Nenana was little more than the site of a roadhouse until it was chosen as the base for building the northern portion of the Alaska Railroad in 1916. The construction camp quickly became a boom town that made history on July 5, 1923, when President Warren G. Harding arrived to hammer in the golden spike on the north side of the Tanana River.
In preparation for the president's arrival, the Nenana train station was built in 1923 at the north end of A Street, extensively restored in 1988, and now on the National Register of Historical Sites. It's an impressive building and includes the Alaska State Railroad Museum, which houses railroad memorabilia and local artifacts (admission is free). East of the train station, a monument commemorates when President Harding drove in the gold spike marking the completion of the Alaska Railroad.
An equally interesting building is the Nenana Visitor Center, a log cabin with a sod roof that during the summer is planted with colorful flowers. Outside the visitor center is the Taku Chief river tug, which once pushed barges along the Tanana River.
Besides its historical charm and Alaska Athabascan cultural richness, Nenana has one more claim to fame - the Nenana Ice Classic. This lottery tradition, begun in 1917 by Alaska Railroad surveyors, has Alaskans all over the state and participants from around the world, trying to guess the exact time of ice breakup on the frozen Tanana River. The first movement of river ice in Spring is determined by a tripod, which actually has four legs, placed 300 feet from shore. When the ice moves, dislodging the tripod, a cord attached to a clock on shore stops the clock and the exact time on the clock determines the winner.
Location: Nenana is located 65 miles south of Fairbanks on the famous Parks Highway near the junction of the Tanana and Nenana rivers.
Access: Primary highway and air taxi service.
Accommodations: Two motels/hotels and one bed and breakfasts (35 beds); five restaurants (seating for 160); one RV park.
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