Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dalton Highway ~ Atigun Pass ~ Galbraith Lake, Alaska

Three days of travel on the Dalton Highway in Alaska

Our Alaska travel continues as we leave the city of Fairbanks and head north.  We will reach Highway 11, the Dalton Highway, 135 km (84 mi) north of the city and follow that road for 666 km. (414 miles) more to reach Deadhorse, AK at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the Arctic Ocean.  

The Dalton Highway in Alaska
The Dalton, built as a supply road for the Pipeline, was named after James Dalton who was an expert engineer from Alaska who also was involved in early construction and a consultant for oil exploration is these far north places.

Dirt roads of Highway 11
The Dalton is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It is very primitive with some stretches of road paved but the majority is a dirt road.  Travellers need to be prepared to take care of most problems on their own.  The only medical help is available at Fairbanks and Deadhorse so survival gear is recommended.

Pump Station
There are a few pump stations along the route to enable the oil to travel all the miles it must go to Valdez.  This one is Chandalar Station, known as Pump Station 5, one of only four pump stations now being used.  This one is a ‘relief station’ which means it will relieve the pressure that builds up in the pipeline as it comes down through the Atigun Pass.

Climbing the Atigun Pass, Alaska
We travelled through the Brooks Range and Atigun Pass, which is the highest point on the highway at 1,444 m (4739 ft).  We crossed the Continental Divide; all rivers south of this point flow to the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea and all rivers north of the Atigun Pass flow into the Arctic Ocean.

Alaska Pipeline
The pipeline basically follows the highway most of the time. There are times it is out of sight, and times it is buried but most of it is above ground and nearby.  One cannot help but marvel at the thought of this project being done, the sight and size of it is very impressive.  We were able to view photos and videos of the project as it was being built, on different stops at interpretive centers in the state of Alaska.

Dalton Highway 11
We did not see any RV’s our size while on these roads.  Most vehicles seen were large trucks hauling supplies for the three towns, Coldfoot, Wiseman and Deadhorse, which have a total permanent population of 57 people (2013 census).  There are 3500 to 5000 seasonal workers at Deadhorse, as well, depending on the oil production.

Brooks Range
This road we travelled was one that few tourists take because of the challenge it could be but should you do it, it is one that must not be rushed.  We travelled with others, which is suggested should you have any problems.  We took three days on the Dalton each way and saw incredible scenery with some sunshine and some rain but well worth the drive and very little traffic.

Galbraith Lake park view
We planned our overnight stops with the available state parks and our fuel stops so we were not running out of fuel.  We carried extra fuel, spare tires and other parts that might have to be replaced so luckily we were usually prepared.  This was our view from an overnight stop at Galbraith Lake.

Stay with us, click here to see more to come on the Dalton Highway in Alaska.


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