The Alaska Highway USED to be called the Alcan highway but the name is not used in modern times. There are PARTS of Alaska that you can reach from other routes (like the road to Skagway) but even that branches OFF of the Alaska Highway in Yukon Territory. Same can be said for the Klondyke/top of the world/Taylor highway which branches off of the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse Yukon Territory. About the only road to any place in Alaska that does NOT involve travel on the Alaska Highway is Hyder Alaska and the highway to Hyder branches off of the Cassiar Highway.
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The nomenclature of "Alcan" highway is not so prevalent anymore, particularly amongst the RV crowd. However, if "Alcan" is mentioned in conversation with anyone born in Alaska before, say 1975, they will know exactly what road/roads are being discussed.
I don't know if the road was ever officially designated the "Alcan", certainly unlikely after the mid-'60's, but that was the common designation in Alaska until the early '80's anyway.
Again, not a matter of official designation, but the statement "I took the Alcan to (Seattle, Edmonton, Great Falls, Cut Bank, etc)" was commonly understood to mean not only the road to Dawson Creek, but the remaining roads/highways in the provinces to get to the destination.
"Alcan" was often used as a litmus test: "I want a trailer tough enough to haul up the Alcan" ....but this has faded out as "Alaska Highway" became more popular and has really faded out since a big part of the road was paved.
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I was born in Yukon well before 1975, grew up at Mile 1202, and never heard the term "Alcan".
My feeling is that "Alcan" is primarily an American term, as that was the title given by the US Military when the road was built in the 1940s.
But then it was turned over to Canada and became a civilian road. It was officially labelled, "Alaska Highway". My Dad drove up the Alaska Highway in 1952 to settle in Yukon ... he never called it the Alcan either.
I had never heard the term 'Alcan Highway' until I joined this forum. Even then for about the first six months I was on here, I thought the term 'Alcan' referred to the 'Aluminum co. of Canada', or Alcan, as the huge smelters are known in both Kitimat BC, where my wife grew up, and Rogerstone, near where I lived in Wales.
I thought that maybe Alcan was involved in the construction of the highway.
I think Sue is right that it is an American term only, and then only by the older ones!
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I tend to use both names, and consider them to be interchangeable so long as everyone involved understands they refer to the same road. Somewhere I read that the term Alcan came from the military. The Alaska Canadian Road project or something close to that.
In 1962 when I made my first driving trip, the name of Alcan was all I remember hearing it referred to as by other travelers.
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Thank you, for your replies. The term "Alcan Hwy." is still in use on these forums. That's where the initial question originated from. I checked my map & could not find the Alcan & now I know why. I appreciate all your explanations.
Now, to actually get up there & see the Alaska (Alcan) Hwy. for myself!!! I can't wait!!!
Back in the really old days, say about 1949 or 50 I summered in Florence, OR and the folks I stayed with had a subscription to Alaskan Sportsman, now Alaska Magazine. In that publication the Hwy was the AlCan or Al-Can. JoeB is right, the designation was military. They have a tendancy to abreviate everything in a funny way.
I will probably never drive it again but I did have a sticker for awhile that said, "The Alaska Hwy, What an Adventure Through Untamed Wilderness". Asphalt may have tamed the AlCan but not the countryside. It's a trip I'll never forget and ended a fifty year dream.
* This post was
edited 08/05/12 07:21am by an administrator/moderator *
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