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Big Delta
 

 

Big Delta is located at the junction of the Delta and Tanana Rivers, 73 miles southwest of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. It lies at approximately 64.1525░ North Latitude and -145.84222░ West Longitude. (Sec. 08, T009S, R010E, Fairbanks Meridian.) Big Delta is located in the Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 55.2 sq. miles of land and 5.9 sq. miles of water. This area of Interior Alaska experiences seasonal extremes. The average low temperature in January is -11 degrees Fahrenheit. The average high temperature during July is 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature extremes have been recorded, ranging from a low of -63 to a high of 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The average annual liquid equivalent precipitation is 11 inches, which includes an average annual snowfall of 37 inches.

Oral history and a substantial inventory of native place names suggest that Tanana Athabascan Indians occupied the site throughout most of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Big Delta Indians began leaving their ancestral homeland shortly after the peak of the Alaska gold rush between 1898 and 1903.

In 1899 the Army sent parties to investigate the Susitna, Matanuska, and Copper River valleys to find the best route for a trail north from Valdez, through the Copper River valley. By 1901, the Army had completed the Trans-Alaska Military Road, which extended from Valdez to Eagle City. In 1902, gold was discovered in the Tanana Valley and, shortly after, a spur trail was created from Gulkana on the Valdez-Eagle route to the new mining camp in Fairbanks. This trail became the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail.

During 1903, Lt. Billy Mitchell of the U.S. Army Signal Corps supervised the construction of a telegraph line from Eagle to the mouth of the Goodpaster River. The Goodpaster telegraph station was part of the Washington/Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS). During the winter of 1904-05, the Goodpaster station was destroyed by fire and relocated to Big Delta.

In April 1904, a prospector named Ben Bennett staked out 80 acres and built a trading post at Big Delta on the left bank of the Tanana River. In April 1905, Bennett sold his trading post to Daniel G. McCarty. Although Bennett owned the trading post and surrounding acreage, he was grubstaked for all of the merchandise by his partner, E.T. Barnette, the wealthy founder of the city of Fairbanks. Thus, when Bennett decided to sell out to McCarty, all of the goods at the trading post still belonged to Barnette. However, in the early 1900s, the trading post and roadhouse built by Bennett was commonly known as McCarty's or McCarty Station. Another prospector named Alonzo Maxey, along with a friend, set up Bradley's Roadhouse in the hope of diverting travelers from McCarty's. By 1907, McCarty's passed into the hands of Maxey and then to John Hajdukovich sometime after 1912. Hajdukovich built a new and bigger roadhouse, but he continued to use the old trading post to store his gear. In 1917 Hajdukovich hired a Swedish immigrant named Rika Wallen to operate the roadhouse. In 1923, Wallen acquired the roadhouse from Hajdukovich presumably in lieu of wages. Today, Rika's Roadhouse is part of Big Delta's State Historical Park.

A work camp was established at Big Delta in 1919 during construction of the Richardson Highway, which connected Valdez with Fairbanks. The Big Delta Post Office operated from 1925 to 1959, from which the community received its present name. Construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942-43, homesteading, construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from 1974 to 1977, and state-funded agricultural projects have each brought development to the area.

Today, many residents are members of "Whitestone Farms" (Church of the Living Word, Inc.), who collectively pool individual assets and income for the good of the community. A school, YMCA, and visitor center are among the available facilities. It is anticipated that new jobs will be created with the development of the Pogo mine, expected to be operational by mid-2006.

 

 



 


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