Tok, Alaska, located at the junction of the Alaska Highway and Tok Cut-off (Glenn Highway), is the major overland point of entry into Alaska.
Tok, pronounced with a long o, to rhyme with poke, is an Athabascan Indian name meaning "peaceful crossing."
Tok is located between the Tanana River (to the north) and the Alaska Range (to the southwest) at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Tok Cutoff to the Glenn Highway. It is about 200 miles southeast of Fairbanks and about 93 miles from the Canadian border. Alaska Highway travelers pass through Tok twice, once entering the state and once more upon leaving Alaska. Tok being the only community that can boast this fact, considers itself a goodwill ambassador for the state, and has been called the "Gateway to Alaska." In 1991, Governor Walter J. Hickel proclaimed Tok "Mainstreet, Alaska". A logo and Tok's own flag have been designed as part of this theme.
In Tok, you can meet travelers who are:
Located at 1,635 feet elevation, Tok has plenty of visitor services, and the Tok Civic Center houses the Mainstreet Visitor Center (look for our brochures there) and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. Tok is a trade center for several Athabascan Native villages and also has become known as the Sled Dog Capital of Alaska (Tok is one of the centers of dog breeding, training and mushing), with at least one out of every three people involved somehow in raising dogs. One of the oldest and largest dog races in the State of Alaska, the Tok Race of Champions Sled Dog Race, is held each March.
History of Tok Junction
Tok began as an Alaska Road Commission camp during the construction of the Alcan (Alaska-Canadian Highway known now as the Alaska Highway) and Glenn Highways in the 1942. So much money was spent building and maintaining the camp, that highway construction crews nicknamed it the "Million Dollar Camp."
In 1944 a branch of the Northern Commercial Company was opened. Tok was chosen as a "Presidential Townsite" in 1946, the same year the Alcan was open to civilians, and Tok's first roadhouse opened to the public.
With the completion of the Alaska Highway, a post office and a road house were built. The first school opened in 1947. The U.S. Army began construction of the 8" Haines-Fairbanks fuel pipeline, (locating a pump station in Tok) in 1954, the same year the Tok Dog Mushers were founded. It closed down in 1979. Tok grew, and in 1958 a larger school was built.
In 1971, customs moved from Tok to their present location at Mile 1221.8 Alaska Highway, 93 miles SE of Tok. This is where visitors cross the border from Yukon Territory into Alaska. Officials at this US border inspection station, Alcan strongly suggest travelers obtain the pamphlet Know Before You Go before starting down the Alaska highway. Visitors going in either direction are required to have enough funds to defray the cost of their trip for the duration of their visit. If you have questions, call (907) 774-2252.
The United States Coast Guard built a Long Range Aide to Navigation station (LORAN) in the fall of 1976. Four 700' towers, 6 miles east of the junction, transmit radio navigation signals for air and marine traffic in the Gulf of Alaska. U.S.
The following is an account from Bell's Alaska Travel Guide of the fire which came close to destr0ying Tok in the summer of 1990.
Tok is an unincorporated community with a population of approximately 1,382 and is the trading center for several Athabascan Native Villages. The town's economy is based on tourism and for its size, Tok offers more hotel/motel rooms and campsites than any town in the state. Telephone ahead for reservations for any services needed, since during the summer months, hotels, campgrounds, tours and other visitor facilities may be totally booked.
Tanacross Indian Village
Nearby is the Tanacross Indian village and the Tanacross Airport. The Eagle Trail crossed the Tanana River where this village stands. Sternwheelers once sailed on the Tanana.. An airstrip built during WWII handled aircraft being ferried to Russia. (See Eielson page for more on the lend-lease program.) It remains a base for summer fire fighting crews.
Famous Tok Residents
According to Bell's Alaska, Donna Bernhardt and her family live in Tok. She is the author of a "Tent in Tok," which tells how one family survived a winter in a tent in one of the harshest climates in the world.