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Wilderness River Adventure in Haines, Alaska!


Reflections are mirrored on the “smooth as glass” Chilkat River.


July 28, 2017

At 7:30 a.m., we were shuttled to Skagway’s small boat harbor to catch a ferry to Haines, Alaska, where we were going on an Alaska Wilderness River Adventure. We were met by a brisk, overcast morning. The sun played hide and seek as the wind blew the clouds across the sky. At 8 a.m. we boarded the Fairweather Express, a high-speed catamaran for our 45-minute trip to Haines, Alaska.

We cruised through the Taiya Inlet, a steep-walled rocky fjord just outside of Skagway and then continued south into the Lynn Canal. The canal is an inlet (not an artificial canal) into the mainland of southeast Alaska. At over 2,000 feet deep, the Lynn Canal is the deepest fjord in North America (outside Greenland) and one of the deepest and longest in the world. As we rode by waterfalls cascading over wooded, granite cliffs, sea lions basked in the sun on lichen covered rocks. Snow-covered mountains in the distance decorated the morning sky.

A young woman provided narration about the ferry and our surroundings during the trip. We both spent lots of time on the open, upper levels sightseeing and taking photos. Soon we arrived in Haines, population 2,500. The town is a little larger than Skagway but much less touristy—it’s a year-round working town, not a seasonal hot spot. It’s also the southern-most town in Alaska that’s connected directly to the continental highway system.

Upon arrival in Haines we boarded a bus for a thirty-minute narrated ride along the Haines Scenic Byway to our Chilkat River adventure. When we reached our destination, we were greeted by our guide and were outfitted with waterproof and windproof jackets, earmuffs, gloves and lap blankets to wrap up in just in case the weather was cool or wet.

The boat was designed for shallow water and was powered by three very quiet outboard motors equipped with jet discharges instead of propellers. Kind of like a jet ski on steroids! Personally, I was especially thankful for the comfortable, cushioned bench seats. Before our guide revved up the engines we went through a safety brief. He also told us that if we fell overboard during the ride we should stand up since the water depth throughout the trip would be about waist deep.

As we started out on the silt-laden Chilkat River I was ready with camera in hand to explore the vast wilderness. Along with being the shallowest navigable river in North America, the Chilkat is glacial fed and a braided river system with many different channels. Our guide took us at varying speeds for miles through the river’s twisty streams. It would have been a bone-chilling experience without all of the warm outerwear. We were constantly on the lookout for critters and occasionally stopped completely to search. About the only animals cooperating that morning were bald eagles.

Twenty miles into the wilderness we were in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, home to the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world each fall. As we motored along we saw several bald eagles flying and others perched in trees. At the furthest point in the trip we arrived in a relatively quiet area of the river a few miles from the Canadian border. We were in a part of the river where salmon spawn and could see numerous large red-colored salmon zipping through the waters beneath us.

After an hour and a half on the river it was time to return to the River Adventure dock. When we arrived, we turned in our borrowed clothing items and sat down in a heated pavilion to a very welcome lunch of hotdogs, chili, chips, dessert and hot chocolate. I thoroughly enjoyed the River Adventure tour, in fact it was one of the highlights of my Alaska trip. After our ferry ride back to Skagway it was 2 p.m.

On our way back to our hotel we explored the town of Skagway, population 1,057. Like many other area towns, it was born during the great Klondike gold rush. In 1898, Skagway sprouted into a tent city of 10,000 inhabitants with over 80 saloons. Today a seven-block corridor along Broadway Street features historic false-front shops and restaurants, wooden sidewalks, and restored buildings, many of which are part of the National Park Service-managed Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.





Skagway’s small boat harbor.


We get ready to board a ferry to Haines, Alaska.


Cruising through the Lynn Canal.


Snow-covered mountains in the distance decorated the morning sky.


Sea lions basked in the sun on lichen covered rocks..


We arrive in Haines, Alaska.


Haines, Alaska in all of its magnificent beauty.


Welcome to Haines.


Our bus drives along the Haines Scenic Byway.


A wide, open air, flat-bottom river boat awaits us.


Rodge enjoying his adventure on the Chilkat River.


Kathy taking photos of the magnificent scenery.


The silt-laden Chilkat River is the shallowest navigable river in North America.


The rest of our crew taking in the sights.


The surrounding landscape casts a reflection on the shallow Chilkat River.


A bald eagle hiding in a tree.


In a relatively quiet area of the river not far from the Canadian border.


Here we could see numerous red-colored salmon zipping through the waters.


Snow-covered mountains form a backdrop behind the rapidly flowing river.


A blustery day in downtown Skagway, Alaska.


This historic hotel was built in 1898. It is the oldest operating hotel in the state.


It’s snowing on the mountain overlooking Skagway!


An impatient sled dog coaxes his master. “There’s gold in them there hills.”


Only remaining example of early 1900’s Alaskan driftwood architechture.



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