(pronounced toke, like coke)
The highway traveler will pass through Tok twice, once coming into the state and
once again leaving Alaska. Because Tok is the only community that can boast this
fact, and considers itself to be a goodwill ambassador for the state, Governor
Walter J. Hickel in 1991
proclaimed Tok "Mainstreet, Alaska." This population of
approximately 1,415 is located 90 miles west of the
Canadian border, between the Tanana* River (to the north) and the Alaska
Range (to the southwest), 200 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
Tok is a bit undefinable. It is a town that isn't. Tok is not incorporated;
it is not considered a city, town, or village. The inhabitants call themselves a
"community" for lack of a better definition.
There are at
least three versions of how Tok got its name. I present them to you
1.) Tok took its name from the Athabascan Indians who used
to gather here. It means peaceful crossing.
2.) The name Tok was long believed to be derived from Tokyo Camp, a road
construction camp that rose as part of the straightening and improvement
projects on the Alcan Highway. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
Tokyo Camp was patriotically shortened to “Tok.”
3.) Tok was named after a husky pup on August 15, 1942 when the U.S. Army’s
Corp (the 97th engineers—an all black corps) were breaking trail north from
Slana on what is now the Tok Cutoff. They were working their way to the point
where they would intersect with and begin breaking trail southeast on what would
become the Alaska Highway. Their job consisted of not only building the road,
but naming points along the way. The young pup, named Tok, was their beloved
mascot, and upon their arrival at where Tok now is, it was unanimously decided
to name the junction after the pup.
Tok began in 1942 as an
Alaska Road Commission camp. So much money was spent in the camp's construction
and maintenance that it earned the name "Million Dollar Camp" by those working
on the highway. In 1944 a branch of the Northern Commercial Company was opened,
and in 1946 Tok was established as a presidential town site. With the completion
of the Alaska Highway, a post office and a road house were built. In 1947 the
first school was opened, and in 1958 a larger school was built to accommodate
the many newcomers. The U.S. Customs Office was located in Tok between 1947 and
1971, when it was moved to the border.
Tok faced extinction when a
lightning-caused forest fire jumped two rivers and the Alaska Highway, putting
both residents and buildings in peril. The town was evacuated and even the
efforts of over a thousand firefighters could not stop the fire. At the last
minute a "miracle wind" (so labeled Tok's residents) came up,
diverting the fire just short of the first building. The fire continued to burn
the remainder of the summer, eventually burning more than 100,000 acres.
The area was
traditionally Athabascan, although the current population is primarily
non-Native. Now, only 19% of the population is Alaska Native or part
Native. Today Tok
is the trading center for
the Athabascan Native villages of Northway, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta, Eagle
and Dot Lake.
is located in the Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 132.3 sq.
miles of land and 0.0 sq. miles of water. In the winter, ice fog and smoke
conditions are common. The average low temperature during January is -32 degrees; the
average high during July is 72. Extreme temperatures have been measured
from -71 to 99.
* Tanana is
pronounced tan'-uh-naw. It does NOT rhyme with
Chamber of Commerce - Tok Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 389, Tok, AK
99780, Phone 907-883-5887, E-mail:
Community Non-Profit - Tok Community Umbrella Corp., P.O. Box 547, Tok,
AK 99780, Phone 907-883-3080, E-mail:
Regional Native Non-Profit - Tok Native Association, P.O. Box 372, Tok,
AK 99780, Phone 907-883-5181
Regional Native Non-Profit - United Crow Band, Inc., P.O. Box 2279, Dot
Lake, AK 99737-2279, Phone 907-883-5137