Big Delta in Southeast Fairbanks Borough, Alaska — The American West (Northwest)
Gold Rush Crossroads
The community of Big Delta began during the Gold Rush era as a trading post and roadhouse serving prospectors and travelers.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 1, 2010
1. Gold Rush Crossroads Marker
[Photo captions; counter-clockwise from the top left]
Steamboat docked at McCarty, UAF Archives, Rita Cottnair Collection 74-130-75; Ferry at McCarty, Alaska State Parks; Rika Wadlen (second from left) at the roadhouse, Alaska State Parks; Signal Corps Station at McCarty, UAF Archives, Rita Cottnair Collection 74-130-75.
Known for many years as McCarty, Big Delta was a link in the paths of travel and trade. It was located at the intersection of waterways, trails and telegraph lines.
Opening a Trading Post
Prospectors and traders blazed a trail through here in 1903 to the new town of Fairbanks following gold discoveries in the interior. Travelers crossed the Tanana River at this point or traveled downriver by boat. In 1904, as prospectors searched the upper Tanana River for gold, E.T. Barnette and Ben Bennett opened a trading post here. This was as far upriver as stern-wheelers could go. Dan McCarty bought the post in 1905 as small gold stampedes to nearby creeks brought more people to the area.
A Stopping Place
As more people traveled between Fairbanks and Valdez, McCarty’s post became an overnight stop. In 1907, the U.S. Army started improving the trail. They installed a ferry two years later for safer crossing of the Tanana River. The road, later named the Richardson Highway, was the primary overland route to the interior until 1923 when the Alaska Railroad was completed. The ferry continued to be used until the 1940s when a bridge was built.
McCarty Becomes a Hub
By 1906, fourteen people had settled around the trading post. The same year, the Army moved its telegraph line from the north to the south side of the river. Later it built a station at McCarty. John Hajdukovich bought the trading post in 1909. He added the two story log roadhouse known as Rika’s that stands at the site today. In 1913, hundreds of stampeders from Fairbanks passed through McCarty during the stampede to the Chisana gold fields on the upper Tanana River. McCarty continued to be a small center for trade, transportation, and communication until World War II.
Erected by Alaska Gold Rush Centennial.
Location. 64° 9.144′ N, 145° 50.479′ W. Marker is in Big Delta, Alaska, in Southeast Fairbanks Borough. Marker is on Richardson Highway (Alaska Route 2 at milepost 175). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Delta Junction AK 99737, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 1 other marker is within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Delta Junction, Alaska (approx. 8.6 miles away).
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 17, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 512 times since then and 22 times this year. Photo 1. submitted on November 17, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide area view of the marker and its surroundings. •
Photo of the roadhouse known as "Rika's". • Can you help?