Before the construction of the Alaska Highway, the establishment of military bases and Alaska’s induction into the union as the 49th state, Fairbanks was an energetic mining town at the center of the largest territories in the United States. Italian immigrant, Felix Pedro is credited with the initial discovery of gold in 1902. As luck would have it, Captain E.T. Barnette’s goal of building a trading post on the banks of the Chena River coincided with this, as well as other key gold strikes north of town. Subsequently, Fairbanks was incorporated by a 75% majority vote in 1903.

More than one hundred years later, our small boomtown has a diversified economy, with oil, gas, gold and coal mining, military, tourism and the University of Alaska as key components. Fairbanks continues in its role as the services hub and gateway to Alaska’s Interior and Arctic. With a population of close to 31,000, Fairbanks’ citizenry swells to almost 97,000 when including the surrounding Fairbanks North Star Borough.

-from: Explore Fairbanks

For us Fairbanks was an overnight excursion.  Only a 6 hour drive to the north past Denali National Park and into the Alaskan interior, we enjoyed our leisurely drive to this borough. 

With Denali looming ever larger as we’d traversed past open tundra and the occasional moose we waited expectantly to see what was in store for us.  We were not disappointed.  Fairbanks offered way more than we expected.  There were several museums, tours and downtown historical sights available.

Photo shoot in the center of Fairbanks

We opted to enjoy our visit by walking the streets of downtown on a self-guided tour after stopping at the visitor center.  In another post we’ll talk about our dinner cruise on the Chena river – a highlight for sure! 

I personally marvelled at the modern structures that stood only yards away from dirt roofed houses.  Old meets new.  This city has stories to tell.

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Written by Dave on August 10th, 2005 - Places

Alaskan Chalet @ Jade Lake

Memories of our time with Alaska