Area: 132.3 square miles
Population: 1,393 (2000 census)
County: Southeast Fairbanks
Every highway traveler will pass through Tok twice, once coming into the state and once again leaving Alaska.
Because Tok is the only community that can boast this fact, and considers itself to be goodwill ambassador for the state, Governor Walter J. Hickel proclaimed Tok as “Mainstreet, Alaska”. A distinction it will carry into the future.
In August of 1942, the US. Army Corps of Engineers assigned to build this portion of the Alaska Highway and the Tok Cutoff named this junction Tok, after a small husky pup that was a mascot of the 97th Engineers. Tok had a best friend, a black bear cub, named Dynamite. Watching the antics of these two gave the over-worked men hours of pleasure.
Tok is an unincorporated community with a population of approximately 1300 and is the trading center for several Athabascan Native Villages. The town’s economy is based on tourism and for its size, Tok offers more hotel/motel rooms and campsites than any town in the state. It is highly recommended you telephone ahead at least a day in advance to secure reservations, as during the summer months, hotels, campgrounds, tours and other visitor facilities can be booked up. .
A recent addition to Tok, at the junction across from Mainstreet Visitor Center, is the Tok Memorial Park, tables, barbecue, swings, and a play area. Day use area only.
Tok is located between the Tanana River (to the north) and the Alaska Range (to the southwest). It is the first town in Alaska, for visitors traveling the Alaska Highway.
In July of 1990, Tok faced extinction when a lightning-caused forest fire jumped two rivers and the Alaska Highway, putting both residents and buildings in peril. The town was evacuated and even the efforts of over a thousand firefighters could not stop the fire. At the last minute a “miracle wind” (so labelled by Tok’s residents) came up, diverting the fire just short of the first building. Evidence of the burn can be seen on both sides of the highway just east of Tok.
Tok’s short history began in 1942 as an Alaska road commission camp during the building of the Alaska Highway and it has never looked back. Those working on the highway spent so much money in the camps erection and maintenance that it earned the name “Million Dollar Camp.” In 1944 a branch of the Northern Commercial Company was opened and in 1946 Tok was established as a presidential town site. With the completion of the Alaska Highway a post office and a roadhouse were built. In 1947 the first school was opened and in 1958 a larger school was built to accommodate the newcomers.