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Bearfoot Travel Guides: Roadhouses In Alaska Have A History Of Burning Down

Beloved Sourdough Roadhouse, One Of The Last On The Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail, Burned To The Ground At Christmas, 1993

Loaded with gear, a car stops on the Valdez Trail.
Loaded down with extra tires, gear and a small American flag, an antique car stops at the Sourdough Roadhouse, headed to Valdez.
Once, there were roadhouses all up and down the trails, every 10 or 15 miles. Trappers, miners, and adventurers walked the trails. Or mushed them with dogs. Eventually, they used wagons and sledges, and finally, they made the trek with automobiles. Roadhouses were famous. Everybody knew the people who operated them -- their personalities and foibles. The Alaska roadhouse was at its height in the early 20th century. But it was a tough life, running a roadhouse, and one by one they were abandoned. Many of them collapsed into the ground from lack of use. Some burned down. Sourdough Roadhouse was a 1903 establishment that was still going strong 90 years later. It was a charming reminder of what life had been like in the early days, and people loved going there. The roadhouse was on the Richardson Highway (formerly the Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail) south of Paxson and north of Gakona Junction and Gulkana Village.

From: January 7th, 1993 Copper River Country Journal

SOURDOUGH - One of the Copper River Valley's nationally registered historic landmarks burned to the ground two days after Christmas, apparently due to a wood stove fire.

The picturesque log building was built in 1903, and was partially underground, in the old trapper style. A huge log beam spanned the main building.

The roadhouse was first known as "Hart's" and was on the 370-mile winter road from Valdez to Fairbanks. The lodge is owned by "Swede" Ruechel, who has said he will replace it. Loss to the fire was listed at $150,000.

The outbuildings surrounding the lodge were not burned. Sourdough Roadhouse is a regular checkpoint in the Copper Basin 300 lodge-hopping sled dog race, and the race course will stop at the lodge this year, as usual.

The lodge is on Sourdough Creek, near the Gulkana River.

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  1. My parents & I ran the Sourdoug for about a year in 1967/68. We had claimed a homestead just up the road towards Gakona at Milepost 143.25. For a ten-year-old child coming from upscale, affluent culture in a large Texas city, life the was quite a shock. However, I quickly learned to love it, and I had great help from the local Athabascan children and a legendary trapper & gold panner, George Smock, who gave me my first sled dog. Looking at that photonic Sourdough brings back such an upwelling of memories and feelings that I don't think I can write anymore. I did not expect that! I would love to talk to anyone who has info or who lived near there between 1967-1971. My email addy is . Cheers, Kathleen



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