This history of the Steese Highway is taken from a report
written by Jacob Tyrrell of Central, Alaska. He was 10 years old
at the time and it won 3rd place ribbon at the 1993 Southeast
Alaska State Fair held in Haines, Alaska.

We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did.

Circle Mining District Museum has kindly given us permission
to use some of their historical photos.  Some are shown
in the following links and the rest are after the history.

NOTE: the photos contained in some of the links are a large size.
If you have a slower connection, please click
to see all the historical photos. 

The following links are to photos, the others to additional information:
boat, highway, General Steese (2nd), Joe Bristow, Model T,
101 mile, road, corduroy, and gates



I live on the Steese Highway.  It is a 161 mile road going from
Circle to Fairbanks.  It goes over three summits. They are Cleary
Summit, Twelve Mile Summit, and the third highest summit on the
road system in the state - 3,624 ft. Eagle Summit. It goes from
Fairbanks, through
Fox, Chatanika , Central, and ends in Circle
at the Yukon River.

The Steese Highway started as a trail used to carry mail by
.  The trail went from Circle to the gold mines.  Circle
is about ten years older than Fairbanks.  Most of the people
were in Circle during the gold rush.  The mail and materials
came down the Yukon River by
boat. This meant they could
only arrive during the summer when the river was ice free.
(Note: the mail moved both up and down the river)

General Steese started making a highway going from Fairbanks
to Circle.  Materials could arrive there year round because of
the railroad an
d road connection to Anchorage.   General
followed close to the mail trail when he made the
highway.  It was named after him.

Before the road was finished, Joe Bristow, a blacksmith that
owned a
Model T
on tracks, left Circle.  He was going to
drive from Circle to Valdez, but he didn't wait for the road
to open.  It took him months to get to
101 milebecause he
kept breaking down.  When he finally arrived at 101 mile
he got sick and died.

The road was opened in 1927 during the summer only.  It was
a winding, narrow, muddy, wet road.  It had many places
where logs were laid across muddy spots.  These were
corduroy.  It was real rough by Chatanika because
it went over the tailing piles of the gold mines.  Later the
road was made wider.  It was given a new layer of gravel
on top.  Now it takes about three hours to go from
Fairbanks to Central.

The highway was opened year-round in 1984 because there
were more people in
Central and Circle that wanted to use
it.  It was funded by the Federal Government.  In 1990,
gates were put up on either side of Eagle Summit.  When
the gates are closed it means the road is closed due to a
whiteout or snow drifts so deep you can't drive through them.

Al Olson, an experienced state worker, drove off the edge
of Eagle Summit in a whiteout.  He was driving a state
plow.  This is a very large, husky vehicle.  This shows how
dangerous it is to be up there during whiteouts, so don't
ever try to go over the road when the gates are closed.

On a sunny day the Steese Highway is a beautiful drive.
Sometimes you can see Mount McKinley (ed:Denali) from
Cleary Summit.  From Eagle Summit you can see flowers
and gold mines.  From Twelve Mile Summit you may see
bear, caribou, or sometimes moose.  Come and see us
soon and take this historic road



Historical Photos
Courtesy of Circle Mining District Musuem
Central, Alaska

Photos from Rasmussen - O'Leary - Warren Collection
May not be reproduced in any form without permission

To view the photos in a format for slower connections
please click

Click on thumbnails to see larger  photo






Hauling a "Cat"

Dog team crossing

Hauling freight from


across Eagle Summit

Eagle Summit

Circle City










Dog team and driver 

Mail run - Chatanika to Circle

The "Stage" bringing passengers 


with  mail and passenger

circa 1930's

across Eagle Summit - June 1928










Vehicle caravan

"Cats" on

Horses and sled in deep snow


crossing Eagle Summit

Eagle Summit

at mile 74 on Steese Highway










Miller House on

Yukon riverboats at Circle City

Team and sled hauling


Mammoth Creek in 1922

"Ella" is sinking and Weare boat

freight in the winter










Mail run in 1939

Mail team going up steep

Delivering mail in 1939


on Eagle Summit

incline on Eagle Summit

at Sourdough Creek










Faith Creek Roadhouse

12 mile Roadhouse

Teams with passengers


Maurice O'Leary and team

Van Grundy and O'Leary

traveling in winter







  Other Interesting Links

Yukon Quest

Davidson Ditch




 Photos by Don Hamilton - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
May not be used without permission


Website designed by Karen Hamilton - Central, AK
Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved