Today we crossed the border into British Columbia and arrived at Dawson Creek, the location of mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. From there, it will be about 1,200 more miles to the border of Alaska but we have reached a milestone that we have been looking forward to for some time.
But before all of that, Hector spent part of the morning vacuuming glass and rocks from the car and making a temporary cover for our now non-existent sunroof. Fortunately, it is a small sunroof. Delivery of a replacement part will take about a week, so we plan to schedule the repair in Anchorage, just over a month from now.
And we are thankful for Grande Prairie, where we found supplies to deal with our broken sunroof. This booming city’s economy is based on canola, cereal grains, fescue, honey, livestock, forestry, and oil and gas. There is a Walmart, a Costco, a Home Deport, several large grocery stores, several car dealerships, a mall and who knows what else. So it is a good spot for provisioning and/or taking care of other business.
After Hector installed our “new sunroof”, we had a short drive to the town of Beaverlodge, a regional center for grain transportation, seed cleaning and seed production. Wheat, barley and oats are the main crops in the area.
But the most distinctive feature of the town, in our opinion, is a giant statue of a beaver. It is completely adorable. Signage by the beaver pointed out some interesting information. “The beaver was the earliest distinctive symbol of Canada and to this day remains an important part of Canada’s history. A beaver’s lodge is its castle. They do not stray far from home.”
“A colony of beavers can eat up to one thousand trees in a year. In 1985, an estimated one hundred beaver cut down up to five thousand poplar trees in municipal parkland along Bear Creek in Grande Prairie.”
“If there is an animal that represents a typical Canadian – it is the beaver. Cautious, hard working and persevering pioneers, they are skilled craftsmen, haters of waste. Yet the beaver is peace loving, and mates are life. His first desire is to be left at peace in his own domain, but when forced to fight, he is a tough and stubborn warrior.”
After we tore ourselves from the giant beaver, we crossed from Alberta to British Columbia, and then to Dawson Creek, where we stopped at the Visitor Center. This is where the historical mile marker 0 is located, but there is another mile marker 0 at the main intersection in town a couple of blocks away. It was so exciting to begin our drive on the Alaska Highway. Unfortunately, it was kind of a gray, dreary day.
The Dawson Creek Visitor Center has an excellent wildlife exhibit with mounted animals including raptors and other birds as well as grizzly bear, a black bear cub, wolves, a wolverine and others. There is also a gigantic mastodon tusk on display that was uncovered nearby.
The building, which is the original structure of a railway station, also houses the NAR (Northern Alberta Highways) Railway Station Museum, now set up with a waiting area, ticket window, baggage room and various rooms of a stationmaster’s residence with antique furniture, kitchen appliances and other artifacts.
Additional antique artifacts are displayed throughout both buildings, including clothing, an antique typewriter display, gramophones, winter gear and more. Admission is by donation.
An adjacent building, the Heritage Grain Elevator, built in 1948 was purchased by the South Peace Art Society and moved to this location to house the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. The story of the historical significance of grain elevators along with the move of this gigantic structure are highlighted in one area of the building. The other side of the building displays local art and historical photos depicting the building of the Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway House, near the downtown mile marker has informative displays on the construction of the highway, as well as a one-hour film (which we did not see, but it did look interesting). The stories of the hardships that the people who built the highway endured are severe. Bugs, mud, snow, frigid temps, all far from home. We will think of them often as we drive on the highway.
Even though we are driving at a faster than normal pace towards Alaska, we will try to void two long drives in a row. So today’s drive will be considerably shorter than yesterday’s. We spent more than three hours in Dawson Creek, taking in the museums, walking through the town and looking at the murals. It was definitely a worthwhile stop for an afternoon.
Today’s driving recap:
Road Name: Highway 43 (Grande Prairie to Dawson Creek)
Road Type: 4-lane divided (Grande Prairie to Pouce Coupe), then 2-lane
Road Conditions: Smooth
Road Name: British Columbia Highway 97 (The Alaska Highway)
Road Type: 2-lane changing to 4-lane just before Fort St. John
Road Conditions: Smooth
Miles Today: 162
Miles driven from Canadian border: 797
Driving Time: 3:00
Tip of the day: Our windshield has been continually covered in bugs, so Hector bought a real bucket to replace our collapsible and keeps a “cleaning kit” handy so he can clean the windshield every time we stop and keep it from becoming too thick.
Continuing our drive, about 17 miles past Dawson Creek is a very short detour to the historic Kiskatinaw River Bridge. Built in 1943, this 534 foot long bridge is the only original timber bridge built along the Alaska Highway that is still in use.
We continued for a while longer past the town of Fort St. John and stopped at a rest area at mile marker 80 on the Alaska Highway for the night. About 1,100 miles to go to cross the border into Alaska.