The history of the Delta Junction
area is tied closely to the development of different
modes of transportation through this portion of the
Tanana River Valley. Increased
travel on the trail from Valdez to the gold fields near
Fairbanks initiated commerce in this area.
unknown time prior to 1904 Athabascan Indians inhabited
portions of Alaska's vast Interior region. Moose, caribou
and sheep were abundant close to the rivers and in the
Granite Mountains. Fur-hearing animals were easily
trapped and salmon came up the Delta and Tanana Rivers to
spawn. Wild berries grew in the surrounding countryside.
Numerous archaeological sites point to habitation by the
Indians 10,000 years ago.
Roadhouses were built along the
trail north and one, Bates Landing, was situated at the
confluence of the Delta and Tanana Rivers. It was at this
point that travelers had to cross the Tanana by a ferry.
The Federal Government collected a toll on the southern
side of the river from all passengers heading north.
In 1906, John Hajdukovich bought
the roadhouse and enlarged it. He operated the lodge, had
a steamship plying the Tanana, traded with the Indians
for furs and took hunting parties into the Granites.
Rika Wallen in front of her
Rika Wallen, who had come from
Sweden as an 18-year-old girl, was at Tonsina and walked
to Big Delta to go to work for John. He was away a great
part of the time and finally owed Rika so much in back
wages that he deeded the property over to her. She also
had an adjoining homestead. Rika's Roadhouse, on the
National Register of Historic Places, is now the focal
point of Big Delta State Historical Park. (Editor's note: see
Stories of Delta for additional personal perspective about the
In 1939, Mary Hansen and her late
husband, Bert, came by bus from Fairbanks to take over a
homestead on the north bank of the Tanana and to operate
a roadhouse and guide service. Mrs. Hansen now lives in
Wasilla; her daughter, Irene Mead, the first white baby
born here, still resides in the Delta area.
Some old maps refer to Delta as
Buffalo Center. This name was used because of the bison
herd which was introduced in 1928 and still ranges free
in the area.
The building of the Alaska Highway
in 1942 brought more development. A trail was cut into
the Clearwater Creek country for access to fishing and as
a fire break. People began homesteading in the area
along the creek and the highway.
Allen Army Airbase (now Fort
Greely) was among the series of airfields constructed
along the Alaska Highway during World War II. The field
did not see much use after 1948, the Army started its
Arctic Training Center (now known as the Northern Warfare
Training Center) and civil service workers began to
settle in the area as the army post grew and offered more
The population center, which had
grown around commerce at the two rivers, began to move to
the junction of the two highways and nearer the present
army post, on which construction started in the early
50s. By 1953, Delta had 13 bars and three service
stations, catering to the needs of construction workers
and men stationed at the post. Tourism began in mid century and
continues to increase. (See an
interesting pioneer vacation along the southern portion of the
Gradual growth has continued in the
ensuing years. Construction of the trans Alaska pipeline
created a temporary 'boom' economy but, with completion
of that mammoth project, community life returned to