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The Top Alaskan Wilderness Sights Part 2

Updated on February 26, 2010

Situated on Resurrection Bay, the center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to educating the public about the Alaskan marine ecosystem and to wildlife research and rehabilitation. Within the 115,000-square-foot center, three large, two-story tanks re-create habitats for harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and seabirds, including tufted puffins, common murres, and pigeon guillemots. Aquariums along one wall show the complete spectrum of local marine life, from creatures on the ocean floor to those in the tidal zone. Visitors can peer through scopes on the observation deck for a look at wild sea otters, harbor seals, and other marine life. In late spring and early summer, humpback whales sometimes enter the bay and can be seen from the center.

Accessible by highway from Anchorage, the Alaska SeaLife Center serves as a fascinating introduction to the plants and animals you might see on a guided boat trip in the waters of nearby Kenai Fjords National Park.

Adventure Road North

The 414-mile, gravel Dalton Highway is the longest road in Alaska. The pipeline Haul Road was built in 1974 by an army of workers in just 154 days, but its entire length wasn't opened to the public until December 1994.

From its junction with the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks, the 28-foot-wide road parallels and sometimes crosses the pipeline. The route traverses forests, rolling hills, and muskeg south of the Brooks Range and treeless tundra to the north. The high point of the road is 4,800-foot Atigun Pass. The Bureau of Land Management oversees 2.7 million acres of public land along the route and maintains a pull-out and campsite at the Arctic Circle, a popular stopping place. The historic mining village of Wiseman can be accessed from Mile 188.6. There's a general store, food service, camping, bed-and-breakfast inn, and the Wiseman Mining Museum. Farther on the road passes within several miles of Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Food, fuel, repairs, and lodging are available at only three sites along the route: the Yukon River Bridge, Mile 56; Coldfoot, Mile 175; and Deadhorse, near the end of the road. Delays are common due to dust, truck traffic, road construction, mud, and snow. Minor damage to headlights and windshields from flying rocks is common, and flats are to be expected. Travelers should carry extra fuel, spare parts, and at least two full-sized, mounted spare tires.

Breaking down on the Dalton is a nightmarish experience and can be very expensive. Towing by private wrecker can cost $10 per mile both ways. Auto rental agencies prohibit the use of most vehicles on the road, but every year foolhardy souls end up in a financial morass by violating the restriction. Do not take the terms on the car rental agreements you sign lightly. There is a continuous stream of car renters who end up getting stuck with essentially paying to buy the car rental agency a brand new vehicle after undergoing this adventure. Yes, this road is that tough on vehicles, and I wouldn't dream of it in anything less than a Humvee! Be careful!

Continued In The Top Alaskan Wilderness Sights Part 3

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