Area: 6 square miles
Population: 402 (2000 census)
The village of Nenana is located at the head of one of Alaska's most scenic valleys with Mt. McKinley visible on the horizon. Situated at the confluence of the Nenana and Tanana Rivers, it's about halfway between Fairbanks and Denali National Park. The name Nenana means "a good place to camp between the rivers." With its close proximity to the Alaska Railroad and Tanana River (which flows into the Yukon River), Nenana has played an integral part in the development of interior Alaska. Nenana is famous for its Ice Classic, a tradition since 1917. In late February, a black and white, 26-foot-tall, five-legged "tripod" is set in the ice of the Tanana River. Tickets are sold throughout Alaska for $2.50 each. In April, a cable is attached to the tripod from a clock on shore. When the tripod moves approximately 100 feet, the cable trips a mechanism which stops the clock. Guess the day, hour and minute the clock stops and you'll split a pot, which in recent years has been over $300,000 dollars. This fun event announces spring's arrival in interior Alaska.
Nenana has traditionally been an important site for fishing and hunting camps by different groups of Athabascan Indians. Around 1905 a telegraph station was built by the Army Signal Corps as part of the network across Alaska, a trading post was established, and the Episcopal church founded St. Mark's Mission. A boarding school was added two years later. Today, the restored log church is a favorite photo subject for visitors. Nenana's population grew dramatically with the building of the Alaska Railroad. The first railroad survey party arrived in 1916 and began building a waterfront dock.
President Warren J. Harding drove the golden spike at the north end of the Nenana rail bridge on July 15, 1923. The golden spike is no longer there but the 700-foot steel bridge, the second longest single-span railroad bridge in the US, is still in use today. The old Nenana Train Depot has been converted to a railroad museum and is well worth a visit. In the 1967 Nenana's final link to the interior was completed with the highway bridge over the Tanana River. This replaced the ferry and ice bridge system used until then. Today, Nenana remains the largest and most important port in interior Alaska.
Nenana Visitor Information Center log cabin is located at the corner of Parks Highway and the entrance to Nenana. Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, 907 832-9953. Modern restrooms are located nearby.
A Frame Service
Mile 304.5 Parks Hwy
Chevron Gas & Diesel. Cafe, groceries. ATM.
Things To Do
Alaska Railroad Museum, built in 1922, this is one of the few remaining original railroad depots and is now a railroad museum with interesting historical artifacts.
Alfred Starr Cultural Center, Learn about the Natives who made their camps here. See how the Ice Classic got its start, how the railroad was built and more in this new log museum.
Railroad Bridge, the Frederick Mears Railroad bridge is the second longest single-span railroad bridge in the US. It was the final link on the Alaska Railroad when constructed in the winter of 1922. Taku Chief, this tug boat was in service from the 1940s until the 1970s, pushing barges from Nenana to the Yukon River.