Cantwell began as an Alaskan Railroad flag stop. The village was named for the Cantwell River, the original name of the Nenana River. It is a common gas-up and stretch-your-legs stop for motorists driving the Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks or the Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson.
Cantwell visitor services include lodging at the Backwoods Lodge and at BluesBerry Inn; RV Park and camping at Cantwell RV Park; and guiding and flying services from Atkins Guiding and Flying Service (907/768-2143). Fish Alaska north of town offers lakeside cabins and guided fishing. Cantwell businesses are clustered around the intersection of the Denali and Parks highways and located west on the access road to downtown Cantwell. Parks Highway Towing (800-478-8697) offers 24-hour towing, jump-starts, tire changes, lock-outs and recoveries along the Parks Highway. The Cantwell Food Mart/Chevron (907/768-1168) in Cantwell has gas, diesel, ice, an ATM, restrooms, convenience store and deli items.