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The Interior: Fairbanks & the Yukon Valley

Elliot Highway (AK2) -- Steese Highway to Manley Hot Springs

Road Conditions and Attractions—150 miles. Open year-round, the first 28 miles are paved and the rest is good, graded gravel. Services in Manley Hot Springs. Access to White Mountains National Recreation Area, Manley Hot Springs, Tanana River, mining history.

From its junction with the Steese Highway just north of Fairbanks, the Elliott (open year-round) heads northwest through mixed forests and hills, running between the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to the west and the boundary of White Mountain National Recreation Area to the east. The road crosses many minor divides including Snowshoe Pass, where you’ll find trailheads for routes into the White Mountains.

At Livengood the highway swings southwest to run a bit more with the grain of the hills and valleys. Around Eureka and Manley near road’s end, several small roads and paths lead off to the claims of the local mining district. There are services in Manley Hot Springs.

Steese Highway Junction (Mile 0)—The Elliott actually becomes the Steese, so if you’re heading to or from Fairbanks you don’t have to turn.

El Dorado Gold Mine (Mile 1.2)—This touristy attraction offers educational family fun. Visitors take a two-hour guided tour that features a ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad, a look at a working gold mine, a descent into a "permafrost tunnel," and a chance to pan for gold. For information, call 479-7613.

Lower Chatanika River State Recreation Area, Olnes Campground (Mile 10.6)—$8 sites 1 mile west of highway.

Lower Chatanika River State Recreation Area, Whitefish Campground (Mile 11)—$8 sites at the north end of the bridge.

Snowshoe Pass and Trailheads (Mile 27.7, 3,207' elevation)—Nice views above treeline. Trailheads for the Summit Trail and Ski-Loop Trail are here (see White Mountain National Recreation Area and Steese National Conservation Area, above).

Livengood (Mile 70.8)—Two miles up this road you’ll find a highway maintenance station and the site of Livengood, a virtual ghost town that was once an active mining camp. Private-property postings discourage visitors from exploring too much. Most were placed by a large mining company that has hopes for the area.

Dalton Highway Junction (Mile 73.1)—Head north here to reach the Yukon River, Arctic Circle, Brooks Range, North Slope, and Arctic Ocean. Otherwise, turn left to stay on the Elliott.

Minto Road Junction (Mile 110)—Turn left and drive 11 miles to reach the Tanana Athabascan settlement of Minto (population 245, 97 percent native). Residents are occupied mainly with subsistence activities or government-based jobs. The town was originally on the Tolovana River but moved to its present site in 1969 due to flooding. The hunting and fishing lodge here has a restaurant and store.

Minto is at the edge of the Minto Flats State Game Refuge. The flats are covered with small lakes, ponds, bogs, and muskeg—ideal habitat for moose and waterfowl, and thus for hunters. Units of the refuge are found on either side of the Tanana River, north and east of Nenana. Units of the Tanana Valley State Forest lie adjacent to the flats and refuge, encompassing the hills and spruce, birch, and aspen forest of the taiga. Though currently closed to homesteading, state preserves are fully open to hunting, harvesting, and motorized vehicles.

Manley Hot Springs (Mile 151.2)— Manley Hot Springs (population 99, 15 percent native) was established in 1902 when John Karshner discovered the springs near the Tanana River and established a homestead. In the same period, an Army telegraph station and trading post were built to support local mining activity and river trade. The springs quickly became a famous local attraction, though the first resort, with its Olympic-size pool, burned to the ground in 1913. The last resort in Manley went bankrupt a few years ago. Today the Dart family accommodates respectful bathers in three greenhouse tubs of varying temperature on their property. Call before visiting (672-3171), and check in upon arrival before you head to the tubs. A contribution may be expected.

Manley’s waters are naturally cooler than Circle’s but not sulfurous like Chena’s. Access to the Tanana River is a plus, as are the pleasant setting and friendly folks. A city campground has $5 sites.

Manley Roadhouse (Manley Trading Post) (Mile 151.2), Manley Hot Springs, 672-3161. Since 1906, an Alaska original. Food, bar, rooms, cabins, prehistoric and Alaskana artifact display. RH