First Nations History

Rocky Mountain Route

The history of the lands north on the road to Alaska are as vast and fascinating as the land itself. The permafrost and tundra of the frozen north makes it a treasure trove of historic discoveries. From the relatively recent history of the Alaska Highway and World War II, back to the 19th century gold rush days, to the ancient First Nations’ cultures, to the pre-historic days of the dinosaurs—the history along the road is filled with riches, legends and not-so-extinct characters.

Here’s a two-week itinerary for experiencing the top historical and storied sites.

Days One to Three
Fort MacLeod to Drumheller, Alberta

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Crossing the border into Alberta, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is an easy drive south of Calgary and one of the best-preserved buffalo jumps in the world. The jump was used for over 5,000 years by the local tribes to capture and eat buffalo by driving them off a 36-foot-high cliff.

The three-hour immersion buffalo jump experience is great for kids and adults. Visitors can take part in a traditional Blackfoot blessing, taste dried buffalo meat, re-enact the buffalo jump, and take home an arrowhead as a keepsake. How’s that for history!

The ancient lore of the local people is recent compared to the prehistoric sites at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. Continue driving three hours north for some of the best dino-watching on the planet.

The big finds have all been collected for your enjoyment at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. Be sure to check out Black Beauty, one of the world’s most impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils, as well as the mind-blowing Nodosaur Borealopelta, the newest addition to our knowledge of the dinosaur world, and easily the best preserved dino-beast you will ever see.

Day 4
Drive North

Days Five through Eight
Tumbler Ridge to Dawson Creek, BC

Tumbler Ridge

Continuing the dinosaur history theme, take a full day to drive north to Tumbler Ridge, BC. Going back further eons in time, Dinosaur Discovery Gallery at Tumbler Ridge is a must for all dino buffs. The Tumbler Ridge area is home to 10 of the world’s 15 known tyrannosaurus tracks, the most complete hadrosaur ever found, as well as the first dinosaur skull found in BC. The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery is open every day from June through October; other times of year, check for dates and times.

Just one hour past Tumbler Ridge lies Dawson Creek and the official start of the Alaska Highway. Don’t forget to stop in at the Alaska Highway House, which shows actual footage of the construction done by 30,000 dedicated workers. Learn about all the hardships and logistics issues that went into completing this marvel of engineering in just nine months.

Day 9
Drive North

Days 10 to 12
Whitehorse to Dawson City, Yukon

Kwanlin Cultural Center

Yukon is synonymous with the Klondike rushes, gold and silver. Whitehorse is fertile ground for history seekers, with steamships, museums, and interpretive walks available. Tour the SS Klondike for a glimpse at a real, Klondike River steamship.

Yukon also embraces its ancient past with the Da Ku Cultural Centre in Haines Junction, near Kluane National Park. The center celebrates the traditions of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people, with live shows, interpretive dance, art, and of course, historical exhibits.

The Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, and the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre in Dawson City, provide even more opportunities for immersion in these wonderful ancient cultures.

Days 13 and 14

University of Alaska Museum of the North

Finish with a stop at University of Alaska Museum of the North, and a visit to Blue Babe the 36,000-year-old mummified Alaska steppe bison. Discovered by a miner working in 1979, the mummy is a relic of the last age. Little known fact—the skin you’ll see is the well-preserved real deal, but draped expertly around a plaster replica.

For more recent history, the Pioneer Air Museum in Fairbanks explores the wild and wacky history of Alaskan aviation and its famous bush pilots. The exhibits memorialize Will Rogers and Wiley Post for their infamous plane crash on Alaska’s North Slope in 1935. Marvel and give thanks that air travel is so much safer today.

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