Finally, a downhill stage. It’s been a long time coming, but stage 554 down into Fort St John manages to shed almost a thousand feet of elevation whilst gaining only a third of that. Much of the descent can be attributed to the fact that Route 97 flows relatively close to Peace River for the latter part of the stage so having come down off the hill, a gradual descent is maintained at the river flows east away from the Rockies. The stage runs south east towards the border between British Columbia and Alberta and sets up the crossing in a couple of stages time as the eastward journey gathers momentum.
The rollout is flattish for a couple of miles to the junction with Stoddart Creek Road before a short up followed by a gentle down takes Route 97 close to Charlie Lake. A second short up followed by a much longer – and fun – descent passes by Charlie Lake Provincial Park and into the eastern suburbs of Fort St John where Roads 271 and 269 join from the north. There is, by the way, no sign of Road 270, nor is there any indication of what the numbers refer to.
Although the descent doesn’t end at this point, the gradient is certainly much less steep as the Alaska Highway makes its way into the centre of town. The road remains straight all the way to eighteen miles where it hangs a left next to North Peace Regional Airport: the bend also serves as the lowest elevation of the stage at just over two thousand feet.
With the airport on its left hand side, the highway runs straight and east for two miles before hanging a right on the final approach to the line which is between the junctions of Road 255 and Alcan Frontage Road on the way out of town.
Distance: 20 miles / 32 kilometres
Ascent: 410 feet / 125 metresRGT Magic Road: htUppXGMSPOL
Max elevation: 2698 ft
Min elevation: 2035 ft
Total climbing: 411 ft
Total descent: -1007 ft