Sunday, August 19, 2001

Hello from Fort St. John, BC!

Start time: 0740

Start odometer: 8748

For the first day of my Alaska Highway drive, I was curious to learn what to expect as I continued my journey.  I found that for today, the distance traveled was not far up the road, and a few side trips brought some interesting learning experiences.

Today began cool and cloudy, with temperatures in the upper forties.  As soon as I departed the motel, it began to sprinkle.  I drove around town one more time for a few more pictures, then drove on towards Alaska.  Reading "The Milepost," I learned of a side road that led to the only remaining wooden bridge built during the original construction.  This particular bridge over the Kiskatinaw River had weight restrictions, so many of the heavy trucks using the highway needed to take a side road to ford the river, which they did not like to do.  In the 1970s, a new portion of the road was constructed, and a new bridge that could handle the weight was built.  This new section replaced 10 kilometers of the highway, but it is still possible to take the old section to see the bridge.  It was an interesting bridge to see.

I connected back with the highway and decided to return to the first turnoff, so that I could see the missed portion.  The new replacement bridge is of interesting design, with a single v-support in the center.

During the morning, rain was becoming more prevalent.  However, whenever I wanted to get out of the car for a look or to take pictures, the rain ceased.  It was interesting!

Continuing the drive, I arrived in Taylor, a small town along the Peace River.  A suspension bridge used to cross the river, but part of it collapsed in 1957, so a new cantilever and truss-type bridge was built in its place.  Also in Taylor is another visitor center.  Juanita was working at the center today, and she provided me with more information about the drive, and was also extremely informative and helpful.  I received more pamphlets and updated current condition handouts, which will be very useful.  Before I left, she mentioned a tour I might find interesting at a local hydro-electric plant outside of Hudson's Hope, BC.  That was to be my next destination.

I arrived in Fort St. John, the next city along the highway.  After picking up some fuel, ice, and travel tips from a woman running the gas station, I went a bit north of town to Route 29 and turned west.  The drive to Hudson's Hope is just over an hour, but the scenery is incredible!  The road travels along the Peace River valley, and many outlooks are provided.  On this leg, I saw a few deer, but no other game.

The Bennet Dam is located approximately ten minutes beyond Hudson's Hope, and is an impressive site.  It was built in the 1960s by B. C. Hydro, has ten available generators, and provides power for much of western Canada, and has also been used for power in the U. S.  I arrived at their visitor center just in time to board a bus that takes groups inside the dam for a tour.  Our guide Travous Quibell gave an excellent tour of the facilities, and we were able to see many interesting areas of the plant, including the area after water departs the generators.  I was very impressed with his knowledge, as were other members in my tour group.  This tour, as well as the many displays in the visitor center, showed the intriguing engineering design of the plant and dam.  After the tour, I spoke with Travous, asking more questions and getting more information.  I think I might be driving some of these tour guides to reconsider there jobs!  Travous is a computer geek, so we had even more to talk about!  He is a student at a university in BC, and works in the summer at the dam.  Also, he is a resident of Hudson's Hope.

Travous suggested a drive over the dam for another view, followed by a drive to the other BC Hydro dam on the other side of town.  I took a few pictures of the dam after I drove to the other side of the dam, then went to the Peace Canyon Dam.  Unfortunately, they were getting ready to close, but offered to stay a few minutes for me to look at their center and the control room.  Fortunately, I was not the only one there, so I took a quick look around.  The plant and dam are smaller than the Bennet Dam, but the control room was very interesting.  I left a few minutes later, so they did not have to stay for me.

It was after 1600, so I decided to drive back to Fort St. John and stay for the night.  The return drive was over the same road, but this time it was sunny for most of the drive, as the rains stopped around noon.  Again, the scenery was quite impressive.  Plus, I finally got to see more wildlife.  Halfway to Fort St. John, a black bear crossed the road in front of me.  I slowed down to avoid getting close to it, and in case another was near.  As soon as I passed the first bear, another walked across the road behind me.  Cute animals, but I kept my distance away from them.

Click on picture for larger image, hit back button to return to this page.

One last look at the visitor center before heading out on the highway.

I drove around a traffic circle to get started.

This is a symbolic zero milepost marker in Dawson Creek.

One of the older wooden bridges over the Kiskatinaw River on part of the Alaska Highway that has been replaced with a new section.

A closer look at the wooden Kiskatinaw River bridge.

A final look at the bridge.

A slightly damaged panel describing the Kiskatinaw River bridge

These posts dot the side of the highway.

The is the Kiskatinaw River bridge from a distance.

This is the only bridge of this type on the highway, using a single V support.

Road grade information.

Brake check advisory panel.

Historic panel describing the first highway here, used by fur traders in the late eighteenth century.

My first look at the Peace River.

The Peace River Bridge can be seen here.  This link shows a picture of the original bridge that collapsed in 1957.

At a visitor center along the highway, this stone and plaque were dedicated to Sir Alexander MacKenzie.  He and a group of eight others were the first white people to cross the continent.

A closer look at the plaque.

This is the canoe referenced in the plaque in the previous picture.

Meet Juanita, who I met at the visitor center near Taylor.  She was very helpful in providing information to further enhance my journey,

A panel describing Taylor and the Peace River.

This marked the previous location of the 1st Main Army camp.

A close-up of a flower seen in the previous picture.

This and the next picture were taken of the Peace River valley from an overlook enroute to my visit to the W. A. C. Bennett power generating facility.

A diagram of the facility.

One of the ten generators in the plant.

Our tour guide was extremely informed and provided for a very interesting tour.

This is in the depths of the plant, where the water exits the generators.

Another look at the area where the water leaves.

Another diagram showing the inner workings of the dam.

An exterior shot from the east side of the dam.

I drove across the dam to get this picture from the opposite side.

I stopped by the Peace Canyon Dam power generating facility.

The Peace River approaching the dam.

Another view of the dam.

A closer look at the dam.

I stopped along the road to get this picture showing some of the view of the drive back to Fort St. John.

 

 

Tomorrow I head further up the highway, and hope to be in or beyond Fort Nelson, BC.  Thank you for viewing my trip log!

Routes traveled today: 97 (Alaska Highway) - 29 - 97

Hotel: The Alexander MacKenzie Inn (named after the first European explorer to cross to continent to the Pacific) -

 

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Copyright 2001 Igor N. Nikishin

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