Delta is located at the junction of the Delta and Tanana Rivers, 73
miles southwest of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. It lies at
approximately 64.1525░ North Latitude and -145.84222░ West Longitude.
(Sec. 08, T009S, R010E, Fairbanks Meridian.) Big Delta is located in the
Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 55.2 sq. miles of
land and 5.9 sq. miles of water. This area of Interior Alaska
experiences seasonal extremes. The average low temperature in January is
-11 degrees Fahrenheit. The average high temperature during July is 69
degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature extremes have been recorded, ranging
from a low of -63 to a high of 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The average annual
liquid equivalent precipitation is 11 inches, which includes an average
annual snowfall of 37 inches.
Oral history and a substantial inventory of native place names
suggest that Tanana Athabascan Indians occupied the site throughout most
of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Big Delta Indians began
leaving their ancestral homeland shortly after the peak of the Alaska
gold rush between 1898 and 1903.
In 1899 the Army sent parties to investigate the Susitna, Matanuska,
and Copper River valleys to find the best route for a trail north from
Valdez, through the Copper River valley. By 1901, the Army had completed
the Trans-Alaska Military Road, which extended from Valdez to Eagle
City. In 1902, gold was discovered in the Tanana Valley and, shortly
after, a spur trail was created from Gulkana on the Valdez-Eagle route
to the new mining camp in Fairbanks. This trail became the
During 1903, Lt. Billy Mitchell of the U.S. Army Signal Corps
supervised the construction of a telegraph line from Eagle to the mouth
of the Goodpaster River. The Goodpaster telegraph station was part of
the Washington/Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System (WAMCATS).
During the winter of 1904-05, the Goodpaster station was destroyed by
fire and relocated to Big Delta.
In April 1904, a prospector named Ben Bennett staked out 80 acres and
built a trading post at Big Delta on the left bank of the Tanana River.
In April 1905, Bennett sold his trading post to Daniel G. McCarty.
Although Bennett owned the trading post and surrounding acreage, he was
grubstaked for all of the merchandise by his partner, E.T. Barnette, the
wealthy founder of the city of Fairbanks. Thus, when Bennett decided to
sell out to McCarty, all of the goods at the trading post still belonged
to Barnette. However, in the early 1900s, the trading post and roadhouse
built by Bennett was commonly known as McCarty's or McCarty Station.
Another prospector named Alonzo Maxey, along with a friend, set up
Bradley's Roadhouse in the hope of diverting travelers from McCarty's.
By 1907, McCarty's passed into the hands of Maxey and then to John
Hajdukovich sometime after 1912. Hajdukovich built a new and bigger
roadhouse, but he continued to use the old trading post to store his
gear. In 1917 Hajdukovich hired a Swedish immigrant named Rika Wallen to
operate the roadhouse. In 1923, Wallen acquired the roadhouse from
Hajdukovich presumably in lieu of wages. Today, Rika's Roadhouse is part
of Big Delta's State Historical Park.
A work camp was established at Big Delta in 1919 during construction
of the Richardson Highway, which connected Valdez with Fairbanks. The
Big Delta Post Office operated from 1925 to 1959, from which the
community received its present name. Construction of the Alaska Highway
in 1942-43, homesteading, construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from
1974 to 1977, and state-funded agricultural projects have each brought
development to the area.
Today, many residents are members of "Whitestone Farms" (Church of
the Living Word, Inc.), who collectively pool individual assets and
income for the good of the community. A school, YMCA, and visitor center
are among the available facilities. It is anticipated that new jobs will
be created with the development of the Pogo mine, expected to be
operational by mid-2006.