Two Alaska Highways Receive National Scenic Byways Designation
(JUNEAU, Alaska) - Two Alaska highways have received national recognition after being named National Scenic Byways Oct. 9, the George Parks Highway and the Haines Highway.
The Parks Highway spans 323 miles from the Glenn Highway in the Matanuska Valley to Fairbanks in the interior north and provides access to the Denali National Park and Preserve.
The Parks Highway was first called the Anchorage - Fairbanks Highway following its completion in 1971, but was renamed for George A. Parks, territorial governor of Alaska (1925 to 1933).
The highway is one of the most important roads in Alaska for commerce and recreation. The Parks Highway, and a short section of the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway, link the state's two largest cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
"There is a 116-mile middle segment of the Parks that was designated as an Alaska State Scenic Byway in 1998," said DOT&PF Commissioner Leo von Scheben. "However, receiving this national recognition for the whole highway is a real honor and something all Alaskans can be proud of."
The Haines Highway connects the Inside Passage community of Haines with Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory. This highway is 152 miles long and runs through the Chilkat River and the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve with its prime eagle roosting habitat and feeding grounds.
The highway was built by the U.S. Army in 1943 as an alternate route from the Pacific Ocean to the Alaska Highway, in case the White Pass and Yukon Route railway from Skagway became blocked. In the late 1880's, miners used the highway as a trail to reach the Klondike goldfields.
"This is also great news for anyone who enjoys the scenic beauty around Haines, where it is common to view hundreds of eagles roosting in the cottonwoods along the Haines Highway between October and January," von Scheben added.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) will receive more than one million dollars in grant funding to support two Parks Highway projects; a Parks Highway Master Interpretive Plan and the South Denali Visitor Contact Station.
The National Scenic Byways program was created by Congress in 1991. Under the program, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads for their outstanding qualities.
The Haines Highway runs along the Chilkat River, which is home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Thirty miles long and three miles wide, the preserve protects the world's largest concentration of bald eagles. (Courtesy photo)
A grizzly bear pauses on the Parks Highway north of Healy. (Official DOT&PF photo by Brett Nelson)