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Reconnaissance Survey for the Alaska Railroad: James L. McPherson's Kuskokwim Reconnaissance Collection

The Alaska Engineering Commission and the Building of the Alaska Railroad

Iditarod Trail and McPherson Survey Route
» » View larger version of this map

The Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898, and subsequent gold discoveries in Nome and Fairbanks brought national attention and waves of immigrants to Alaska. A lack of transportation infrastructure hampered natural resource exports. An act of Congress in March 1914 authorized the President to fund construction of a railroad in the Alaska Territory to transport passengers and natural resources such as coal from the interior to ports on the coast.

That year, President Woodrow Wilson created the Alaska Engineering Commission (A.E.C.), appointing Chairman William C. Edes, Frederick Mears, and Thomas Riggs, Jr. President Wilson ordered the A.E.C. to survey two areas proposed for railroad construction. The Commission also decided to send a party on the "Kuskokwim Reconnaissance" to research the possibilities of construction of a branch line from the western route through the Kuskokwim and Iditarod districts. Between June and October 1914, Alaska Engineering Commission employees surveyed both proposed routes, and during the same time, engineer James McPherson led a group that reconnoitered the Kuskokwim Valley. McPherson traveled in roughly the same area as the Government Winter Trail, established in 1908, which follows a similar route as the contemporary Iditarod Trail.

Read more about the Kuskokwim Reconnaissance Survey.

This digital collection contains all of the photographs from the McPherson albums. Visitors can be virtual followers of McPherson's route by viewing all of the photographs in this collection and the 41 map sheets he created which are part of the Historical Documents Collection.

Click points on the map below to view photographs taken along trail:

This digital collection was funded by a grant from Donlin Gold, LLC and is the result of a collaboration between University of Washington Libraries, Northern Land Use Research Alaska, LLC and Chumis Cultural Resource Svcs..

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