Like the Dalton Highway, Deadhorse exists to support oil operations in Prudhoe Bay. While the official population is 25, the town boasts a non-permanent population of 2,000-3,000 employees of the various oil operations. Like Coldfoot and the camp at Mile 60, the facilities for visitors are the same as those built to house construction workers for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. All facilities are simple, prefabricated buildings which were brought to Deadhorse on barge or via the Dalton. Commodities, having to be shipped great distances, are expensive.
The settlement dates to the 1967 discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field. While the origin of the town's name is unclear, the most common theory is that it refers to the original airfield runway, which was built with gravel hauled by trucking company Dead Horse Hauling.
Deadhorse has no direct access to the Arctic Ocean, which is 10 miles (16 km) away. Special advanced access/tours (via oil field personnel permission, requiring photo ID and right of refusal) may visit Prudhoe Bay... but, even then, not all tours reach the bay. The mere idea that someone would travel so far, with so little to see at the end of the road, may earn a few blank stares from the oil folk.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The town is at the northern terminus, Mile 414, of the Dalton Highway which provides a land link year-round to Fairbanks.
- 1 Deadhorse Airport (SCC IATA). A modest airport which functions year-round. The airport is served by commercial flights (i.e. Boeing 737-400C aircraft, special: half cargo, half passengers) from Alaska Airlines, normally from Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Utqiaġvik (Barrow). (Ravn Alaska suspended its flights from Anchorage, Barter Island/Kaktovik, Fairbanks, and Nuiqsut in Apr 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.) You should try to contact your travel agency, or contact the airline. There are also several charter services which can provide flights to this airport, some offering tours which drive up the Dalton, then fly back (or vice versa).
The town is rather small and during the summer months walking is very feasible although there are no sidewalks and large oil field equipment and trucks demand constant vigilance. During the winter, extreme temperatures make walking, even short distances, very uncomfortable and exposure to such temperatures can be lethal. While the town is not very large, driving is the best option most of the year.
See and do
The Dalton Highway ends just a few miles inland of the Arctic Ocean and only private, restricted roads extend to the ocean. Fortunately, tours can be booked through the hotels in the town which not only take you to the ocean and its gravel beach (where you can take a frigid dip, joining the "Polar Bear Club") but also include a tour of the oilfield and operations. The ocean is ice-free from late July to October.
The town contains a small, and pricey, general store as well as two fuel stations. The post office is in the store.
- Prudoe Bay General Store (Brooks Range Supply inc), #1 Old Spine Rd, Prudhoe Bay, ☏ . The Prudoe Bay General Store has a rich history serving folks in the oil field which continues today. The General Store has always been regarded as the place to go for everything you need—and news. The store is located upstairs in the Brooks Range Supply facility on Old Spine Road in Deadhorse. Now you can shop for industrial supplies downstairs at Brooks Range Supply, then head upstairs for Arctic gear, warm socks, boots, clothing, sunglasses, electronics, music, smokes, personal sundries, books, magazines and Native crafts.
- Colville Tesoro, ☏ . Alaska's northernmost gas station.
There are a couple of restaurants in town as part of the hotels such as the Caribou Inn.
Alcohol is available in the general store. In a harsh environment like this, exposure to the elements is a grave danger which can easily occur while intoxicated.
Note: the North Slope Borough is considered dry and damp in places. A sign at the airport notes this. Oil field operations areas also forbid alcohol.
There are a couple of modest hotels in town (assembled trailers).
- Prudhoe Bay Motel, Pouch 340004, ☏ . At the end of the Alaska's Dalton Highway and on the edge of Prudhoe Bay Oil field, provides accommodations for both visitors touring the state of Alaska as well as workers of the North Slope.
- [dead link] Arctic Caribou Inn, ☏ .
This area has a polar climate. The coldest recorded wind chill here was -102°F (-74°C)! During the winter, exposure to the elements can prove lethal.
Like nearly all wild areas in Alaska, grizzly bears are a concern. Don't leave any food lying around including waste food containers, and keep an eye out for bears when walking around. Polar bears are present in the coastal areas predominantly during August and September but can be found at any time during the year. Polar bears are both extremely dangerous and protected, so do not approach or harass the bears and get to a building or vehicle. Whenever exiting a building, immediately scan your surroundings for polar bears.
Remember when leaving that there are no services for 240 miles (386 km) until you reach Coldfoot! Aside from that, Alaska Airlines provides service to Utqiaġvik (Barrow) and several charter air services can provide access to numerous small towns along the Arctic coast and North Slope. Head to the general store at the airport for more information.
|Routes through Deadhorse|
|END ←||N S||→ Wiseman → Fairbanks (via )|