|Go To See Alaska - Part 5 -
Scenic Richardson Highway and Fairbanks
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We were very happy to see the peak of Mount McKinley as we were driving south from the historic
gold mining town of Fairbanks along scenic Richardson Highway in the afternoon of August 17, 2009.
Mount McKinley in Alaska is the highest mountain peak in North America, at a height of 20,320 feet
(6,194 m) above sea level. The lower portion of the mountain was covered in cloud on that afternoon.
There is a pullout roadside parking area on Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and Delta
Junction for tourists to enjoy watching and taking picture of Mount McKinley. On a clear day, the peak
of Mount McKinley is visible from Anchorage and from Fairbanks.
Mount McKinley is in Alaska Range which is a 400-mile mountain range in the south central region of
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and
Richardson Highway from Fairbanks going south.
Each August as thousands of Sandhill Cranes (有丹頂的美洲鶴) begin their Autumn migration from
Alaska and Siberia southward to New Mexico, the Tanana Valley here in central Alaska rings with
gathering calls of sandhill cranes. As you can see from these photos that these sand hill cranes have
red crown. In the fall season, sand hill cranes begin to group up in areas called staging ground. One of
the such staging ground is at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in the heart of Fairbanks,
Alaska where daily Sandhill Crane tallies regularly top 1,000. This is the staging ground to prepare for
their Autumn migration south through Platte River in Nebraska to reach their wintering ground at
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, USA. The best time to enjoy fall staging is
late August and early September. Peak time is during the annual Sandhill Crane Festival sponsored
jointly by Friends of Creamer's Field, Arctic Audubon Society and the Alaska Bird Observatory.
In the morning of August 17, 2009, we drove from Healy to Fairbanks. Upon arrival at Fairbanks, the
first place that we visited was Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to see huge number of
sand hill cranes here as shown in these photos. Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is located
at 1300 College Road, Fairbanks, AK 99701, two miles from downtown Fairbanks. Phone: 907-452-5162.
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
The paved scenic 364-mile Richardson Highway from Fairbanks to Valdez bisects the Alaska Range which has
seven peaks above 12,000 feet. The Richardson Highway is a very scenic route, offering magnificent views of
the Chugach Mountains and Alaska Range, and some of the best glacier viewing in Alaska. It provides tourists
many opportunities to enjoy breathtaking views of spectacular mountains, glaciers, valleys and rivers.
Some sand hill cranes in flight at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
We saw this female moose on the roadside when we were driving from Healy to Fairbanks on the paved
George Parks Highway on the morning of August 17, 2009.
Zoom in for a close view of a section of 800-mile-long Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline System for transporting oil
from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope in arctic circle going south through rugged and beautiful terrain to
Valdez in Prince William Sound, the northernmost ice-free port in North America. The scenic Richardson
Highway essentially parallels this Trans Alaska Pipeline. So, we got several opportunities to see this huge
pipeline with a diameter of 4 feet. This section is part of a cable suspense bridge for the big pipeline to cross
the Tanana River at Big Delta (about 9 miles north of Delta Junction) as shown in the following photo.
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Big Delta where Richardson Highway and Trans Alaska
Oil Pipeline cross Tanana River
More views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline which provides about 20 per cent of the US domestically produced
crude oil, or about 10 per cent of the total oil consumption of the United States. Astronauts say they can see
this pipeline from space.
In addition to sand hill cranes, there are also many Canada geese, great white-fronted geese and other
Many sand hill cranes are in the grain field in addition to the open field.
Two sand hill cranes and several Canada geese in flight at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.
I also took a movie clip of these sand hill cranes in action at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge as
shown on the YouTube website at:
We toured the wintering ground of sand hill cranes in Bosque del Apache in New Mexico in February, 2006 to
see 18,000 sand hill cranes there as shown on my Travelogue web page at:
More mountains along scenic Richardson Highway
A picture of me (Sing Lin) and giant cabbages. The second place that we visited in Fairbanks is Georgeson
Botanical Garden (117 W. Tanana Drive, Fairbanks, Phone: 474-1944) on the campus of the University of
Alaska in Fairbanks to see the giant cabbages as shown in these two photos. Vegetable growers in Alaska are
setting records in the Guinness Book of World Records for their giant produce such as cabbage, zucchini,
Brussels sprouts, etc. Alaska is becoming known as a land of “Super-Sized Veggies.” One reason is almost
two months of nonstop daylight. During the summer, darkness never comes to Alaska. Vegetables just keep on
growing and growing into the jumbo size in the summer season.
Map: Click here to see Google Map showing location of Georgeson Botanical Garden
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline goes underground here to cross Richardson Highway. The unpaved gravel road in
the picture is the service road of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The S shaped pipeline is to allow expansion of the
metal pipeline when temperature changes.
The white aluminum radiators atop the pipes are used to remove heat into the air. The oil in the Trans-Alaska
Pipeline is heated so that the oil can be pumped through this 800-mile pipeline in the cold weather of Alaska.
However, In warm permafrost and other areas where heated underground pipeline might cause undesirable
thawing, the supports contain two each, 2-inch pipes called "heat pipes," containing anhydrous ammonia, which
vaporizes below ground, rises and condenses above-ground, removing ground heat whenever the ground
temperature exceeds the temperature of the air. Heat is transferred through the walls of the heat pipes to
aluminum radiators atop the pipes.
We saw another female moose on the roadside while driving on Richardson Highway
Caribou in the Large Animal Research Station of the University of Alaska
Tanana River running along Richardson Highway. Meltwater from glaciers feed sediment-choked rivers
whose channels intertwine into a braided pattern. This is typical for many braided rivers in Alaska. A
friend who has been living happily in Fairbanks, Alaska for more than 30 years said that such wide
open braided river is a good representation of the Freedom spirit of Alaska with wide open space. The
braided channels in such river can change their courses any way and any time they want because of
available wide open space in Alaska.
Map: Click here to see Google Map of Satellite view of braided Tanana River
More views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
World's largest statue of Santa Claus (42-ft tall) stands on Richardson Highway at the town of North Pole
located 14 miles east of Fairbanks.
During the Christmas season, the local post office is besieged with letters to Santa from children all over the
world. The town receives mountains of mail from all over the world, answered by a "Santa," or SASEs at least
postmarked from the North Pole (Zip code is 99705). There are several live reindeer in a fenced in area to the
left of the Santa Clause House.
Another view of the peak of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
The sequence of our 2-week Tour of Alaska is the Following:
One-week Alaska Cruise:
Vancouver in Canada, the starting point of 1-week Alaska Cruise --------> Ketchikan in Alaska (Misty Fjords
National Monument) --------> Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, Gold Creek Salmon
Bake) ---------> Skagway (8-hour Excursion Land Tour into Yukon Territory in northwest Canada) -------->
Glacier Bay National Park --------> College Fjords --------> Whittier, the end point of our Alaska Cruise.
One-week driving tour of Alaska starts from Whittier as follows:
Whittier --------> Denali National Park --------> Fairbanks (Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge,
Georgeson Botanical Garden, Large Animal Research Station of the University of Alaska) ---------> Town of
North Pole --------> Scenic Richardson Highway going south --------> Boundary of Wrangell-St Elias National
Park ---------> Scenic Glen Highway going west ---------> Scenic Seward Highway going south -------->
Seward, (Kenai Fjords National Park, Exit Glacier) --------> Seward Highway going north to Tern Lake, then
Sterling Highway going west to Kenai, then south ---------> Homer --------> Sterling Highway going north to
Kenai, then east, to Tern Lake, then Seward Highway going north ---------> Alaska Wildlife Conservation
Center --------> Anchorage, the end point of our driving tour of Alaska
Part 6 of 11 of my tour of Alaska is about spectacular Wrangell-St Elias National Park, scenic Glenn Highway
and scenic Seward Highway. It is at:
The Richardson Highway was Alaska’s first road, known to gold seekers in 1898 as the Valdez to Eagle trail.
Gold stampeders started up the trail again in 1902, this time headed for Fairbanks, site of a big gold strike. The
Valdez to Fairbanks trail became an important route to the Interior, and in 1910 the trail was upgraded to a
wagon road under the direction of Gen. Wilds P. Richardson, first president of the Alaska Road Commission
(ARC). The ARC updated the road to automobile standards in the 1920s; it was hard-surfaced in 1957.
Hundreds of sandhill cranes in Creamer's Field
Rainbow Mountain - a riot of rock colors, a mountainside of copper, nickel and cobalt sulfide mineralization
along with some platinum group metals and gold
On March 4, 2011, we visited Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana, USA and saw large number of
sand hill cranes in their spring migration north as shown on my Travelogue web page at:
Our winter tour to watch many red crowned white cranes (whooping cranes) near Aransas National Wildlife
Refuge on Texas Gulf Coastal area is described on my web page at: