Alaska Highway washout detour opens Monday, delayed tourists spend more time in Northern Rockies

Highway 97 washout

A washout south of Watson Lake closed the Alaska Highway over the long weekend, but alternate route was in place around 3 PM Monday.

A 3 km section of the former highway alignment will be used as an alternate route from 897 km to 900 km markers while work continues at the landslide site. Contract Asset Performance Manager with Alaska Highway, B.C. George Smith says there is already a line up of motorists at the route which will have single lane traffic follow a pilot car.

The recommended detour was to travel south to Prince George then use Highway 16 and Highway 37 to travel north again. Meanwhile, some tourists made the most out of the delay by staying longer in the Northern Rockies.

Bev Vandersteen Executive Director of Fort Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce who oversees the visitor information centre says “If you have to be stuck for a couple days, Fort Nelson and the Northern Rockies is a pretty fabulous place for that to happen.”

Local tourism is almost back to pre pandemic levels according to Vandersteen. She says people from around the world have been enjoying the region even amid travel delays.

“We had Canada day. We had the Fort Nelson First Nations handgames. We had a fishing derby happen in the region,” said Vandersteen who added the Fort Nelson museum, hiking and hot springs are just some of the attractions keeping delayed tourists entertained.

But motorists will be travelling up the Alaska Highway again.

Vandersteen was hopeful a detour would open on Monday but she said  “we’ll be sad to see them go because we’ve enjoyed our time with the visitors.”

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