage and rental of boats, outboard motors, and fishing gear, and the sale of bait. Facilities for boat launching appear more feasible near the road at the upper end of the lake than in the vicinity of the boathouse.

As previously stated, vacation pleasure in such natural spots as Mentasta should not be dependent upon participation in competitive physical sports. Nevertheless, there will always be indefatigable enthusiasts to insist upon them. For such, the plan provides a minor sports area. The diversions offered might include tennis, badminton, archery, horseshoes, and croquet.

When sufficient demand becomes evident, a stable of saddle and pack horses for short trips into the countryside or for more ambitious hunting forays might well be incorporated into the plan.

It is not difficult to visualize the need for a landing field, for light planes or helicopters or both, near the lake. An area west of the proposed development site appears to warrant investigation to determine its suitability for such use.

Figure 58 reveals in some detail a way in which Mentasta lodge could be developed. The building is placed on the bluff overlooking the lake, at the top of the steep slope to the shore. The location permits excellent views from the guest rooms, as well as from the dining room and lounge. Dining room, coffee shop, and tavern are on the upper floor, at entrance level; the lounge and terrace are below. Twenty-five guest rooms, each with its bath, are planned for the initial lodge unit; by extending the lakefront wing the capacity can be enlarged easily to 50 or more as the need arises.

Employees' quarters and operators' apartment are on the upper level, on the side away from the lake view. Lobby, curio sales, office, and rest rooms are in the one-story entrance wing. Log and frame construction reflects the earlier roadhouse.

Figure 60. (click on image for a PDF version)

An Overnight Stop by the Roadside. Figure 60 outlines the type of facility which is deemed appropriate for overnight stopping places along the roads of Alaska. In size and function it somewhat resembles the better existing roadhouses; its architectural treatment, in fact, recalls that predecessor. Size, arrangement, and architectural detail will vary throughout a system of stopping places, but the basic elements here assembled will be necessary to some degree in all such locations.

The example is located adjacent to the highway. A lodge building supplies major services, offering a comfortable and attractive lobby and lounge, rest rooms, coffee shop with counter and table service, and sleeping rooms with and without bath. In the main structure is a small general store, intended to serve local inhabitants as well as tourists who would purchase foodstuffs, gasoline, souvenirs, and photographic supplies. Quarters for the resident manager and employees are designed to permit winter occupancy. A well defined parking area will serve bus and passing motorist alike. The service court is fenced, to appeal to the eye of the visitor and to discourage prowling wildlife. The necessary equipment shed and motor repair shop form one side of it. The service roadway continues for a short distance to a small camp ground, which may be either eliminated or expanded as demand may indicate.

A plot-plan insert indicates the manner in which needed additions can be made, either integral with the building or detached as a tourist court.

Initial units of stopover accommodations should be designed to permit expansion to whatever room capacity may ultimately be needed. Dining rooms should also be capable of enlargement. In some locations the demand for meals may outrun the call for rooms. To meet such a demand, the store in the accompanying example might be converted to dining room, and its facilities housed in a new building.

Figure 61. (click on image for a PDF version)

Incidental Conveniences. Figure 61 portrays some of the miscellaneous conveniences to the traveler which have been suggested in previous chapters.

Regulating, warning, and guiding traffic signs should probably be in accordance with the standards used by most states, as indicated in the "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways". The standards promulgated regulate use, color, and shape.

For historical markers and special informational signs, a motif of design varying from that of the standardized highway sign is suggested, because of their special use and limited number. On account of the misuse to which metal markers are apt to be subjected, as previously discussed, these special devices might well be of wood, possibly with the decorative theme sandblasted in relief, and with lettering incised or in relief and painted. Above all, they should be functional, brief and legible, and placed with relationship to the object, site, or feature which they describe.

Two types of off-road parking areas are suggested in figure 61. The simpler type is merely a lateral extension of the road surface to allow parallel parking. The other involves a complete loop away from the main road, with shoulder-widening on the through highway as the loop is approached.

Figure 62. (click on image for a PDF version)

Both forms will be used for observation points, photographing sites, turnarounds, and rest stops. Where practicable, they may be combined with simple roadside parks, which should include such items of convenience to the traveler as comfort stations, a supply of drinking water, and one or two picnic tables and fireplaces. Areas indicated for picnic purposes should be surfaced with compacted gravel.

The loop form of pull-off is much to be preferred for combination with roadside parks, but because of maintenance requirements the number of these units will probably be very limited.

Suggestions for both overnight and vacation types of cabins are offered in figure 61, to supplement housing accommodations within the lodges. The two differ mainly in that the latter includes kitchen facilities. Probably the second type will find more favor at such vacation areas as Mentasta Lake, while the first will be more popular at the sites which serve mainly as stops for but a single night. The suggested construction is of frame or logs, its informal design reflecting the "wanigan" so useful in the growth of the Territory.

Another perspective sketch on figure 61 suggests an arrangement of facilities suitable for secondary sites where use as a hunting and fishing lodge is more stressed than casual overnight tourist stops. It is also adaptable to situations removed from the main traveled highways. Among the needed elements are a simple but comfortable lounge, dining room, store, quarters for the operator in charge, and, in the wing to the left, three or four bedrooms on the lower floor and a small dormitory above. The type of accommodations here required is somewhat less sophisticated than those recommended for the larger vacation areas and overnight stops.

The Special Case at the Alaska-Yukon Boundary. At the major point of automobile entry into the Territory, the Alaska Highway crossing of the 141st meridian, special facilities will be required, some of which are suggested in figure 62. Needs here center about the requisite formalities of customs and immigration clearance. Excellent opportunity is also afforded to dispense pertinent information concerning Alaska. Various government agencies may find it advisable to place contact offices here.

Hotel facilities are needed, not only as a unit in the regular spacing of such accommodations, but also to care for travelers who may reach the border station after customs and immigration offices have been closed for the night.

A general store, postoffice, facilities for sale of gasoline and repair of automobiles, and office space for a bus agency are included. Housing for governmental and other employees of the community is incorporated.

The lodge of the plan provides for 24 guest rooms and 3 apartments. If necessary, the latter can be converted into rooms and the lodge capacity further enlarged by extending the room wing along the road.

Alignment and grades of the highway at the site are not perfect. The location originally designed by the Public Roads Administration would swing more to the north, ease the grade, and provide more room for the development of necessary border facilities. Plans for construction of these should take into account the possibility of such relocation, which could be made a part of a general program of road improvement or included in the installation of the facilities at the boundary.

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Last Modified: Mon, Sep 6 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

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