It's theme-park time: Pioneer Park lets you walk back to an era when gold was king and narrow-gauge railroads were the way to get around. You'll find museums, a riverboat, a native Alaskan village, a mining operation, and more. Play golf on the world's farthest north mini-golf course, or take a lazy ride on the Crooked Creek and Whiskey Island Railroad.
Welcome to “Alaskaland”
Pioneer Park was built in 1967 as a celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Alaska’s purchase from Russia. The Park opened on May 27, 1967 for the Alaska ‘67 Centennial Exposition. At that time, the park was known as Alaska 67 or A 67 for short. Just a few months after the park opened, its name was changed to Alaskaland. In 2001, the park was renamed Pioneer Park. The change was to reflect the historical nature of the park, because Alaskaland sounded too much like an amusement park. The change was met with resistance, and many locals still refer to the park as Alaskaland—with a staunch group petitioning to change the name back. In its early days, Pioneer Park housed a zoo, and a midway with amusement rides in an area called Bonanzaland.
Set on a River Rich with History
The Park is bordered on the north by the Chena River. The name is of Athabascan origin, and is derived from “che” meaning stick and “na” meaning river—The Stick River. In 1901, Fairbanks’ founding father, E.T. Barnette traveled up the Chena in search of the town of Tanana Crossing, now called Tanacross, where he had hoped to establish a trading post. Unfortunately for Barnette, his boat, the Lavelle Young, hit a sandbar, and he was forced to spend the winter along the banks of the Chena River. The following spring, a miner by the name of Felix Pedro found gold in the surrounding hills. Barnette decided to establish his trading post right where he was. That early community was known as Barnette’s Cache, but within a year it became known as Fairbanks after Senator Charles Fairbanks of Indiana, who eventually became Vice President under Theodore Roosevelt during Roosevelt’s second term.