A Brief History of and Drive on Alaska 4- South of the Richardson Highway // Alaska | Caravan Sonnet

A Brief History of and Drive on Alaska 4- South of the Richardson Highway // Alaska

September 10, 2018

Happy Monday friends! I hope that y'all have had a wonderful weekend! Today I am excited to share more about our drive down to the Thompson Pass area in Alaska and specifically the drive on Alaska 4-South of the Richardson Highway.
It's honestly hard to pick just "one favorite" drive that we took on this road trip. Each area was so unique in our adventures that the beauty was astounding in different ways. This drive down towards Valdez, the Thompson Pass section with its glaciers and waterfalls dotting the mountains was definitely one of the favorites. *smiles*

After stopping to along the Klutina River (you can read about it HERE) I continued to drive us down towards Valdez. The pictures in the post are all from that drive. Honestly, I probably could have created approximately 10 more posts from this drive alone, but I thought I would just share with y'all my most favorite pictures from this adventure. Haha!
As a bit of history and explanation, the Richardson Highway is the highway in Alaska that runs from Valdez to Fairbanks. Richardson Highway is marked as two different routes: Alaska Route 2 (the northern part from Delta Junction to Fairbanks) and Alaska Route 4 (the southern part from Delta Junction to Valdez). 

For reference, if you are planning the same road trip that we did, we exited the Denali Highway and turned right to head south on Route 4 to head to Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. So on this trip, we only drove the Route 4 section of the Richardson Highway. 
The Richardson Highway has a rich history with it as it was the first major road that was built in Alaska. In 1898 the US Army provided an "All-American" route (a distance of approximately 410 miles) to the Klondike gold fields during the gold rush. After the gold rush ended the trail was still kept. This stretch of trail (that went from the port of Valdez to Eagle, Alaska) was kept open and maintained in order to connect the Army posts of Fort Liscum (in Valdez) and Fort Egbert (in Eagle).

Along the route in 1903 there was a telegraph line that was added and the rail became one of the most important routes in the Alaska Interior. Due to this in 1910 the Alaska Road Commission updated the trail so that it became a wagon road. The head of that project was US Army General Richardson, for whom the eventual highway was named after. 
In the 1920s (with the rise of motorized travel in the US), the road was upgraded to match automobile standards. To help pay for this and to help maintain the road construction the Alaska Road commission instituted a series of tolls for any commercial vehicle of up to $175 per trip (from the port of entry)!
While there are no tolls on this road now, the cost at the time was quite astronomical, and when the tolls increased again in 1941 disgruntled truckers took action. These disgruntled truckers (who had the nickname "gypsies") decided to start their own rogue ferry service in order to skip the tolls. 
As a brief side note, this section of the highway, with the beautiful river and mountains was one of my favorite parts of the trip. *smiles*
What is additionally interesting is that the southern end of the Richardson Highway (where we were driving) was only open in the summers until 1950. At that time there was a freight company foreman who lived near Thompson pass and actually plowed the snow himself using a snowplow for an entire season just to prove that the road could be used all year long. 

Now... these pictures look incredibly gorgeous and wonderful, but as I was driving and imagining plowing some of this area by myself I was overwhelmed. I had so much admiration because as a bit of a silly reminder y'all... Alaska gets a LOT of snow. *smiles* Can y'all imagine plowing (an unpaved road!) by yourself to prove this point?!?
Seven years later, after the highway was open, in 1957, the highway was paved. *smiles*
This section of Alaska was seriously so amazing. The rich history of the road that we were so easily driving on that had come to pass through the hard work of so many people over decades, was humbling. In some ways it made me appreciate the road trip even more, knowing and understanding this background. 
It was a beautiful place to drive and I hope that y'all take the time to experience it someday. I honestly would love to go back and drive it again. I remember when J first recommended this area... I was really really really torn about which direction to go (whether to spend the day driving over and back to McCarthy or to go south towards Valdez). I really wanted to go see the McCarthy area so the decision was tough. It's still a decision that I bite my bottom lip about because I wanted to do and see everything. But it is just not possible... so for those who may be questioning the same thing in your plans... if you only have one day like we did, take Alaska 4-south... you won't regret it. It was just that gorgeous. *smiles*
A side note here- as you drive along you will see the most beautiful waterfalls... and glaciers. Right there on the side of the road. Simply AMAZING.
Thanks so much for stopping by y'all! I hope that you have a wonderful Monday and beginning to your week!
PS- If you are curious about the specific details of the road trip that we took throughout Alaska or if you are planning a similar road trip (or just want to see and dream about visiting the beauty!) I hope the information below is helpful. You can read all of the posts from the trip by clicking on the links below:

Anchorage: // Anchorage Travel Guide//

Chugach Mountains (Alaska 1-South Drive): // Scenic Seward Highway Drive (Turnagain Arm Drive)//

Chugach Mountains: // Eklutna Lake//

Cooper Landing (Kenai Peninsula): // Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge Nature Trail//

Girdwood: // Winner Creek Trail //

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