Since the Conference of American States in 1923 there have been plans to build a Pan-American Highway – a continuous roadway running the full 25,800km (16,000 mi) from Alaska to the bottom of Chile. Now, all but 88km (54mi) are complete, so aside from a time-consuming detour, it’s possible to drive from above the Arctic Circle down to Puerto Montt, nearly 1000km (600mi) south of Santiago, Chile.
According to Guinness World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world’s longest “motorable road”. However, because of the Darién Gap, it is not possible to cross between South America and Central America by traditional motor vehicle.
The Pan-American Highway passes through many diferent climates and ecological types, from jungles, to deserts, to cold mountain passes. Since the highway passes through many countries (Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina), it is far from uniform. Some parts of the highway are passable only during the dry season, and in many regions driving is sometimes dangerous.
Famous sections of the Pan-American Highway include the Alaska Highway and the Inter-American Highway (the section between the United States and the Panama Canal). Both of these sections were built during World War II as a means of supply of remote areas without danger of attack by U-boats.
The Darién Gap is a large part of undeveloped swampland and forest separating Panama’s Darién Province in Central America from Colombia in South America. It measures just over 160 km (99 mi) long and about 50 km (31 mi) wide. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive, and the environmental price is high. There is no political will to build a road here. Therefore there is no road connection through the Darién Gap connecting North/Central America with South America and it is the missing link of the Pan-American Highway.
The geography of the Darién Gap on the Colombian side is dominated by the river delta of the Atrato River, which creates a marshland at least 80 km (50 mi) wide, half of this being swampland. The Panamanian side is a mountainous rain forest, with terrain reaching from 60 m (200 ft) in the valley floors to 1,845 m (6,053 ft) at the tallest peaks (Cerro Tacarcuna).
The Pan-American Highway – Wikipedia
Darien Gap – Wikipedia
World 66 – Darien Gap
Darean Gap: The Most Dangerous (Absence of a) Road
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