Crow Creek Pass is a popular summer destination with hikers and backpackers, crossing a scenic pass high in the great Chugach Range of mountains which overlooks Anchorage and separates the Matanuska Valley from Prince William Sound. Crow Creek pass, or Crow Pass as it is often referred to, is also a significant point on the Iditarod Trail, made famous by the similarly-named 1,049-mile sled dog race held annually since 1973.
The trail was about 1,150 miles long and incorporated the long-traveled native trails of the Dena’ina and Deg Hit’an Athabaskan Indians on the southern and middle sections, and the Inupiaq and Yup’ik Eskimos on the northern end.
One of the early travelers over the Iditarod Trail was a hearty adventuring Presbyterian minister known as ‘the Mushing Parson.’ The Reverend Samuel Hall Young had spent time traveling in southeastern Alaska with none other than the great naturalist John Muir, who would come to be known as the “Father of the National Parks” and founder of the Sierra Club. The story of their friendship is chronicled elsewhere on this website.
In 1913 Rev. Young wrote an article for the church publication The Continent in which he shared his story of a journey via dogteam from Iditarod to Seward over the Iditarod Trail, crossing Crow Creek Pass in March. He wrote from Knik, “The worst mountain pass of all is before us–Crow Creek Pass over the high Alaska range. Fearsome tales are told me of this pass, but there is nothing to do but to try it.”The Reverend, who suffered from a bad back, hired a young prospector named Fred Taulman to take him over the trail, writing, “Were it not for my lame back I would go alone, but they all say that the pass is too dangerous to be traveled singly even by a strong and vigorous person. So on March 21 we hitched up our eager dogs, whose three days rest has put them in high spirits, and hit the trail again around the head of Knik Arm.”
An overnight stop at a roadhouse near present-day Eklutna and the travelers were ready to start the arduous part of their journey the next day. Crossing the Eklutna River and Peter’s Creek, along the shore of Fire Lake and up the valley of the glacial Eagle River, the mountains on either side closing in and narrowing above them.“Now hard climbing up a steep road to the base of the pass at Raven Creek roadhouse. A storm is blowing. The snow banners on the mountains that overlook the pass and the fast falling snow make it impossible for us to go on, so we spend a day at this fine roadhouse, kept by three men who are hunters, prospectors and hotel keepers as occasion requires. The second day they hitch up four big dogs as big as Shetland ponies to supplement our smaller ones, and a sturdy mountaineer with ‘creepers’ on his feet comes to pilot us over the summit. From daylight until noon we struggle before reaching the summit, making only five miles in six hours. The descent from the summit is almost sheer for 2,000 feet.”
One of the rarest historic Alaskan photos is S. Hall Young’s image of his dogteams at the summit of Crow Creek Pass in March, 1913. It is the only photograph of dog teams in the pass this historian and author has ever found, and at least two historic societies have verified the scarcity of such historically important photos. This one (below) is part of the Rev. S. Hall Young Album in the collections of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.