Thompson Pass, as seen in May 2009.
|Elevation||2,805 ft (855 m)|
|Traversed by||Richardson Highway, Trans-Alaska Pipeline System|
|Location||Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska, United States|
Thompson Pass is a 2,600 foot-high (855 meter-high) gap in the Chugach Mountains northeast of Valdez, Alaska. 500 inches (1,300 cm) of snow per year on average. In the winter of 1952–1953, 974.1 inches (2,474 cm) of snow fell—the most ever recorded in one season at one location in Alaska. It is also the most snow ever recorded in one season at one location anywhere in the fifty states. The pass also holds the Alaska record for the most snow in a single day: 62 inches (160 cm) fell on December 29, 1955.It is the snowiest place in Alaska, recording
The Chugach Mountains of southern Alaska are the northernmost of the several mountain ranges that make up the Pacific Coast Ranges of the western edge of North America. The range is about 250 miles (402 km) long and 60 miles (97 km) wide, and extends from the Knik and Turnagain Arms of the Cook Inlet on the west to Bering Glacier, Tana Glacier, and the Tana River on the east. It is bounded on the north by the Matanuska, Copper, and Chitina rivers. The highest point of the Chugach Mountains is Mount Marcus Baker, at 13,094 feet (3,991 m), but with an average elevation of 4,006 feet (1,221 m), most of its summits are not especially high. Even so its position along the Gulf of Alaska ensures more snowfall in the Chugach than anywhere else in the world, an annual average of over 1500 cm (800 in).
Valdez is a city in Valdez-Cordova Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to the 2010 US Census, the population of the city is 3,976, down from 4,036 in 2000. The city was named in 1790 after the Spanish Navy Minister Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. A former Gold Rush town, it is located at the head of a fjord on the eastern side of Prince William Sound. The port did not flourish until after the road link to Fairbanks was constructed in 1899. It suffered catastrophic damage during the 1964 Alaska earthquake, and is located near the site of the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill. Today it is one of the most important ports in Alaska, a commercial fishing port as well as a freight terminal.
The pass was named in 1899 by U.S. Army captain William Abercrombie "in compliment to Hon. Frank Thomson, of Pennsylvania", but he spelled the name "Thompson" on his sketched map, and that spelling stuck.The pass had been used by Alaska Native Ahtna people for generations prior to Abercrombie's arrival, but he marked and defined a trail through the pass for use by Klondike Gold Rush miners. His route, which became the Valdez-Eagle Trail, later was used by the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System, which strung cables through Thompson Pass. The path through the pass continued to be improved, and automobiles first drove the entire length of the trail in 1913. By that point, it had become the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, and it was renamed the Richardson Road in 1919.
The Klondike Gold Rush was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1896 and 1899. Gold was discovered there by local miners on August 16, 1896, and, when news reached Seattle and San Francisco the following year, it triggered a stampede of prospectors. Some became wealthy, but the majority went in vain. It has been immortalized in photographs, books, films, and artifacts.
Fairbanks is a home rule city and the borough seat of the Fairbanks North Star Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska.
Because of heavy snowfall in Thompson Pass, the Richardson Highway was used only in summer.[ citation needed ] Not until 1950, when a freight company foreman demonstrated that the pass could be kept open with snowplows, was the road drivable year-round.[ citation needed ] The trail through the pass remained gravel until 1955, when the Alaska Road Commission (part of the US Department of the Interior) paved it.
A snowplow is a device intended for mounting on a vehicle, used for removing snow and ice from outdoor surfaces, typically those serving transportation purposes. Although this term is often used to refer to vehicles mounting such devices, more accurately they are known as winter service vehicles, especially in areas that regularly receive large amounts of snow every year, or in specific environments such as airfields. In other cases, pickup trucks and front end loaders are outfitted with attachments to fulfill this purpose. Some regions that do not frequently see snow may use graders to remove compacted snow and ice off the streets. Snowplows can also be mounted on rail cars or locomotives to clear railway tracks.
In the early 1970s, Thompson Pass was the scene of frantic activity as thousands of workers built a portion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System from a camp located nearby.[ citation needed ] Heavy snowfall in the pass slowed work in the winter, but the pipeline was completed by 1977, and oil today flows through the pass on an almost constant basis.[ citation needed ]
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) includes the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 11 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline,, but those terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (122 cm) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.
Because Valdez is the southern terminus of the pipeline and Thompson Pass provides the only overland transportation link to Valdez, the state of Alaska maintains a road service station in the pass to keep it plowed and ice-free year-round. This facility includes Thompson Pass Airport,a short landing strip used by state aircraft which also serves as home to the annual Tailgate Alaska event. The work of keeping the highway through the pass clear is extremely challenging due to weather conditions and was highlighted in the Discovery Channel television special Alaska: Most Extreme .
Discovery Channel is an American pay television television network and flagship channel owned by Discovery, Inc., a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav. As of June 2012, Discovery Channel is the third most widely distributed subscription channel in the United States, behind TBS and The Weather Channel; it is available in 409 million households worldwide, through its U.S. flagship channel and its various owned or licensed television channels internationally.
The pass is a popular destination for tourists and adventurers. Heliskiing and snowboarding are popular recreational activities.
Heli-skiing is off-trail, downhill skiing or snowboarding reached by helicopter, instead of a ski lift. In the late 1950s helicopters were used in Alaska and Europe to access remote terrain. In 1965 Hans Gmoser commercialized the activity in Canada by combining lodging, transport and guiding. In Switzerland there are an estimated 15,000 heliskiing flights each year, to 42 landing sites. In 2010 Switzerland's major environmental groups, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature, handed a petition with over 15,000 signatures to the Swiss government, demanding a ban on heliskiing. Heliskiing is banned in Germany and was banned in France in 1984. Austria allows two landing sites.
Snowboarding is a recreational activity and Winter Olympic and Paralympic sport that involves descending a snow-covered slope while standing on a snowboard attached to a rider's feet.
Blueberry Lake State Recreation Site is a 192 acres (78 ha) park in Thompson Pass. It has a lake with Arctic grayling in it, a campground, and several picnic areas. It has been described as “one of Alaska’s most beautifully situated campgrounds”.
Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site is a 113 acres (46 ha) site with picnic areas, interpretive displays, and trails enabling visitors to approach the glacier.
Thompson Pass has a polar climate with one of the highest snow totals in the world. In spite of its high latitude it retains a mediterranean precipitation pattern, with dry summers, although those are too cool to qualify for dry-summer subarctic.
|Climate data for THOMPSON PASS, AK|
|Average high °F (°C)||10.3|
|Average low °F (°C)||−0.7|
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||6.18|
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||61.9|
|Source: The Western Regional Climate Center|
Delta Junction is a city in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Alaska, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 958, up from 840 in 2000. The 2016 estimate was down to 934. The city is located a short distance south of the confluence of the Delta River with the Tanana River, which is at Big Delta. It is about 160 km (99 mi) south of Fairbanks. Native inhabitants are Tanana Athabaskans.
Tok is a census-designated place (CDP) in Southeast Fairbanks Census Area, Alaska, United States. The population was 1,258 at the 2010 census, down from 1,393 in 2000.
Cordova is a small town located near the mouth of the Copper River in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska, United States, at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. The population was 2,239 at the 2010 census, down from 2,454 in 2000. Cordova was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. No roads connect Cordova to other Alaskan towns, so a plane or ferry is required to travel there. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989, an oil tanker ran aground northwest of Cordova, heavily damaging ecology and fishing. It was cleaned up shortly after, but there are lingering effects, such as a lowered population of some birds.
Glennallen is a census-designated place (CDP) in the Valdez–Cordova Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population of the CDP was 483, down from 554 in 2000.
Denali National Park and Preserve is an American national park and preserve located in Interior Alaska, centered on Denali, the highest mountain in North America. The park and contiguous preserve encompass 6,045,153 acres which is larger than the state of New Hampshire. On December 2, 1980, 2,146,580-acre Denali Wilderness was established within the park. Denali's landscape is a mix of forest at the lowest elevations, including deciduous taiga, with tundra at middle elevations, and glaciers, snow, and bare rock at the highest elevations. The longest glacier is the Kahiltna Glacier. Wintertime activities include dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The park received 594,660 recreational visitors in 2018.
The Richardson Highway is a highway in the U.S. state of Alaska, running 368 miles (562 km) and connecting Valdez to Fairbanks. It is marked as Alaska Route 4 from Valdez to Delta Junction and as Alaska Route 2 from there to Fairbanks. It also connects segments of Alaska Route 1 between the Glenn Highway and the Tok Cut-Off. The Richardson Highway was the first major road built in Alaska.
The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile (53 km) trail through the Coast Mountains that leads from Dyea, Alaska, in the United States, to Bennett, British Columbia, in Canada.
The Edgerton Highway is a minor highway in the U.S. state of Alaska that extends 33 miles (53 km) from the Richardson Highway near Copper Center to the town of Chitina. The McCarthy Road, within the Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve, is a 58-mile (93 km) extension from Chitina to McCarthy.
Newfound Gap is a mountain pass located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States of America. Situated along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the state line crosses the gap, as does Newfound Gap Road. The Appalachian Trail also traverses the gap, as do a small number of other hiking trails.
Chugach State Park covers 495,204 acres immediately east of the Anchorage Bowl in south-central Alaska. Though primarily in the Municipality of Anchorage, a small portion of the park north of the Eklutna Lake area in the vicinity of Pioneer Peak lies within the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Established by legislation signed into law on August 6, 1970, by Alaska Governor Keith Miller, this state park was created to provide recreational opportunities, protect the scenic value of the Chugach Mountains and other geographic features, and ensure the safety of the water supply for Anchorage. The park, managed by Alaska State Parks, is the third-largest state park in the United States, and consists of geographically disparate areas each with different attractions and facilities. Only Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California and Wood-Tikchik State Park in western Alaska are larger. Hunting and fishing are permitted in the Chugach under regulations established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for game management unit 14c. Target practice is not allowed within the park boundaries.
Denali Highway is a lightly traveled, mostly gravel highway in the U.S. state of Alaska. It leads from Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway. Opened in 1957, it was the first road access to Denali National Park. Since 1971, primary park access has been via the Parks Highway, which incorporated a section of the Denali Highway from Cantwell to the present-day park entrance. The Denali Highway is 135 miles (217 km) in length.
The Snow River is a 28-mile (45 km) tributary of Kenai Lake in the U.S. state of Alaska. Beginning in the Kenai Mountains of the Kenai Peninsula, it flows southwest through Chugach National Forest to near Primrose at the southern inlet of the lake. The river mouth is about 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Seward. Along its final reaches, the river intersects the Iditarod Trail and passes under the Seward Highway.
Fort Liscum was a United States Army post in the Alaska Territory on the south shore of Valdez Bay, across from the modern site of Valdez, Alaska. It operated from 1900 to 1922.
The Worthington Glacier is a 5,774-acre (2,337 ha) valley glacier located adjacent to Thompson Pass in the southeastern mainland section of the U.S. state of Alaska. Located on the Richardson Highway at milepost 28.7 mi (46 km) east of Valdez, it was listed as a National Natural Landmark in 1968. The Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site, a 113-acre (0.46 km2) roadside park operated by the state of Alaska, offers a view of the glacier, and it is acclaimed as one of the remaining U.S. glaciers that is accessible by paved highway. Like most of Alaska’s glaciers, this glacier has been steadily retreating for the last 150 years, but not as dramatically as many others.
The Portage Glacier Highway, or Portage Glacier Road, is a highway located in the U.S. state of Alaska. The highway is made up of a series of roads, bridges, and tunnels that connect the Portage Glacier area of the Chugach National Forest and the city of Whittier to the Seward Highway. Most of the highway travels through mainly rural areas just north of the Kenai Peninsula, with the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel passing under Maynard Mountain, part of the Chugach Mountain Range. Parts of the route were first constructed in the early 1900s, and the entire highway was completed on June 7, 2000, as part of the Whittier Access Project. As of 2012, the highway has not been extended or rerouted. The main portion of the highway traveling from the western terminus to the Begich, Boggs visitors center is designated as National Forest Highway 35 by the United States Forest Service (USFS).
Mount Billy Mitchell is a prominent 6,919-foot (2,109 m) peak located in the Chugach Mountains, 35 miles (56 km) east of Valdez and 12 miles (19 km) west of the Copper River in the U.S. state of Alaska. This mountain forms a prominent and easily visible landmark between mile markers 43 and 51 of the Richardson Highway, as the highway passes just to its west between Tonsina and the Thompson Pass.
The Eagle River is a stream, 40 miles (64 km) long, in the Municipality of Anchorage in the state of Alaska. Heading at Eagle Glacier in Chugach State Park, it flows northwest into Eagle Bay on the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet, 9 miles (14 km) northeast of downtown Anchorage.
The Lowe River is a 28-mile (45 km) long river in Alaska. It begins at glacier known as Deserted Glacier in the Chugach Mountains, passes through Keystone Canyon and flows into Prince William Sound near Valdez. It was named by William R. Abercrombie in honor of Lt. Perceval Lowe, a member of an exploratory mission in the area led by Abercrombie.