Alaska Day 11 - Via Nenana to Fairbanks

Fairbanks Travel Blog

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The tripod for the Ice Classic, Nenana

We spent almost a midweek in Denali. Today it was really time to go on. Further north! After (partially) filling the car's tank with rather expensive gasoline, we continued our journey over the George Parks Highway. The destination was Fairbanks, 177 km (110 mile) farther on. A piece of cake compared to the earlier long distances we traveled.

At 90 km (56 mile) into the drive we stopped at the old village of Nenana. Nenana is Athabascan for 'a good place to camp between two rivers'. That exactly describes the village. It is located at the juncture of the Nenana and Tanana Rivers. The village was founded in 1903 and used as a trading site.

SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
The goldrush brought more people. In 1905 Saint Marks Church was built, a post office followed 3 years later. When the construction of the railroad started the population grew further. By the time it was finished, in 1923, about 5000 people lived in Nenana. Seven years later, when the economy struggled, the population was back at 300. Today it is not much more, about 400. The vilage is small but has some nice sights: the church is still here, the former picturesque station is a gift shop and a rather disorganized museum. An old river boat, the Taku Chief, is conserved on shore. The specialty of Nenena is the "Ice Classic". Every winter a black-white tripod is placed on the frozen river. People from all over Alaska can place bets on when the river's ice will break. This break will be detected by the tripod.

Arriving in Fairbanks felt like arriving in civilization, after so many days in the nature of Denali.

Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Fairbanks' population is only 10% of Anchorage's population, yet the place is still the second largest city in Alaska. It was founded along the Chena River, at the site where a steamboat's captain (E.T. Barnette) stranded with his ship. Fairbanks was not named after the fair river banks that made his ship strand, but after Charles Fairbanks, vice president next to president Theodore Roosevelt, who, by the way, was succeeded by William McKinley. The city has a very pleasant climate, and that was notable! The sky was still blue and the temperature rose to almost 27° C (80 F). 

After checking in in our hotel we headed downtown and walked around in the historic district. It looked a bit like downtown Anchorage. The visitors center was really impressive and offered apart from many brochures a very well organized display of the city and its surroundings.

Creamer's Field, Fairbanks
I tried to pronounce an Athabascan phrase on display, saying "We act with honesty", but "Hoozoonh ts'e kk'ots'ehoo'osh" was way too difficult form me!

The main destination for today was Pioneer Park. Pioneer Park is the most original city park I have ever seen. Though it can be accessed for free like, a normal city park, it looks more like a amusement park or open air museum. It encompasses a selection of old houses and cabins, all moved from Fairbanks to the park. The collection is very diverse: just huts, vet's cabins, park ranger's cabins, and even brothel cabins. All now converted to snackbars or art galleries. The park also houses the only remaining wooden river sternwheel paddleship, the SS Nenana. These wooden giants used to sail the Nenana and Chena rivers, some of them all the way to Yukon in the north east. Pioneer park also houses several museums, a kid-train, the carriage used by president Harding while opening the Alaska railroad, a kid's playground, and even an old airplane. Very divers, very relaxed. 

Before we ate (too) much in an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant we made a quick stroll in Creamer's Fields, an old farm land that is currently a bird sanctuary. 

More pictures below!

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The tripod for the Ice Classic, Ne…
The tripod for the Ice Classic, N…
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Creamers Field, Fairbanks
Creamer's Field, Fairbanks
Saint Marks Churs, Nenana
Saint Mark's Churs, Nenana
Old station, Nenana
Old station, Nenana
Mural, Nenana
Mural, Nenana
Nenana
Nenana
Mural, Nenana
Mural, Nenana
Old Lacey Theatre, Fairbanks
Old Lacey Theatre, Fairbanks
Antler Gate, Fairbanks
Antler Gate, Fairbanks
Fairbanks Visitor Center, Fairbanks
Fairbanks Visitor Center, Fairbanks
Immaculate Conception Church, Fair…
Immaculate Conception Church, Fai…
Some distances. although not all o…
Some distances. although not all …
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
President Hardings Train - Pionee…
President Harding's Train - Pione…
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
SS Nenana - Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
SS Nenana in floating times
SS Nenana in floating times
SS Nenana anno 2011- Pioneer Park,…
SS Nenana anno 2011- Pioneer Park…
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Pioneer Park, Fairbanks
Creamers Field, Fairbanks
Creamer's Field, Fairbanks
Creamers Field, Fairbanks
Creamer's Field, Fairbanks
Fairbanks
photo by: Hummingbird