This highway was completed in 1977 and was originally called the Haul Road because
it was how everything that supported the oil development at Prudhoe Bay was
"hauled" there. Today it is called the Dalton Highway and is a primitive road
that begins about 84 miles north of Fairbanks and runs for 414 miles to Deadhorse,
an industrial camp at Prudhoe Bay. Actually, most of the folks at Prudhoe Bay
still call it the Haul Road.
We drove this 500 miles of highway and can say that it is a beautiful but ugly road.
About 100 miles of the Haul Road is paved but the rest is dirty and brutal, but the
scenery going through the Brooks Range, north of Coldfoot, is fantastic. The first
84 miles of this journey is over the paved Steese and Elliot highways from Fairbanks
to the start of the Dalton.
This highway is continually undergoing maintenance in the form of graders and
their supporting water trucks. This makes for some slippery and dirty going and
also creates situations that are dangerous to your tires. We went over some soft
road right after it had been graded and encountered a "road hazard" that destroyed
the sidewall of one of our tires. This happened about 90 miles south of Prudhoe Bay on our way
north. We were able to get the tire replaced there before our trip back to Fairbanks.
NORTHBOUND ON THE DALTON HIGHWAY
Left: The bridge over the Yukon River in the center with the pipeline on the left
Right: Pipeline and the "Haul Road" - it is sometimes laid out this way to
allow for expansion and contraction
Left: Arctic Circle marker - star at bottom of gold circle is where we are
Right: Coldfoot Camp is about half way to Deadhorse"
It gets really cold here at Coldfoot Camp
Coldfoot Camp is the fuel and rest stop on the Haul Road. It has a garage, a kitchen, a saloon
The rooms at the Inn are small with two beds each and a small bathroom.
The building is a prefab affair where you assemble modules to make up what you want.
There weren't a lot of people stopping here - price might have been a deterrent.
Just as a reality check, the price of this wonderful room was $145 per night!
Left: Looking south as we head up to the Atigun Pass. The pipeline goes underground
for the trip over the pass.
Right: Some cliffs with multicolored faces and some left over snow.
DEADHORSE & PRUDHOE BAY
Deadhorse is the end of the Dalton with a permanent population of 25 with 3500 -
5000 part-time, depending on oil production and other related activities. Prudhoe
Bay is spread across about 25 miles and is the location of the largest oil field
in the United States.
Most buildings are modular, having been brought in by barge and assembled here.
They are placed on gravel pads built to cover the tundra bogs and permafrost that make up most
of the area. Even the roads are constructed this way. The bogs are ideal for migrating
birds. All businesses here support the oil field and the pipeline. Employees usually work
a rotation of two weeks on and two off. They work a 12 hours per day, 7 days a week,
shift for two weeks and then are flown to either Anchorage or Fairbanks for their
two weeks off. There are no banks or ATMs in Deadhorse and it is dry. They used to
have alcohol available but there were just too many incidents and a few years ago
the borough instituted a ban. Even just possession of alcohol is a very serious
Left: Alaska has boroughs instead of counties and this is the offices of the one
that covers the north slope.
Right & below: General layout of buildings and tundra bogs.
Right: This is the only hotel in our experience that closed because we didn't stay
there! Actually they weren't very busy so they sent us down the road to the only
other hotel which was also the only place to eat in the area. This one was only staying
open to run the Arctic Ocean tours. Don't know why they didn't move this function
down the road too. They did re-open if bus tours came up.
Left: Drilling rigs are parked here for maintenance and modifications and then
rolled to the jobsite at 1-2 mph.
Right: These thumpers are used in the winter to generate seismic shock waves for
oil field prospecting.
Left: You have to be on a tour conducted by a security person to enter the oil
field and see the Arctic Ocean.
Right: Some people come to join the Polar Bear Club by total immersion in the
Left: We are on the east dock/spit looking back at the oil field operations.
Right: We were just happy to touch the waters of the Arctic Ocean - No total immersion
SOUTHBOUND ON THE DALTON HIGHWAY
Left: This is what the Cherokee looked like after the trip up and ready for the
return trip to Fairbanks
Right: Beautiful wild flowers along the side of the road. They were always on the
Beautiful scenery, ugly road
This is an indication of the smoke in the air as we approached Fairbanks and the
many forest fires around there. The beautiful mountains are there
but it is difficult to get any definition on them.