Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

A rare roadside attraction on the Dalton

| July 23, 2009

Faithful watchers of “Ice Road Truckers” this season know that there ain’t much between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. There’s a few state highway facilities for maintenance of the Haul Road, a few resort facilities (closed in winter) when you cross the Yukon River, and then Coldfoot Camp at roughly the halfway mark. (See the top four photos on the right.)

It’s considered the world’s northernmost truck stop. There’s food, fuel, lodging and other amenities. When I rode the Haul Road with George Spears, now one of the stars on “Ice Road Truckers,” in 2006, we stopped there. We had a fine meal and chewed the fat with other drivers before traversing the remaining 239 miles of wilderness that ended at Prudhoe Bay.

Coldfoot began around 1898, earning its name when thousands of gold-hungry settlers arrived, then quickly got cold feet about the prospect of wintering there, according to the settlement’s website. Many made like birds and headed south.

“At its height, Coldfoot had one gambling hall, two roadhouses, seven saloons and 10 ‘working girls’ (many of the local creeks are named for these friendly women),” says the website. By 1912 the miners relocated to richer ground 13 miles away in Wiseman, and Coldfoot became a ghost town.

Coldfoot revived in the 1970s when a camp was established during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. “In 1981 Alaskan dog musher Dick Mackey set up an old school bus here and began selling hamburgers to the truck drivers,” says the website. Truckers, using crates that had held pipeline insulation, began hammering together what grew into what is now Coldfoot Camp.

— Max Heine

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