Alaska Highway Mythology: Bulldozers to RVs


  • Laura Pitkanen


Alaska Highway tourism has grown steadily since the opening to civilian traffic in 1948, and one of the primary motivations for Alaska Highway travellers is the enduring mythology of this route that is steeped in hardship, wilderness, and survival motifs. Yet how has this mythology been sustained when Alaska Highway conditions, services, infrastructure, and communities have changed drastically from the 1940s to present day? The answer to this question has numerous facets, yet a significant contributor to the endurance of Alaska Highway mythology lies in popular literature, in which highway travellers have ceaselessly disseminated tales of adventure, hardship, and challenge among the general public. However, while the preponderance of travel writers and the tourism industry extol the hardship of the Alaska Highway, this mythology is coming under pressure. This paper explores the complexities of Alaska Highway mythology in popular tourism literature since the 1940s and reflects upon the ability of Alaska Highway mythology to "survive."

Author Biography

Laura Pitkanen

Laura Pitkanen completed her MA in northern studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is currently a PhD candidate in geography at the University of Toronto.