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1927 Map of the Arboretum

1943 - 1944: Alaska Military Highway Expedition

This replica log bridge over the Aishihik River near the Alaska-Canada Military Highway represents the types of river crossings on the road in 1943 and 1944. Mbochart, 2005.
A replica log bridge over the Aishihik River near the Alaska-Canada Military Highway represents the types of river crossings on the road in 1943 and 1944.

Plants collected on this Expedition

Plant ID Accession Date Recieved As Origin Source

Expedition Stats

Alaska, British Columbia

Event Type
Campaign
Collection Type
Germplasm, Herbarium Specimens
Arnold Arboretum Participants
Hugh M. Raup
Hugh Raup.
Hugh Raup. Harvard Forest Archives.

The Alaska-Canada Military Highway—often called the ALCAN Highway (today the Alaska Highway)—was built in 1942 to connect the lower 48 United States to Alaska through Canada and to gain an advantage over the Japanese in World War II. The Alaska Highway Botanical-Geological Survey explored previously inaccessible parts of the region opened by construction of this highway.

The Expedition Team

Hugh Miller Raup, then assistant professor of plant ecology at Harvard University and based at the Arnold Arboretum, led an expedition during the summers of 1943 and 1944 to explore the region adjacent to the new highway. He came not only to describe and collect plants for academic purposes, but to observe and record natural resources which were now easily accessible along the route.

Other members of the party in 1943 were Lucy Raup, who collected lichens; the Raup children, Karl and David; Donovan Correll, who collected mosses and assisted handling of vascular plants; and Charles Denny, who was a geologist surveying the region. In 1944, John H. H. Sticht replaced Denny as geologist. Two new team members were added, archaeologist and anthropologist Frederick Johnson, and Stuart K. Harris who collected small mammals and birds, as well as being the expedition’s cook.

While the trip members had varied objectives, the botanical efforts resulted in 25,000 voucher herbarium specimens from 4,100 individual plants, as well as detailed accounts of the collections’ surrounding environments.

The Route

“In addition to beginning a general biological description, our two expeditions have looked for evidence of agricultural potentialities, and have attempted to evaluate forest resources.”

Hugh Raup

From the Highway’s start in Dawson Creek, British Columbia they slowly traveled north through Canada, camping at the Beatton River, Summit Pass, and reaching their northern most point, Watson Lake near the southern border of the Yukon Territory. The party only covered about two-thirds of the highway in the first year, turning around at Whitehorse, Yukon. On their return to the United States, they stopped once to make collections between Little Atlin and Teslin Lakes in northwestern British Columbia.

The team returned the following summer of 1944 to collect along the northern portion of the Highway, eventually reaching the northern terminus in Fairbanks, Alaska. A few years after completing the Alaska-Canada Expedition, Raup was appointed director of the Harvard Forest, a post he held from 1946 to 1967.

Dig Deeper

Read Hugh Raup’s account of this expedition in, “Expeditions to the Alaska Military Highway 1943-1944.”

The Yukon Archives holds a large collection of photographs and papers of the Raup family—Hugh and Lucy Raup and their sons David and Karl—concerning their plant collecting trips to northwest Canada.

Hundreds of photographs from the 1944 expedition are held in the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology Archives and have been digitized. See them here.