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Fort Gibbon

1899 to 1923

Name of Ski Area: Fort Gibbon
Location: Tanana, in Interior Alaska on the north banks of the Yukon River just downstream from it's confluence with the Tanana River.
Type of Area: Ski Trails
Dates of Operation: 1899 to 1923
Who Built It?: U.S. Army


Facilities: Fort Gibbon, a U.S. Army outpost that supported a large number of troops. 
History: As the gold rush to Alaska gained momentum at the tail end of the 1890's, the U.S. Army arrived to help maintain order.   Posts were established at Fort Seward (Haines), Fort Liscum (Valdez), Fort Egbert (Eagle), Fort Gibbon (Tanana), Fort St. Michael (St. Michael), and Fort Davis (Nome).

Soldiers at these posts used skis for drills, patrols, recreation and for hunting for food.

Tanana was previously the site of Fort Adams (1868-1869), an American trading post.  Originally Fort Gibbon troops supported the telegraph line from Fairbanks to Nome.  Later, in 1908, the telegraph line was abandoned for wireless [radio] communications.  Fort Gibbon became a wireless station at that time.

From: Duty Station Northwest, The U.S. Army in Alaska and Western Canada, 1867-1987, Volume One 1867-1917, Lyman L. Woodman, Lt. Colonel, USAF-Retired.

"It appears that duty at this fort was not too onerous.  In March 1908 there were 37 men who, when their terms of enlistment expired, re-enlisted in the 22nd infantry, the organization due to succeed the 10th on the following summer.  Fort Gibbon's winters were easier to endure than Fort Egbert's.

Major Charles S. Farnsworth was post commander 1910-1912.  Farnsworth encouraged skiing and hunting parties for recreation and for the Arctic training value, as well as to obtain fresh meat.  Sports and recreation programs and various forms of entertainment the men devised contributed to their high morale".

Sources of Information:

Dave Brann

~  PHOTOS  ~

Photos from Charles S. Farnsworth Family Papers, circa 1910-1912
[Photo credits: UAF Archives]


This photo from 1914 shows a skier at Fort Gibbon, with a signal tower (for wireless communications) in the background.

[Photo credit: Alaska Museum of History and Art]

This picture taken around 1920 shows Evelyn Nixon, a missionary from Tanana, on skis.

[Photo credit: Frederick B. Drane Collection, UAF Archives]

Mail came to Fort Gibbon with style in to old days ... by dog teams.  Here Benjamin S. Downing's dog teams prepare to leave Circle City on a mail run to Fort Gibbon.

[Photo credit: University of Washington, Special Collections, Arthur Churchill Warner]

~  MAPS  ~

A topo view shows the location of Tanana downstream from the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_fortgibbon.jpg (128134 bytes)

A zoomed in topo view shows the area around Tanana, where Fort Gibbon was located.

(click on this map to expand it)

topo_zoom_fortgibbon.jpg (150858 bytes)

Research Correspondence 




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