9 day Alaska and Yukon Explorer FAM
After meeting the friendly escorts Jenner Wall and Janna Gundlach from Holland America’s Sales Department at the departure gate at Seattle’s Seatac airport, our group of agents departed Seattle on AS 81 at 6:00 am and arrived at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at 8:38 am, local Alaska Time.
By 9:15 we were already onboard our Holland America/Westours tour bus and on our way to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. We enjoyed an Anchorage city tour and learned about Anchorage’s transformation from a small railroad camp to a modern, bustling city with over half the state’s population on our way to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Here we learned about the various Alaskan people and distinct cultures, which compose this rugged and diverse land at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. We learned about native dancing and visited 5 distinct cultures surrounding the lake at the center.
Alaska Native Heritage Center (Anchorage, Alaska)
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is located only 10 minutes from downtown Anchorage, just off the Glenn-Highway near Muldoon Road. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is the first visitor attraction devoted entirely to the exploration and display of the art, traditional customs and lifestyle of five distinct Alaska Native groups. This is one of Anchorage’s newest attractions. Thanks to the development of the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, you may visit several of Alaska's fascinating Native Groups, up close and personal, in the space of only a few hours. The permanent collections of Alaska’s largest and most complete Native Heritage Center cover 10,000 years of culture, history and adaptation to life in the north. Here visitors have an opportunity to view, in one facility, all of Alaska’s Native cultures. Situated on a 26-acre wooded site, the Alaska Native Heritage Center features a Welcome-House, an outdoor demonstration circle, and five traditional village settings surrounding a small lake. The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers a unique opportunity to learn about and explore the traditional Alaskan Native Cultures by featuring demonstrations, films and exhibits, as well as hourly performances by dance groups, storytellers and fiddlers. Also at the center is a self-guided walking tour showcasing cultural sites in a spectacular, natural outdoor setting. The Alaska Native Heritage Center portrays Alaska's rich Native cultures. Full-scale models of typical dwellings are open for you to peek into. Village elders and apprentice youth - known as Native Tradition Bearers - demonstrate the time-honored customs and crafts of the various Native groups. Watch with awe and appreciation as an Athabascan Indian embroiders a leather moccasin, one tiny, fragile bead at a time, as a Tlingit carver transforms a formless cedar log into an intricate story in wood, or as an Inupiat Eskimo fashions a sealskin boat.
The center includes a 26,000 sq. feet Welcome House, five traditional village settings, a 2-acre lake and walking trails. Programs and exhibits in the Welcome House demonstrate how Alaska Natives live their culture today. A 95 seat-theater offers a film introduction, and Native performers and storytellers share through stories, song and dance at the Gathering Place. Artists and tradition bearers share their harmony with the land as visitors walk through the Hall of Cultures. The Village Store provides an outlet for authentic Native arts and crafts.
At 11:25 we boarded the bus again for the city tour and a visit to Alyeska Resort and ski area.
The Alyeska Prince Hotel
Alyeska Prince Hotel and Resort are Alaska's only AAA four diamond accommodations. Located just 40 miles south of the Anchorage Airport along the scenic Seward Highway. The Alyeska Prince Hotel is a Chateau style property located on Mount Alyeska's ski slopes with ski in/ski out accessibility. The 60 person aerial tram departs directly from the skier's concourse, which is attached to the property and travels 2,300 feet to the Glacier Express facility atop Mount Alyeska. With over 68 world-class ski runs, non-existent lift lines and spectacular views of the ocean, it is easy to see why Mount Alyeska is such a renowned Alaskan destination.
It was cloudy on and off all morning, but the view from up here is marvelous. We saw moose both on the up and on the down we saw a mama and baby moose grazing under the tram. We had lunch at the top, cafeteria style.
The interior of the hotel is warm and inviting, boasting over one million board feet of cherry wood paneling throughout. There are immense stone fireplaces, leather couches and woolen carpets. The floor to ceiling windows of the fireside lobby and grand staircase offer unobstructed views of the North Face of Mount Alyeska. Open beams and cathedral ceilings accent our swimming pool and fitness center. Relax and enjoy!
Here are just a few of the amenities guests are invited to enjoy at the only 4 diamond property in Alaska: Activities include midnight sun golfing, a 60 person aerial tram, hiking, gold panning, fishing, bicycling, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse drawn carriage rides, flight-seeing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, dog sledding, snow-mobiling, rentals, taking a train to Denali National Park, year round glacier and wildlife cruises, and a complete fitness center with an indoor lap pool, weight room, sauna and a 16 person whirlpool.
Towering trees and glacial fed streams make this valley a spectacular location for hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing and snowboarding. Every guestroom has a view! There are seven glaciers that hang above the hotel including one tucked into Alyeska's own glacial bowl. Guests can view the ocean waterway known as the Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Range of mountains opposite Girdwood valley. Travelers coming from the cruise ship port town of Seward will find Alyeska Resort and easy solution to a pre or post night stay. Though 35 miles south of Anchorage, Alyeska Resort is an easy drive with unlimited picture stops along the scenic Seward Highway, which has an All American Highway designation. National Geographic Magazine calls it "one of the top ten drives in North America". The Prince William Sound port of Whittier is nearby as is the Portage Glacier and Chugach National Park Interpretative Center! In Anchorage the resort operates the Anchorage Golf Course, an 18-hole course with magnificent views of Mt. McKinley (20,320 fee) and Mt. Foraker (17,400 feet). O'Malleys on the Green is a great game stop for food and beverages and great views of the Alaska Range. There is also ample event and meeting space. The Bill Newcomb 1987 designed course offers tee-offs as late as 10:00pm due to the long Alaskan summer sunshine! This is a gorgeous hotel worth at least a one night stay on any visit to Alaska.
At 2:30 pm we continue to travel along scenic Turnagain Arm, so named because Captain Cook had to “turn again” after he dead-ended in this inlet while searching for the fabled NorthWest Passage.
We make a short stop at the Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center, which is dedicated to the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured animals providing wildlife awareness and education to the public. Located on the shores of Turnagain Arm and surrounded by mountains and hanging glaciers, Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center is the perfect place to learn about Alaska wildlife. You can drive through in the comfort of your own vehicle or walk through to photograph and learn about the animals, the park and the history of the Portage Valley area. Located on 140 acres of natural Alaska wilderness, Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center opened to the public in 1993.
Last year Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center received moose, deer, black and grizzly bears, owls, bison musk ox and a variety of game birds to care for. Big Game Alaska is entirely self-supported and relies on customer support to continue its mission of wildlife rehabilitation. All of your purchases contribute to the animal care and rescue program.
We travel along the Seward highway to Portage Lake where we experienced an up close encounter with one of Alaska's most accessible glaciers. We arrive in time for the 4:30 pm departure of the Ptarmigan. Unfortunately it’s raining cats and dogs and the wind is blowing sideways. I was prepared for this and donned my cross-country ski raingear I need for skiing around the Seattle-area mountains. I’m having trouble keeping the raindrops from landing on my camera lens. The glacier is bluer when it’s cloudy and rainy, so I guess we lucked out with the weather after all.
Portage Glacier Recreation Area and Begich-Boggs Visitor Center
Located 5.5 miles east from Milepost 79 on the Seward-Anchorage Hwy, Portage Glacier is the most visited tourist attraction in Alaska. The visitor center overlooks an 800-foot deep lake left behind as Portage Glacier melts. Due to its retreat in recent years, however, Portage Glacier is no longer visible from the visitor's center, but they have a clear view across Portage Lake to the Burns Glacier.
Large icebergs can be seen calving off the face into the 800-foot deep lake. The town of Portage was abandoned after the 1964 earthquake caused the land to drop and tidal flooding covered the area. Cars are loaded on Alaska Railroad here for the trip to Whittier. Guided tours, ice-worm safaris and food are available. Wayside exhibits at entrance to Williwaw Campground and Explorer Glacier. Open year round.
Portage Glacier Tour & mv Ptarmigan Cruise
One of the most spectacular sights in Alaska is glacier calving, when massive chunks of ice break away and plunge into the water. And one of the very best places to witness calving is Portage Lake, located an hour south of Anchorage. Here, Alaska's most visited attraction is just a boat ride away: mighty Portage Glacier.
A tour of Begich Boggs Visitors Center on Portage Lake offers a first look at the glacier through interpretive displays, including a walk-in simulation of a glacier fissure. Recently redone displays cover the flora, fauna, and geology of Alaska including the clearest explanation of glaciers you’re likely to ever see.
As the only sightseeing vessel on the lake, Holland America's mv Ptarmigan provides a way for travelers to approach the glacier and observe "the action" up close. The 80-foot day boat was constructed specifically for safe navigation of iceberg-strewn waters and to maximize the glacial sightseeing experience while minimizing the environmental impact. Moving carefully through a field of bobbing icebergs, the Ptarmigan heads toward the far shore of Portage Lake. The vessel seats 200 passengers and features both a fully enclosed, heated cabin with expansive windows and a topside deck for out-door viewing of the glacier. Amazingly, the Ptarmigan can cruise to within 100 yards of this Ice Age wonder, allowing for superb views and photography. The one-hour tour allows about 20 minutes in front of the glacier to view its blue-white hue, deep fissures and calving ice shards that plunge into the lake below. To enhance passengers' experience and their understanding of this "river of ice," the cruise is fully narrated by a representative of the U.S. Forest Service. By design, the vessels' sound system cannot be heard from shore, ensuring that this naturally peaceful setting is preserved for wildlife as well as for other visitors.
The Anchorage Museum of History and Art is a world-class museum opened in 1968 and the largest museum in Alaska. The Anchorage Museum of History and Art exhibits an impressive collection of Alaska Native artifacts, historical and contemporary artwork, and objects that illustrate and interpret Alaska’s culture and history. The Museum is conveniently located in downtown Anchorage.
Enjoy a city tour of Anchorage aboard the 4th Avenue Trolley. The Trolley departs from the 4th Avenue Theater located at 630 W. 4th Avenue every hour from 9am to 5pm. The Trolley’s first stop is Lake Hood, the largest and busiest floatplane base in the world. Spend time at the Alaskan Aviation Heritage Museum if you desire. The next stop is Point Woronzof, a popular local spot for viewing beautiful Knik Arm, the Alaska Range and downtown Anchorage. Next, enjoy a stop at Earthquake Park, located on the Coastal Trail where interpretive displays explain Alaska’s devastating earthquake of 1964 and the area’s wildlife. Your final stop is at Westchester Lagoon, one of Anchorage’s wild geese and duck sanctuaries. This one-hour tour allows you to spend time at any stop throughout the tour and wait for the next Trolley before continuing along the route.
Anchorage is the official gateway to South Central and all of Alaska with the state’s largest airport, rail facilities, and road system. With its distinctive mixture of old frontier and jet age, Anchorage is a truly unique city. It is noted for the profusion of flowers and hanging baskets that decorate homes and businesses during summer months. Home to the Iditarod, this city with its scenic views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains, is also the City of Moose, Eagles, Bears, Sea Otters, Whales, Hiking, Fishing, Kayaking, and Glaciers. Frequent summertime sightings of Beluga Whales occur within minutes of downtown at high tide.
Anchorage is tailor-made for those who are looking for outdoor recreation opportunities without having to give up their familiar urban comforts. Chugach State Park is almost entirely within the city limits. The city sits on a peninsula surrounded by Knik Arm to the north and Turnagain Arm to the south. Both are extensions of Cook Inlet. At 38 feet, there are tremendous tidal fluctuations in Cook Inlet.
Overnight in Anchorage
We arrived at our hotel in time to meet in the lobby at 7:30 pm and walk over to the Westmark Hotel for dinner. The rest of the evening was free. It had been a very long day and we also had lost an hour. No nightclub for me, thanks. The bed felt very good indeed.
Day 2: Saturday Aug 24
At 6:40 am this morning we meet in the lobby and walk over to the Marriott for breakfast, hosted by the Anchorage Convention and Visitor Bureau. They have a short presentation for us lasing about an hour telling us about Anchorage and what this city has to offer.
At 8:30 am we travel by motor coach via the George Parks Highway to Talkeetna, “where the rivers join”. These are the Talkeetna, Susitna and Chulitna rivers. North of Anchorage is the famed Matanuska-Susitna Valley, which is Alaska's main agricultural area. The Mat-Su Valley encompasses more than that though, it includes part of Denali National Park. With historic and quaint towns along the way, the Mat-Su Valley is located along the highway system and rail belt.
We travel past Palmer, built by original depression era Midwest colonists in the 1930’s with a promise of free land to grow huge cabbage and zucchini. Palmer is home to the Alaska State Fair that runs each year from the last week of August through the first week of September. The Mat-Su Valley is where incredible-sized vegetables are grown, and each year at the state fair, you can see the contenders for the state's largest cabbage. Here you can visit a Reindeer Farm and a Musk Ox Farm. Inupiaq Eskimos called them oomingmak, “the animal skin like a beard”. Their soft inner hair called qiviut is considered the rarest fiber in the world, warmer than wool, softer than cashmere.
I saw many election signs for Vic Kohring along the highway in Wasilla. He is my husband Tom’s cousin and a state congressman running for re-election. Wasilla is the official starting point for the famed Iditarod Sled Dog Race - the 1,049-mile race to Nome held in March. While you're in the Mat-Su Valley, you can also visit the Sled Dog Musher's Hall of Fame.
Talkeetna is the southern gateway and jumping off point for many Mt. McKinley climbers and to Denali National Park and Preserve. The former mining town is closer to Anchorage than Denali. The entire downtown area, all two streets is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its historic log and clapboard buildings. During the day visitors can hike, fish, raft the Talkeetna or Susitna Rivers, explore gold rush era Talkeetna or take flight-seeing trips to Denali. Because it the better weather here, Denali is more often visible from here than it is from within the park itself.
We arrive at 12:30 to view the beautiful Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge while enjoying lunch in the shadow of Denali.
Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
One of Alaska’s newest 5 star accommodations, Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is situated in the shadow of Mt. McKinley. With it’s spacious, well appointed guest rooms, elegant dining and welcoming deck-side hot tub, this beautiful property attracts repeat clients from around the world.
In the bush community of Talkeetna, Alaska visitors can now enjoy the hospitality of a beautiful new lodge. The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge offers all the comforts of a first-class hotel, in a stunning mountain setting. Built on 35 acres in the quaint town of Talkeetna, just 2 1/2 hours or 99 miles north of Anchorage on the George Parks Highway, this deluxe facility overlooks the lush Talkeetna River Valley and offers unsurpassed views of the highest mountain in North America, 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley.
Not only are guests sure to enjoy their accommodations, they'll be awed by the sweeping view the lodge commands. From guestrooms, the restaurant, and a large outdoor deck, visitors can marvel at Mt. McKinley - simply called Denali, or the Great One, by Native Alaskans. The whole broad range of snow-covered mountains stretches out before them, looming so large it seems as if you could reach out and touch them.
With its spectacular setting, it's no wonder that Talkeetna has long held a reputation among travelers and climbers as one of the most glorious areas in all of the Great Land. And that's in a region where ice-blue glaciers, untouched wilderness and snow-capped mountain peaks abound. Visitors to Talkeetna may listen to tales of the hundreds of climbers who base here before attempting to conquer Mt. McKinley. Or perhaps they'll opt to explore the lush green valleys surrounding the lodge on a mountain bike ride. Gain a bird's eye view of the area while flight seeing. Spend a leisurely afternoon floating down the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna rivers. Or, very possibly, they'll choose to relax at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, sipping a beverage on the deck and enjoying the many delights of this remarkable inn.
Visit The Mountain Climbers Memorial at the local cemetery; a large granite memorial to the many climbers who have lost their lives climbing Denali. The Talkeetna Historical Society Museum, one building is devoted to gold mining history in the area, a re-created railroad depot concentrates on railroad history, and a third building holds a finely crafted model of Denali and the surrounding peaks.
At 2:00 pm we travel north to Denali National Park. We stop at the Alaska Veteran’s War Memorial overlook of Denali, but it’s cloudy today and Denali is hidden. We make a blueberry picking stop along the road. Alaska's Interior has some of the most spectacular scenery and wildlife viewing the state has to offer. From Alaska's most popular attraction Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park and Preserve to mining history in Fairbanks. Wildlife is abundant and your chances of seeing it up close are very good. Grizzlies, moose, Dall sheep, wolves, coyote, red fox, lynx, snowshoe hare, beaver mink, otter and countess varieties of birds are just some of the wildlife viewing opportunities you'll have in Alaska's Interior.
The Interior also offers a step-back into rustic Alaska with evidence of Alaska's first homesteaders and the historic route of the Alaska Railroad. The Iditarod sled dog trail also runs through Interior Alaska. A trip through the Interior will show you a part of Alaska completely different from the rest. From rolling hills and valleys to the nation's tallest peak, the Interior has something for everyone.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Lying on the north flank of the Alaska Range, the crown jewel among the park’s attractions is Mount McKinley, North America’s highest mountain at 20,320 feet. Furthermore, Denali boasts one of the last intact ecosystems in the world. Here visitors have the opportunity to observe the natural behavior of wild animals such as grizzly bears, caribou, wolves, moose and Dall sheep. In Europe, caribou are called reindeer, but in Alaska and Canada only domestic caribou are reindeer.
Organized activities put on by the Park Service include nature hikes, sled dog demonstrations, and interpretive programs. The park is home to dozens of different bird species.
Denali remains so stunning because the only road into the park is closed to private vehicles beyond the ranger station at Savage River. School buses take visitors over a gravel road for 74 miles to Wonder Lake and Kantishna. The Denali Park Road is 90 miles long and accessible by private vehicle for only the first 14 miles to the Savage River Bridge. To travel to destinations farther into the park, including the Eielson Visitor Center, shuttle and tour bus services are available. Bicycles are permitted along the Park Road. Exhibits and information are available at the Visitor's Center, Eielson Visitor Center, and the Talkeetna Ranger Station. There are several luxury lodges near Kantishna plus the original Kantishna Road House that serviced local goldfields. During the winter, the park is accessible by dogsled, snowshoes or skis, but no motorized vehicles are allowed.
Here we will have dinner at the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater, a 2-hour dinner and musical show.
Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theater (Denali N.P.)
For upbeat entertainment and a delicious family-style meal, an evening at the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre is tops. Enjoy a menu featuring Alaskan salmon, BBQ ribs, side dishes and dessert. Meet historical and hysterical characters from Denali's past in a rollicking musical comedy reminiscent of the Alaska gold rush era. Everyone in the family will love the hilarious entertainment and hearty cuisine of Alaska’s most unique dinner theater. The moment you step through the door you are treated to true Alaskan hospitality. Fannie Quigley, who helped settle Kantishna and her group of unforgettable characters treat to stories of the Gold Rush while the all-you-can-eat family-style meal is sure to please: BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, sourdough rolls and a tasty dessert. Dress is causal and comfortable.
This was a big disappointment, the food was nothing great, the salmon was awful and the show didn’t make up for it. This dinner show is not worth the money, … in my opinion.
Overnight on the banks of the Nenana River at Denali National Park
McKinley Chalet Resort
The McKinley Chalets are located one mile north of the official Park entrance at mile 239 of the Parks Highway. We got a room in the Cotton Woods building with beautiful views of the Nenana River. Our room even had a little balcony. It was very peaceful with the sound of the rushing river all night. The main building sits high up on the hill along the highway with the cabins spread downhill from there. I enjoyed the rustic feel. The resort offers 350 upscale rooms in cedar lodges with many of the comforts of home. There is convenient access to Denali National Park, tours, river rafting and the famous Cabin Nite Dinner Theater or dine in the Chalet Center Cafe or the Nenana View Restaurant that offers a private deck overlooking the Nenana River.
Day 3: Sunday Aug 25
Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the very heart of the rugged Alaskan Interior. Denali National Park and Preserve is home to six million acres of wilderness and North America's highest mountain, Mt. McKinley. Glaciers and a sub-arctic ecosystem are found in Denali National Park and Preserve. An internationally designated biosphere preserve, Denali National Park and Preserve is home to abundant moose, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears and wolves. Denali National Park and Preserve is a place with fascinating Native American culture and history. It is a place where hearty adventurers panned for gold and dog sleds, backpacks and mountaineering gear are common. Alaska is the place of the Midnight Sun. Denali National Park and Preserve is a place where you can live out your Alaska travel dreams, whether they be wild adventures or serene contemplations. Denali National Park and Preserve is a must-see part of your Alaskan vacation.
Denali National Park and Preserve features North America's highest mountain, the 20, 320 foot tall Mount McKinley. The Alaska Range also includes countless other spectacular mountains and many large glaciers. Denali's more than 6 million acres encompasses a complete sub-arctic eco- system with large mammals such as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, and moose. The park was established as Mt. McKinley National Park on February 26th, 1917. The original park was designated a wilderness area and incorporated into Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The Park was designated an international biosphere reserve in 1976. Today the Park accommodates a wide variety of visitor use including wildlife viewing, mountaineering, and backpacking. It continues to provide a laboratory for research in the natural sciences.
Bus tours in the park include the popular 7-hour Tundra Wildlife Tour and the 3-hour Natural History Tour. Other area trips include the extensive full day Kantishna Wilderness Trails Tour, flight seeing, rafting and dinner theaters. Be sure to stop by the visitor center. There are also a wide variety of ranger-naturalist programs offered throughout the summer, as well as some nice day hikes near the park entrance area. Backcountry camping requires a permit.
Tundra Wildlife and Natural History Tours of Denali National Park
Enjoy a 3-hour narrated Denali Natural History Tour as you travel 15 miles into the park. Learn about the fragile ecosystem of this six million acre wilderness park. Come within about 55 miles of the Mt. McKinley at the Primrose Overlook. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery of 20,320 foot Mt. McKinley. Includes a visit to the historic Savage Cabin and a Native Alaskan interpretive program.
Again, we have a very early start. Our tour departs at 6:40 am. We enjoyed the 7-hour narrated Tundra Wildlife Tour that took us 53 miles into the park as we reached 4,000 feet above sea level. We came within 30 miles of Denali, but it was not out for us to see, but the overlook towards the entire mountain from the base towards the summit still offered incredible panoramic photographs. The fall colors were absolutely magnificent screaming reds, yellow, purple, brown and orange. We got to experience the diverse landscape and kept your eyes open for Grizzly Bears, Dall Sheep, Caribou, Moose and native wolves. Narrated by a naturalist, this six to eight-hour tour travels 53 miles into Denali National Park to the Toklat River.
Everything about Denali National Park is big: the scenery, the mountains, the incredible beauty, and the animals. The Tundra Wildlife Tour is an excellent way to spot the wildlife for which Alaska is so famous: we saw moose, bear, wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, ground squirrels, re squirrels, golden eagle, ptarmigans and more birds. The caribou was dressed in full fighting gear (big antlers) and skittish. This tour focuses on scouting out the wildlife in the park, in addition to explaining the historical and geographical background of the area. Frequent photo opportunities and rest stops are made, and a box lunch with hot beverages is included.
We returned in time for the 3:00 pm transfer to the train station and the 4:00 pm check-in and to board Holland America's award winning private railcars, the McKinley Explorer, for a relaxing ride to Fairbanks. Dinner is served in the elegant onboard dining-room rail car.
Denali to Fairbanks onboard the McKinley Explorer Train
The most award-winning railcars in Alaska, Holland America’s McKinley Explorer railcars offer 5-star service and 6 star views between Anchorage, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. The fleet of 13 original Budd and Pullman full-length dome cars feature full-domed windows, elegant interiors and private dining rooms. Along with valuable information on the geology and wildlife of the area, you will be amazed at the civility and fine living experienced on yet another Holland America exclusive tour in the Great Land. It’s drizzling on and off between spurts of sunshine. I never saw Denali, but for the first time in my life I saw 2 brilliant and completely perfect half-circle rainbows lined up next to each other.
McKinley Explorer Domed Railcar Travel
The finest full-domed McKinley Explorer railcars to Denali National Park carry 25% fewer passengers than similar railcars. Holland America's 13 McKinley Explorer full-length dome railcars are from the classic 1950's fleet of 30 Budd and Pullman cars. Each car carries only 66 guests, with more forward facing seating than other Alaska railcars and has been fully restored. The railcar's elegant interiors create an onboard ambiance reminiscent of the classic era of rail travel. They also provide a very comfortable venue for viewing the spectacular scenery beyond their glass-domed windows. Guests enjoy dining service in a private dining room set with china and fine linens. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to enjoy the dinner completely. The wine I ordered off the menu never came and coffee was not offered with dessert due to lack of time. That is too bad, because the food was very good. My New York steak was $24.95 and came with great mashed potatoes; the salmon was $20.95. I enjoy a glass of wine with a good meal.
Brand new railcars will be added in 2003. Then there will be more tables to serve more people at the same time and hopefully more attendants too.
Trivia about Nenana:
*Break Up* is Alaska’s favorite lottery, aka Nenana Ice Classic. Everyone bets on when the frozen ice in the river at Nenana will break up and flow again in the spring.
Regency Hotel Fairbanks
Forget the night out, we are so exhausted after these long days, the bed calls out loud and wins every time. I'm getting too old!
Day 4: Monday Aug. 26
Located in the heart of Alaska’s Great Interior country, Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest city and the administrative capital of the Interior. The city is a blend of old and new: Modern hotels and shopping strips stand beside log cabins and historic wooden buildings. Recreational activities include hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, camping, rafting, skiing, and dog mushing. Races in the area include the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race and the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race.
This morning, after our walked over to the Westmark Hotel, which is under renovation, for breakfast, we will visit the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Museum
University Alaska-Fairbanks Museum
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is the 2,250-acre home to an outstanding collection of Eskimo artifacts and gold rush memorabilia, the Geophysical Institute, the Large Animal Research Station, the farm of the Agricultural and Forestry Experimental Station. I really enjoyed this one of the state's top natural history museums. No matter how much time is allotted, it’s not enough.
Featuring cultural and natural history displays from all of the state’s regions, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Museum is a must see for any visitor to Fairbanks. The galleries explore Alaska’s history, native culture, art, natural phenomena, wildlife, birds, geology and prehistoric past. Highlights include a 36,000-year-old Steppe bison mummy, the state’s largest gold display, the Trans-Alaska pipeline story and a special section on the northern lights. The museum grounds hold sculptures, totem poles, a Russian blockhouse and a nature trail.
Today you'll get your first taste of the gold rush as you explore Gold Dredge #8. This exclusive Holland America tour reveals and relives the once bustling Gold Camp of Fairbanks.
The tour includes a city tour of Fairbanks and a stop at the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
Gold Dredge No. 8 (Fairbanks, Alaska)
This restored, authentic gold camp is listed on the register of National Historic Sites. A massive four-story machine that was in operation right up until 1959, the dredge is an exclusive Holland America tour option for guests visiting Fairbanks. You will tour the inside of the dredge and hear tales of the rough-and-tumble gold rush days and the hardships faced by the original dredge operators. After a short video presentation, visitors are encouraged to pan for gold of their own before enjoying a hearty all-you-can-eat miner’s lunch in the camp Mess Hall.
Fairbanks Gold Dredge No. 8 Tour & Lunch
When all stakes had been claimed and the rush for gold had faded in the Klondike, the sourdoughs headed west toward Fairbanks in the hopes of making their fortunes there. Trouble was, the gold in Fairbanks lay buried deep under a layer of "muck" that had to be dug out. Thus the gold dredge was conceived, a sort of floating gold pan that combined the four parts of the mining process - digging, sorting, gold-saving, and disposal of tailings.
One of these giant diggers was Gold Dredge No. 8, a massive four-story-tall machine that was in operations right up until 1959. The dredge represents such a valuable landmark to the historical archives of Alaska that it has been placed on the register of National Historic Sites. Today it is one of the few gold dredges still open to the public. Holland America purchased and restored the dredge in 1996, and now features it on all Fairbanks sightseeing tours.
The original dredge operators treat visitors to Gold Dredge No. 8 to a guided tour inside the dredge where they’ll hear tales of the rough-and-tumble gold rush days and the hardships faced. They'll also learn that this "workhorse of the riverbed" removed more than 33 tons of gold from Goldstream Valley. A video presentation gives visitors insight into the gold mining operations, and they can see for themselves relics from the dredge's early days, including mining artifacts and the workers' bunkhouses at Fairbanks Creek Camp.
Would-be prospectors are encouraged to "grab a poke of dirt" and pan for some gold of their own. A strike is guaranteed and panners can keep what they find as memento of their visit. The tour is topped off with a hearty miner's stew and biscuits served family-style in the camp Mess Hall. With memorabilia all around, the dining hall provides a fascinating opportunity to step back in time and relive the glittering gold rush days of 100 years ago.
Heading down Richardson Highway to Delta Junction
At 2:15 pm we’re on the road again for a long 5 hours bus ride. The locals know the Alaska Canada Highway, the Alcan as the RV and camper freeway to “Los Anchorage”, Denali and Fairbanks. After a stop at Delta Junction, an important agricultural area Tok is a welcome sight for motorists traveling the Alcan Highway. Close to Big Delta, we spotted a mama and baby moose munching in the march along the highway. That was a special treat for us. Then we stopped at the Fur Shack, conveniently located where the Trans-Alyaska Pipeline crosses the Tanana River.
A very interesting stop for coffee was Rika’s Roadhouse, one of the most popular stops along the Alaska Highway! During the summer they provide a place to rest for people traveling through, offering friendly conversation, great food, and unique gifts for the folks back home. John Hajdukovitch, who sold it to Rika Wallen in 1923, built Rika’s Roadhouse in 1909. Rika was Swedish and had run the roadhouse alone for 17 years while John was away. The beautiful building was restored by the State in 1986.
A stop at Rika's Roadhouse provides a look at one of the most colorful of the institutions in the history of the Yukon and Alaska, the roadhouse. The centerpiece of the Big Delta State Historical Park, it is located nine miles north of Delta Junction, at the point where the Richardson Highway and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline cross the Tanana River.
Few pioneers' memoirs don't have fond recollections of time spent in various roadhouses; they were a vital aspect of life on the Northern frontier. Whether they were acting as restaurant, saloon, hotel, community hall, general store, or just a warm place to escape the frozen wilderness for a few hours, roadhouses were found along virtually every route that people traveled on a regular basis. Despite that, little beyond anecdotal mentions has been written about them.
A precise definition of what is meant by the term "roadhouse" is impossible - they ranged from dugouts and dirty tents to relatively luxurious two-story complexes, located on boomtown main streets and wilderness riverbanks.
Many roadhouses, such as Rika's, were located at river crossings or other particularly important locations. They were also generally the first business to open in a new mining area, so towns often grew up around those buildings, blurring the definition even more. They might be called either "Roadhouse" or "Hotel", without regard to the type or quality of accommodation provided.
Rooms and meals were offered by barbers, bath-houses, freighters, and just about any other business that might be located along a transportation route, whether it was by land or water. For some, operating a temporary roadhouse could supply the cash needed for a special project, and in some cases seems to have happened without planning - people just started dropping in at someone's cabin and staying overnight.
During the rush from the Klondike to Nome in 1900, many of the wood camps along the Yukon River opened their doors to travelers, although the conditions were sometimes appalling. The "Muskrat Roadhouse", eight miles upriver from Circle City, Alaska, was a 10 x 10-foot dugout covered with muskrat skins, and served "caribou" stew with strangely small bones in it! The cash derived from these wood camp-roadhouses would allow at least one of the woodcutters to get to Nome to stake claims.
Tok is the gateway to Alaska
This small town (pop. 1000) is located only 92 miles from the Canada-US border on the. This friendly community greets travelers with fresh enthusiasm, information and entertainment. Tok means peaceful crossing in the Athabascan Native language. Dog sled racing is a popular winter activity along Tok's world-class mushing trails.
Tok is situated in the upper Tanana River Valley, near the foothills at the end of the Alaska Range. Tok is the trade center for the Athabascan native villages of Northway, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta, Eagle and Dot Lake. Local native arts and gifts may be found in many of the local shops.
Tok originated as an Alaska Road Commission camp for the construction of the ALCAN and Glenn Highways in the 1940s. Tok was designated a Presidential Townsite in 1946, the same year the ALCAN was open to civilians, and a roadhouse was opened in the community.
The Tok Race of Champions Sled Dog Race, one of the oldest in the State, is held each March. Tok, known as "The Dog Capitol of Alaska", is a center of dog breeding, training and mushing.
Northern Lights are visible August through May of each year.
North and east of Tok, the famous "40 Mile Country" stretches up to the Yukon River. This land contains historic gold mines, wildlife, woodlands, wide interior Alaskan rivers, and modern day Alaskan pioneers and prospectors. South of Tok the traveler enters the Copper River Valley, which eventually terminates at Prince William Sound. Westbound travelers can continue on to Fairbanks. The Tok area gives visitors entering Alaska by way of the Alaska Highway their first opportunity to explore the Alaska Range. Summers are very short here in Interior Alaska, but they are warm and dry with long daylight hours.
Overnight Tok at the
Dinner at the Westmark in Tok was very good, especially the Mexican dishes! The hotel is laid out like a bewildering maze, which made it amusing trying to find your room.
Day 5: Tuesday Aug.27
This morning, breakfast is at 5:00 am and by 6:00 am we’re heading for the Taylor Highway, which starts just 15 miles east of Tok and leads to the famous, wild and scenic "Forty Mile River" (popular for floating and rafting), the "Klondike" gold fields, the historic communities of Chicken and Eagle, and ultimately to the Yukon River. After this very early morning departure, we drive over this scenic Highway with vast expanses of birch and Sitka spruce forests via historical Chicken en-route to Eagle, the Interior region’s first city. After 2 hours of driving on a narrow paved road, we reach Chicken, named so because they couldn’t spell Ptarmigan that they wanted to name the village after, so Chicken was easier. It consists of 4 buildings along the road, a coffee shop, a gift shop, and a tavern. Some people have breakfast here on freshly baked goodies. Here the road turns into a narrow one-lane gravel road with many steep and winding turns all the way from Chicken to Eagle, so a pilot car precedes our bus for the entire 4 hours. Around 11:30, we stop for box lunches along at the North Fork of the King Salomon Creek, a beautifully scenic spot.
Eagle, Alaska is located on the legendary Yukon River only 8 miles from the Yukon Territory, Canada. The road is accessible April-Oct. via Taylor Highway & 'Top of the World' Highway. Tour boats make round trips daily between Eagle and Dawson. Eagle is accessible year round by plane from Fairbanks and Tok.
Eagle City's pop. 146, with a total of 234 people in the valley including the Han Indian village located 3 miles up river. Founded in 1897, Eagle was the first incorporated city in the interior (Jan. 1901). It is a Historic District and National Landmark with many restored historic buildings (Judge Wickersham's Lodge). Eagle boosts of their city council, extensive museum system, library, K-12 school, EMTs, non-denominational church and all the modern facilities including a motel, B&B's, cafe in the summer, pool hall in the winter, groceries, gifts, hardware, Laundromat, gas & repairs, phones & FAX, hook-ups & campground.
Summers are hot & dry with 24 hours of daylight. July temperatures average 45 to 85F and winters are cold & dark; the average 4' of snow is light and dry. Jan. temperatures range form 30F to minus 60F. The Yukon River freezes over and the local people turn to dog mushing, skiing, hunting, snow machines, and snowshoeing.
Local events: Yukon Quest and Percy DeWolfe dog races in Feb., spring carnival in March, Memorial Day Ceremony, big old-fashioned 4th of July celebration, frequent potlucks and special activities. Also in 1997 was the Goldrush Centennial Event, which marked the 100-year anniversary of the founding of Eagle City. We learned about Eagle's past & present through the historical tour led by an old time Eagle resident. She also staged a mock trial in Judge Wickersham’s courtroom and took us for a visit to old Fort Egbert and the museum in the old horse barn. We didn’t climb the 1,000' Eagle Bluff to enjoy a scenic view, but we did visit local art 7 craft street vendors. Bring your camera as Eagle is considered one of the prettiest places in Alaska. "Good thing we made Eagle our last stop in the state or we would have been disappointed in all the rest," said a 1995 visitor.
Here we'll set sail aboard Holland America's exclusive mv Yukon Queen II for the 102-mile journey up the mighty Yukon River to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. And we’re so lucky to have warm and sunny weather, especially since it’s been raining for last 3 weeks, non-stop.
mv Yukon Queen II
The Yukon Queen II, a spacious catamaran, sails daily from Dawson to Eagle, Alaska, and back. Canoe rentals are available for paddle enthusiasts, or you can kick back and float down the Klondike River with experienced tour guides who will point out historic sites along the way.
The only day-boat cruising the "River of Gold" between Eagle Alaska and Dawson City, YT, the mv Yukon Queen II is another exclusive Holland America tour. A state of the art vessel, the ship allows travelers to truly experience the beauty of the Yukon River and the rugged landscape beyond its banks.
This unpopulated 102 mile stretch of river will give you time to pause and hear the ghosts of miners past in 5-star comfort.
Yukon River Cruise aboard mv Yukon Queen II
The mv Yukon Queen II, designed specifically for travel on the storied Yukon River, is a highlight of all Alaska & Yukon Explorer Escorted CruiseTours that feature Dawson City. The outdoor viewing deck with large photo platform, a spacious Captain's lounge, and custom-upholstered, reclining seats make the Yukon Queen II the most relaxing way to journey on the "River of Gold.” The Yukon Queen II is the only riverboat still plying the Yukon River - a Holland America exclusive!
I learned from the cruise director that the Yukon River is the 3rd longest in North America after the Mississippi and the McKenzie rivers. Dinner (or lunch) is provided onboard the 105 miles, 4.5 hours journey. We are operating today with one engine out of service, so the trip takes us about 6 hours, but the weather is so gorgeous, who cares! Our dinner is Chipped brisket of beef, green beans and “steak-fried” potatoes and it’s very tasty. The Sutter Home wine is $4.50 and comes in a plastic cup. Every seat has a table, so it’s very roomy and comfortable seating.
The day-boat's shallow draft and low wake minimizes its impact on the river environment. The captain slows down for everyone on shore. The wheelhouse is open for a bird’s-eye view of the river and I spent a fair amount of time up here. The captain is so open and friendly and he brought his homegrown zucchini to share. Oops!, there is a mama and baby moose calf running along the shore, … we startled them; and look! … a porcupine swimming across the river, …. Look! … a bald eagle. WOW, this is fun!
A Whole New World of Landscapes
The great outdoors and the beauty of our landscapes mould the lifestyle here. It is formed by endless days of fishing, river rafting, hiking, camping and canoeing against a backdrop of pristine wilderness. Welcome to the Yukon - a vast, quiet, grand land of adventure waiting to be discovered.
Many Yukon First Nations people are gifted artists and artisans. The range of expression is wide and includes all aspects of the visual arts, music, dance, song, stories, poems and plays. Styles vary from traditional practices and materials to using certain modern approaches with First Nations flair.
The traditional art one can find throughout the territory includes beadwork, moccasins, baby belts, homemade jewelry, and mukluks. Other forms of art include carvings, masks, and paintings. Many of these items can be found in a variety of galleries and shops. Not all artists' products are sold through the shops and galleries; however, we invite you to inquire at the interpretive centers and museums about local artists and product availability.
We pass by many small HAN Nation villages along the way, a fish wheel in the river and a marvelous landscape. The USA-Canada border is simply marked by the flags of each nation side by side.
Many rivers empty into the Yukon along the way. This is very remote indeed. Holland America is the only cruise line to operate this adventure into the Yukon wilderness. It’s exciting to be here.
Wherever you drive, ski, mush, canoe, raft or fly you will find opportunities for fishing, hiking and spectacular photography. And when you are ready to let loose, there is the frontier spirit of Dawson City, the center of Klondike fever.
This is the Yukon. Get set for adventure.
Dawson City, Yukon Territory
Sitting on the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers at what was once a summer fish camp of the Han people, Dawson City’s gold rush drew the world’s attention just over 100 years ago.
Home of the Palace Grand Theatre, the Jack London Interpretive Center and Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino, Dawson City maintains its history charm with wide wooden boardwalks, false fronted buildings and unpaved streets.
In 1896, the site that was to become Dawson City was an Indian fishing camp and moose pasture at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. Everything changed with the historic discovery of GOLD on Bonanza Creek that year.
By 1898, the tranquil little fishing camp had been transformed into a bustling shantytown of tents, log cabins and shacks as gold-seekers from around the world swarmed to the Klondike in search of fortune. In two years, Dawson City was the largest city in Canada west of Winnipeg and north of Seattle, with a population somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people. No one knows for sure because so many people were coming and going at the same time.
Land that had sold for $10 an acre the year before had been subdivided into house-sized lots that sold for $1,000 each. Lots on Front Street later sold for $40,000 each. During the summer of 1898 there was no sanitation and typhoid patients filled the town's two small hospitals.
By this time the federal government had established the Yukon as a separate territory. The North West Mounted Police were put in charge of law and order. They quickly established a Board of Health, which introduced regulations for garbage disposal and drinking water. Money from court fines went to improve public health.
In 1898, the Mounties had a force of about 200 men in the Yukon. As a result, Dawson was largely a law-abiding town. But so much happened so fast that there was inevitably a brief period of chaos in 1898 where "anything goes"; however, it only lasted for a few months.
For two years the hectic pace never let up as ship after ship arrived with the many characters who transformed Dawson from a mining camp into one of the most bizarre cities in all of North America.
It was full of stark contrasts. It had miners who wore filthy clothes caked with mud and miners who were also filthy rich. It had legions of dance-hall girls with colorful names like Snake-Hips Lulu, Mollie Fewclothes, Ethel the Moose, Nellie the Pig, Diamond Tooth Gertie and the legendary Klondike Kate.
The legacy of the Klondike Gold Rush lives on in the verse of Robert Service who worked as a bank clerk in Dawson and later in Whitehorse. American author Jack London hiked the Chilkoot Trail with a group of prospectors in 1897. He registered a gold claim in his name on the left fork of Henderson Creek. When London left the Klondike in 1898, he was almost penniless, but later gained wealth and fame by writing about his adventures in books such as "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang."
Just when order was being created out of all the turmoil, a major gold discovery was made in Nome, Alaska, and an exodus began in the spring of 1899. Dawson's population further dwindled as the larger companies began to buy up and consolidate individual gold claims. But a solid core of permanent residents refused to leave. They stayed on to supervise the town's continued, if sporadic, development over the decades that followed.
Overnight in Dawson at the
Day 6: Wednesday Aug 28
Dawson City’s colorful past is brought back to life on today’s tour of the city. Enjoying a leisurely morning with breakfast at a reasonable time, we start the day with a city tour at 10:11 am. Kristina, a student from Bellingham, WA and our driver guide will point out areas of interest around town such as “Authors Row”, where the former homes of Jack London and Robert Service are located.
First, we headed right for Gold dredge #4 on Bonanza Creek. It’s 8 stories high and the biggest dredge ever built. The destruction of the landscape has not recovered yet. This dredge is very different from the one in Fairbanks. It sank once and was re-floated again. Now it’s a museum.
On the way back into Dawson, we stopped at Guggie Ville, where we panned for gold. This is always exciting: to see how much is in the bottom of the pan. There is a “trick” to gold panning, which is described and explained by the guide.
We returned to Dawson City at lunchtime and we had the entire afternoon FREE! until 6:00 pm. Klondike history surrounded me as I walked the unpaved streets among false-fronted shops and saloons. Heli-tours are offered to see the Discovery Claim at Bonanza Creek, where George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie first found gold in 1896.
I skipped lunch and headed right for Robert Service’s cabin, which is very close to the Jack London Center and cabin. Here I found an interpreter sitting outside in a lounge chair, waiting to give a reading later in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I could not wait. The cabins of both men are very basic, but comfortable. I cannot figure out however, how they stayed warm during the Yukon winter? Then I wandered around town taking pictures of the buildings, old and new. Many have been damaged by permafrost. They build with special foundations nowadays. None of the streets are paved for this reason and to keep the turn of the century feel. The levy along the river is a nice walk. The Dawson City Museum is very interesting, especially the film on the gold rush. I also wandered into a small gold rush museum downtown.
Dawson City was declared a National Historic Site in the early 1960s. Parks Canada currently manages 35 properties. Among them is the Commissioner's Residence, which used to be the elegant home of the Queen's representative to the Yukon. The mansion and its gardens reflect the 1912-1916 era; the old Post Office which was built in 1901; Madame Tremblay's Store which was built in 1899; the Red Feather Saloon; Dredge No. 4, the largest wooden-hulled, bucket line dredge in North America; and the Gold Room at Bear Creek where raw gold was poured into bars for shipment to the outside world.
One hundred and three years ago Dawson City was the heart of the great Klondike Gold Rush. More than 30,000 people transformed an Indian fish camp and moose pasture at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers into the largest city in Canada west of Winnipeg and north of Seattle. Just over a century later Dawson still celebrates its colorful past, yet in many respects nothing has changed. The gold mining industry still flourishes here, and people still flock here from all over the world - drawn less by the gold than the adventure of getting here, and the excitement of seeing where it all happened.
Discover Dawson City, a perfectly preserved gold rush boomtown. This city takes you back to those wild and woolly gold rush days as you visit Discovery Claim #1 - where George Carmack and his associates Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie first struck it rich. Within hours after George Carmack rushed into town with a handful of suspicious looking color, the word was out. Gold! And almost overnight Dawson grew from tent town to boom town. Lining its boardwalks: saloons, where whiskey flowed as freely as the Yukon River, mercantiles where eggs fetched five bucks a piece, and dance halls hosted by legendary ladies such as Klondike Kate. Relive those bawdy days, which take you back to those wild and woolly gold rush days as you stroll down the original wooden boardwalks and cruise the Yukon River.
Shoppers will be delighted at the wide range of souvenir gift shops, many of which feature arts and crafts made by local artisans. Numerous jewelers in Dawson still turn out fine handcrafted jewelry made from raw gold nuggets and carved mastodon ivory.
Walking Tour: Past historic buildings and their displays. You'll also enjoy your visit to the Dawson City Museum. Exhibits cover the history and culture of the gold rush era, Klondike Railway and Han First Nations culture, as well as a display on prehistoric animals that once roamed the Yukon.
Author's Avenue: Fans of Robert Service can immerse themselves in the life and poetry of Robert Service with live recitations at the original cabin home of the Bard of the Yukon. Jack London fans can hear the authors' works brought to life in daily shows at the log cabin where he lived at the Jack London Center. Canadian author Pierre Berton grew up here and his family home has been restored as a writer's retreat.
Midnight Dome: Drive up to this summit for a panoramic view of Dawson City, the Klondike and Yukon River valleys and the goldfields.
Top of the World Golf Course: A nine-hole golf course and driving range.
Discovery Days: Dawson celebrates the discovery of gold in the Klondike, with parades, races, tournaments and much more.
Nightlife: Dawson never sleeps in the summertime. Roulette, cards and slot machines beckon at Diamond Tooth Gerties, while the historic Palace Grand Theatre plays host to a rollicking vaudeville performance.
After sightseeing all afternoon, we met for dinner at the Westmark Hotel at 6:00 pm. They offered both Garlic Shrimp and Prime Rib, my favorites. The we were invited to enjoy an exciting night at
Diamond Tooth Gerties (Dawson City, Yukon Territory)
Canada's oldest casino, Diamond Tooth Gerties offers a unique entertainment experience that combines gaming, entertainment and beverage service in one venue. Diamond Tooth Gerties offers live entertainment including three different Can-Can shows nightly, full bar service, food concession, slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette wheels and more. All proceeds from the gaming tables are used to encourage local tourism and maintain Dawson City’s unique historical heritage.
The can-can girls were great and I also enjoyed sitting at tables with a glass of wine during the show. As the evening wore on it got smoky in there and I left.
The Arctic Brotherhood, a fraternal organization dedicated to improving social conditions in Dawson City and other northern mining communities built the building known as Diamond Tooth Gerties in 1901. Over the years the building was the center of Dawson's most important social gatherings.
The city obtained title to the building in 1951, after which it operated as a community hall until the city leased it to the Klondike Visitors Association in 1971, when it was transformed into the popular casino known as Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall. It was named after Gertie Lovejoy, one of Dawson's most famous dance-hall queens of the gold rush era. She got her nickname from having a diamond inserted between her two front teeth.
Since then the KVA has spent more than $1 million on major improvements to the building and its site. In 1992 the casino introduced slot machines. Revenue from Gerties is re-invested in the community to preserve historic sites, produce local events and tourist attractions, and to promote the Klondike as a visitor destination. In 1996, the KVA further improved the building with new air conditioning and ventilation at a cost of $225,000.
The Gaslight Follies is a professional show that is original and written to reflect the lavish and exciting time of the gold rush era. Over one hour of high-energy entertainment!
The Klondike Visitors Association, a not-for-profit society, presents the Gaslight Follies. All proceeds are invested in community attractions, events and marketing visitor services.
Overnight in Dawson
Bordered by Alaska, British Columbia, The Northwest Territories and the Arctic Ocean, the Yukon Territory lies at the northwestern tip of Canada. The Yukon has some of the last intact North American wilderness remaining on the continent. Canada’s Yukon Territory proudly stands as one of the only remaining destinations on the planet where large tracts of pristine wilderness exist.
From Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan, in Kluane National Park (part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site), to the Bonnet Plume and Yukon Rivers (both designated as Canadian Heritage Rivers), the geographical beauty and significance of the Yukon is globally recognized and admired.
At 7:30 am this morning we get going again while the wolves are still howling in the distance. I heard them as I was getting dressed; we slept with the window open. By 9 am we’re heading down the Klondike Highway. The bus travels through the lush Yukon River Country. The scenery is extraordinary as we follow the route of the “Old Overland Trail”. At 10:30 we pull into Moose Creek Lodge for morning coffee. They have the biggest mosquitoes in the world on display here. There is an interpreted Nature trail here leading to the Stewart River, which takes you into the boreal forest along Moose Creek.
South of Stewart Crossing, we pass through a large area known for its “drunken forest”. The black spruce and paper birch trees are leaning every which way due to permafrost damage on poorly drained soil.
Between 1-2:00 pm we stop for lunch along the river at Minto. This is a beautiful spot and the weather is sunny and warm, again. How lucky we are.
Soon we find ourselves at sights such as Five Finger Rapid, a dangerous place on the river during the gold rush era. Yukon’s longest staircase leads down to the rapids from the parking spot. This is also the edge of the Beringia, the area that remained ice free when the North American continent was joined with Asia across the Behring Sea. Half an hour later, we make a stop at Carmacks. Named for George Washington Carmack, one of the co-discoverers of the gold on Rabbit (later Bonanza) Creek that sparked the Klondike gold rush, this community rests on the banks of the Yukon River mid-way between Whitehorse and Dawson City. The country around Carmacks is the traditional home of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation. The community of 500 remains a re-fuelling depot, once for the sternwheelers that plied the Yukon River until the early 1950s and today for motorists on the North Klondike Highway.
Another snack stop is a must at Braeburn Lodge, famous for its gigantic cinnamon rolls.
Kluane National Park (Yukon Territory, Canada)
Noted as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kluane National Park is a public treasure that has been put aside to protect a significant example of the diverse natural regions of Canada. Home to Canada’s highest peak, Mt. Logan (19,545 ft), this beautiful park contains a variety of glaciers melting into rushing rivers that feed a variety of fauna and wildlife in the valleys below.
Kluane National Park, in the southwestern corner of the Yukon, is home to several massive glaciers, including the largest non-polar icefields in the world. Watch as the Lowell Glacier calves a 100-foot-high iceberg into Lowell Lake. Feel the cool breeze from the Kaskawulsh Glacier, a river of ice spread across a valley floor. Hike into the Donjek Valley and explore the Donjek Glacier as it spreads across a seven-mile expanse of crevasses, moraines, rock and ice. The power and the beauty of these ancient ice monuments will captivate your camera and your imagination.
Made famous by the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, the Yukon still casts its magic spell on travelers today. Come north and live for a while on our vast land. Your time in the Yukon will leave you with enchanted memories for the rest of your life.
The Spell of the Yukon
The capital city, Whitehorse, is your hub for international air access. Excellent highways and connecting air flights will take you to our smaller communities where accommodations, phone service and warm northern hospitality can be found.
Whitehorse serves as the center for transportation, communications and supplies for the territory. This historical northern terminus of the White Pass Yukon Route Railroad is filled with history and culture. Surrounded by rolling hills, Whitehorse, capital of Yukon Territory, offers great fishing, rafting the historic Yukon River, hiking, shopping, historical and ice age museums, art galleries, midnight sun golf, and a rollicking nightlife.
There are canoe races, rodeos, softball tournaments, Yukon River bathtub races, road relays and the International Storytelling Festival in summer. In winter, there’s the Yukon Quest, Sourdough Rendezvous, air shows and snow machine trips. Whitehorse is wild with wildlife, both the animal and human kind.
Things to do in Whitehorse
The S.S. Klondike was the largest sternwheeler to ply the mighty Yukon River. Built in 1929, she sank in 1936 and was rebuilt in 1937 using the original machinery. After carrying cargo and passengers between Whitehorse and Dawson City from 1937 until the 1950’s, the S.S. Klondike was donated to the people of Canada by the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. Now designated a National Historic Site, she is administered by Parks Canada. A 20 minutes film follows tours by park personnel of this grand old sternwheeler on the history of riverboats in the North. Tours are available. Over 200 sternwheelers plied the Yukon River in its heyday. This is the only one authentically restored to its late period.
This has to be one of the most famous sights in Whitehorse. In both winter and summer the Sternwheeler stands to remind us of a bygone era. She’s beautiful whichever way you view her, especially from inside! She sits at Second Avenue and Robert Campbell Bridge. Similar to the Mississippi’s paddle-wheel steamers, 250 sternwheelers chugged up and down the churning, muddy waters of the Yukon until freeze-up, laden with gold seekers and supplies.
Beringia Interpretive Center: Ice-age exhibits, video.
Yukon Transportation Museum: First Nations, gold rush, railroad, Alaska Highway and early aviation displays.
MacBride Museum: This charming log cabin houses gold-rush displays, archeological, cultural, historical, transportation and mining exhibits. A favorite exhibit for visitors is the real Sam McGee's cabin, moved from Lake Laberge, the original setting for the “Cremation of Sam McGee”.
Old Log Church Museum: Northern missions, Inuit and First Nations people and whaling history.
Yukon Gardens: Scenic pathways, Old MacDonald’s Farm, Gold Digger Mini Golf, gift shop, garden center.
The Mountain View 18-hole Golf Course in Whitehorse is scenically situated along the banks of the Yukon River. The Meadow Lakes nine-hole golf course runs along the Alaska Highway.
Yukon Arts Center: This beautiful new gallery features the work of local, internationally renowned artists (Native & non-Native). The performing stage showcases talent from the territory and abroad.
Shopping: Be sure to check out the arts and crafts shops featuring the work of local artists.
Dining: Arctic char, Alaska king crab and Yukon or Taku River salmon are just some of the local delicacies. You will also find hearty, homestyle cooking and a variety of ethnic eateries.
Miles Canyon, Canyon City, Grey Mountain Nature Trail: Views and hikes.
Takhini Hot Springs: After a full day of sightseeing, take the time to unwind in a beautiful outdoor mountain setting at the Takhini Hot Springs. Camping, horseback riding, outdoor springs and pool.
Yukon Game Farm Wildlife Preserve: 150 northern animals (musk oxen, sheep, wood bison, moose, mule deer, woodland caribou, mountain goats and a bird sanctuary)
Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm: Feed, pet and walk Santa’s sleigh-pullers.
Nightlife: There is a variety of evening entertainment available to every taste.
We arrived at the hotel at 5:30pm and we have an hour ‘til dinner. After dinner we have tickets to the Follies for the 8:30 pm show.
Frantic Follies (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory)
This almost 2-hour romp through the gold rush era, presented in the Village Square Room at the Westmark Whitehorse Hotel sparkles with music, mirth & magic. Gay nineties songs, rousing music, a chorus line, Can - Can dances and hilarious skits of Robert W. Service ballads are only a few of the many highlights contained in this raucous vaudeville revue. We invite you to forget the present and join the feverish excitement that gripped the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush. Come with us to the great Klondike Gold Rush where you can imagine yourself a Sourdough in from the creeks, loaded with gold and eager for entertainment. The Frantic Follies is a turn of the century vaudeville revue, which depicts the entertainment seen by the pioneers of the Great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The company has been in operation for 32 years and is known as the most popular and successful show in the Yukon and Alaska. A cast of professional actors, dancers and musicians recaptures the spirit and enthusiasm of the Klondike Gold Rush.
The show runs from mid May through mid September each year.
Overnight in Whitehorse at
Day 8: Friday Aug. 30
I spend my leisurely morning sightseeing in Whitehorse. I really wanted to see the McBride Museum, but it doesn’t open ‘til 10:00 am and we have to be back by 10:45, so I just peak in and visit the gift shop. Here I find a couple of interesting books and a Robert Service CD. His original cabin has been moved here. There is a great painting on the wall depicting the white horses that the stampeders though they saw in the rapids in the river, hence the name Whitehorse. At the turn of the century, "white horse" was a common term for a standing wave or whitecap.
After a scenic bus ride to Fraser, we'll transfer to the historic narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, which treks from the panoramic White Pass down to Skagway, Alaska. We must have our passports ready when crossing the border back into Alaska, USA.
We drive by Schwatka Lake, named after Frederick Schwatka, an early explorer. Then we arrive at
Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids
Enjoy the sweeping vista from the viewing site above the canyon, or drive down to the suspension bridge, cross the river and enjoy the walk to Canyon City.
Thousands of reckless gold rush stampeders smashed their crude boats attempting to run these rapids on the Yukon River on their way down to Dawson City. The Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids were the most treacherous obstacles on the entire route. Canyon City, at the upstream end of the canyon, was the place where people stopped to plan their next move. Many unloaded their boats and laboriously portaged their goods. Many attempted to run their boats through the rapids. By June of 1898 a huge bottleneck had developed at Canyon City. Nearly 300 boats had been wrecked in the rapids, and five people had drowned; North-West Mounted Police Inspector Samuel Steele confessed: "why more casualties have not occurred is a mystery to me."
In June, Steele issued an order that skilled pilots had to be hired to take the boats through. By then, a tramway had been built on the east bank of the river. It was eight km long and ran from Canyon City to the foot of the rapids, just across from the present site of downtown Whitehorse, hauling goods on horse-drawn cars for 3 cents per pound. A rival tram was also built, on the west bank of the river.
A small settlement developed at Canyon City, and a townsite was even surveyed there. Although it thrived for a short time, by 1900 the railway was completed to Whitehorse, and Canyon City had lost its reason for existence.
Traces of the community of Canyon City can still be found on the east shore, about 2 km upriver from the bridge. Take a cruise or a heli-tour through the canyon. Now the Whitehorse Power Dam tames the water. Below the dam you can see Chinook salmon in late July and August at the Fish Ladder viewing facility.
Canyon City Archaeological Dig
Early explorers had little contact with the indigenous population, although Frederick Schwatka, in 1883, made note of a First Nations portage trail bypassing Miles Canyon, and George Mercer Dawson, in 1887, noted the large number of salmon above the canyon - salmon were one of the fish that were important to the aboriginal population. The Southern Tutchone word for the rapids is Kwänlin, and the Southern Tutchone of the Whithorse area call themselves Kwänlin Dun, or people of the rapids.
There are two tours daily from the Miles Canyon footbridge; on-site interpretations are available between 9 am and 4 pm Mon. to Fri. July 2 - August 9.
There are numerous beautiful lakes in this area, but none as gorgeous in color as Emerald Lake. Here we stop for our group photo. The water truly is green. The lake's gem-like color comes from blue-green light waves reflecting off the white sediment layer (decomposed shells mixed with clay) on the bottom. Blue-green lakes are characterized by low oxygen levels and do not foster plant or fish life. Certainly the most-photographed lake in the Yukon, Emerald Lake is nestled in a bowl right beside the South Klondike Highway, 11 km (7 miles) north of Carcross.
We joined a group of Holland America tour passengers and they have a featured BBQ lunch stop at Frontierland that we weren’t supposed to get. There is an excellent taxidermist here and we enjoyed the stop very much. We missed our city tour of Whitehorse though. We’re flexible, but it almost seems like we didn’t see the city. I definitely would recommend an extra day in Whitehorse.
Visit our premier quality wildlife display featuring the world’s largest mounted bear along with Yukon’s many elusive animals. Frontierland is located 45 minutes south of Whitehorse on the South Klondike Highway, just north of Carcross and the famous desert. The outdoor heritage park is a “Yukon in one stop” depicting the whole of Yukon in the frontier days with rustic cabins and live wildlife including Dall, Stone, and Bighorn Sheep as well as Lynx and a small petting farm. The gift shop boasts a wonderful array of Yukon made products and gifts that will remind you of the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. In the Coffee Bar you can relax with a homemade pastry and a cup of coffee or treat yourself to a light lunch and ice-cream.
Carcross is a charming town with period log-buildings and white sand beaches. Thousands of stampeders landed here after their trip from Bennett City. I found a complete history of the area chronicled at the Visitor Reception Center located in the Old Train Depot (a National Historic Railway Station). We had half an hour to explore here, which was enough time. There are some very nice views across Lake Bennett, Windy Arm Lake and Lake Tutshi. The fall colors are spectacular and the sun is bright.
Downtown Carcross has dozens of buildings dating back to the 1905-1906 silver stampede on Montana Mountain, or to 1910 when the downtown core was rebuilt after a fire. The Barracks are a mish-mash of everything that ever existed here. Many of the older buildings in Carcross were moved here from other towns such as Conrad and Bennett when their residents moved on; the most visible of those is the two-story section of Matthew Watson's General Store, which began life as the Vendome Hotel in Bennett. In 1911, it was towed across the lake ice to its new home in Carcross. St. Saviour's Anglican Church and the Robinson Roadhouse dates to 1905, when the Wheaton Valley was the site of yet another mining stampede.
Just north of Carmack is Carcross Dunes, affectionately known locally as "The World's Smallest Desert", the Carcross Dunes is a wonderful place for walking, cross-country skiing, ATV and snowmobile riding and other activities. This is really the sandy bottom of an old lakebed. The wind blows sand from Bennet Lake forming dunes. The Carcross Desert is a heaven for amateur botanists. It is home to a wide variety of interesting and rare plants, some of them very unusual.
The Baikal Sedge (Carex sabulosa ssp. leiophylla), for example, is only known in four places in North America, and the Yukon Lupine (Lupinus kuschei) is more common here than in any other location in the world. Other plants found in the Carcross Dunes system that are of interest due to their rarity or limited distribution are the Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), Mutton Grass (Poa cusickii) and Nelson's Needle-grass (Stipa nelsonii ssp. dorei).
White Pass Yukon Route Railroad (Skagway, Alaska)
Of the many modes of transportation developed during the gold rush, the most practical was the White Pass & Yukon Route, a narrow-gauge railway connecting Skagway, at tidewater, with Whitehorse, at the head of navigation on the Yukon River. Built in 1898 to transport miners over to the headwaters of the Yukon River and to return gold to the coast, this historic narrow-gauge railroad now operates a variety of itineraries showcasing the vintage parlor cars of a day gone by. A brilliantly narrated journey includes tales of both the railroad and greater gold rush while traveling over steep mountain passes on a round-trip excursion to White Pass Summit and Lake Bennett, where the stampeders built the boats that would take them to Dawson. Also offered is the bus service between Skagway and Whitehorse.
The first construction materials arrived in Skagway on May 27, 1898; work started the next day. The narrow-gauge route climbed north out of Skagway through the nearly perpendicular slopes of the White Pass. During the following winter, construction workers faced brutally cold temperatures and immense snowdrifts. But by July 6, 1899, the railway was complete to Bennett, at the southern end of Lake Bennett, where the White Pass and Chilkoot Pass trails converged. Construction then leap-frogged ahead to the third section - from Caribou Crossing, at the northern end of Lake Bennett, to Whitehorse - and boats and scows were used to carry workers and materials between the two sections.
White Pass & Yukon Route RailroadThe Scenic Railway of the North
No trip to Alaska is complete without an adventure over the White Pass & Yukon, the railroad born of the mad rush to the Klondike gold fields in 1898. This “train to hell” punched through the White Pass with dynamite and “snooze” (snuff) according to engineer Michael Heney, is a civil engineering landmark and one of the steepest narrow gauge railways in the world built through the meanest 33 miles in history, also known as Dead Horse Trail.
We arrived in Fraser at 3:00 pm and a US immigrations officer cleared our entry into the USA. The train departs at 3:30 pm. Now the weather is very foggy and it’s raining too. We’re at the top of White Pass. It’s very rugged up here, nothing seems to grow and it’s windy too. The adventure begins when we board our vintage parlor car, polished green and brass and straight out of the 1890's. Route map in hand, we settled into our comfortable seat and try to peer through the big, wide window. Suddenly, we are on our way, following in the footsteps of the stampeders over the Historic Trail of '98.
Equipped with a diesel engine that easily handles the grade, the train skirts the rushing torrents of the Skagway River through a narrow box canyon passing gray rock cliffs that rise nearly perpendicular from the valley floor. Next, you're out in the open, crawling along the shoulder of a mountain. A trestle spans a gorge into a seemingly insurmountable mountain wall. Suddenly the train disappears into a tunnel, emerging alongside visible remains of the famed Trail of '98, etched in rock by the shuffling feet of thousands of gold-crazed stampeders and the hooves of their weary pack animals. In less than two hours, we've traversed the wildly rugged mountain country that once posed weeks of agonizing ordeals for the Klondikers.
The Chilkoot Trail
On August 16, 1896, Skookum Jim, Tagish Charlie and George Washington Carmack found gold in the Klondike, and the Yukon was changed forever. It was nearly a year, however, before the outside world knew about the find; the steamship Excelsior arrived from the north in San Francisco on July 15, 1897, and the Portland arrived in Seattle two days later. Newspapers trumpeted the story of "a ton of gold" being on board.
Word of the gold strike had already filtered out to miners and prospectors working in the north. In the early part of 1897 most of the people traveling over the Chilkoot Pass and on to Dawson were still experienced prospectors. On June 3, 1897, North-West Mounted Police Inspector W. H. Scarth reported "Large numbers of people camped at the White Horse." By the fall of 1897 the first neophyte stampeders had started to arrive; the new arrivals were inexperienced, and most weren't prepared for the rigors of the trip.
The rush reached its peak in the spring of 1898. The Chilkoot tramway was dropping freight on the summit at the rate of nine tons an hour. Over 30,000 people poured over the passes, 20,000 of them in the period from the opening of the Customs post in mid-February to the beginning of May.
Hike the Chilkoot, just as the stampeders did at the turn of the 19th century. It starts out at sea level in Dyea, Alaska (10 miles outside Skagway, Alaska, about a two-hour drive from Whitehorse) and goes through B.C. to the interior plateau of the Yukon. The Chilkoot was a daunting prospect back in 1898: gold seekers had to carry one ton of supplies over the pass to Bennett Lake, where they made rafts or boats to carry them down to the Yukon River.
The town of Skagway sits at the top of the Inside Passage, framed by the deep waters of Taiya Inlet and the rugged Coast Mountains. This Alaskan gold rush town is now a picturesque tourist town. Today Skagway looks much the same as it did during the Gold Rush era. Boardwalks and colorful false-fronted buildings line Broadway, the main street through town.
Situated at the far northern arm of the Lynn Canal, Skagway is known worldwide as the jumping off point for thousands of stampeders in 1898. With an abundance of gift shops, two national parks, painstakingly restored Victorian homes and gardens, Skagway is a link between the Alcan Highway and Southeast Alaska’s “highway” on the sea—the Inside Passage.
Designated a National Historic Park, downtown Skagway will take you back to the days of the notorious "Soapy Smith" and Frank Reed. While here, don’t forget to visit the driftwood adorned historic Arctic Brotherhood Hall, White Pass Yukon Route Rail Depot, quench your thirst at the Red Onion Saloon and visit historic Dyea, now a ghost town at the entrance to the Chilkoot Trail.
Skagway is a walk through history. The city tour explores the historic town of Skagway. Relive the Klondike gold rush as you walk Broadway’s planked boardwalks past false-front shops, the AB Hall, horse-drawn carriages and folks in 1890’s attire. Learn about “Ma” Pullen, Mollie Walsh, and the cribs (huts of ill-repute) and listen to Golden North Hotel. On this city tour, hear how Soapy Smith, notorious bad-man of the Klondike, and good-guy Frank Reid shot it out on the dock. The tour guide tells about tales both tall and true about the lawless entrepreneurs and legitimate business people who lived in Skagway during the Gold Rush. You'll be transported back in time, to the rough and tumble days of the notorious 'Soapy Smith' and Jack London while enjoying this historic city tour. As you retrace their footsteps, take a step back in time amongst the town’s historic buildings, which have been restored to their Gold rush glory. The story ends at the Gold Rush Cemetery. Skagway is a blast from the past.
The downtown area comprises a seven-block-long historic district known as the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, where turn-of-the- century shops and saloons are still open for business. The best way to explore Skagway is on foot. Most visitors find there's plenty of fun and excitement to be had just by strolling down Broadway. The town's false-fronted buildings provide a festive atmosphere for some of Alaska's best shopping. Points of interest include the Red Onion Saloon, where drinks are served from the original 19-foot mahogany bar. This popular watering hole has been a favorite with locals since 1898. Across the street, visit the National Park Service's Mascot Saloon exhibit for a look at turn-of-the- century life.
Broadway’s Historic District: Seven blocks of restored saloons, storefronts and shops, including Mascot Saloon, Red Onion Saloon, Golden North Hotel (with a friendly female ghost) and Eagles Hall, also haunted
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center: 2nd and Broadway, exhibits, movie, guided walks, ranger talks in the auditorium, Chilkoot Trail info and walking tour maps
White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad Depot: 2nd St. Book a trainride along the gold miners’ Trail of ’98. Wheelchair accessible, with scenic overlooks of Skagway
Arctic Brotherhood Hall/Skagway Visitors Center: Covered with 10,000 pieces of driftwood, at 245 Broadway. This architectural wonder is one of Alaska's most photographed buildings.
Trail of 98 Museum: The Trail of 98 Museum features exhibits detailing the rich history of Skagway's Gold Rush era. Fortunes were won and lives lost among the rough and ready men who gambled everything on the frontier. The historic museum is located in Arctic Brotherhood Hall.
Skagway City Museum/City Hall: 7th and Spring, in the McCabe Building
Corrington’s Museum of Alaskan History: Broadway and 5th, gift shop/museum
Moore’s Cabin: 5th and Spring, built in 1888 by William and son Ben. Molly Walsh Park is nearby. Captain William Moore, who homesteaded in the valley 10 years before the Gold Rush, founded Skagway. Moore believed that the White Pass just above Skagway would prove the best route to the gold fields--and he saw his dream come true. In 1898, Skagway became the jumping-off point for prospectors on the long trek into Canada and the Klondike.
Days of ’98 Show: Eagles Hall, 6th and Broadway. Skagway’s Klondike comic drama, first performed in 1927. The “Days of ’98 Show” recreates Skagway’s hysterical history. Buckwheat Donohue re-cremates Old Sam McGee from Tennessee, the fellow who hated the Klondike cold in that “great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder.”
Gold Rush Cemetery/Lower Reid Falls: Soapy Smith and Frank Reid burial sites
Jewell Gardens: (edge of town—23rd Ave.) See giant vegetables and Alaska’s largest dahlia collection
Other options: streetcar tours, bike, horseback rides, kayak, fish (fresh and saltwater), flightseeing and helicopter tours, glacier and “wheel” dogsledding, Liarsville salmon bake and a Yukon jeep adventure.
Out of town:
Chilkoot Trail: 3- to 5-day hike through history. Contact National Park Service, 2nd and Broadway, (907) 983-2921. For permits, call Parks Canada, (800) 661-0486
Dyea: 9 mi. Ghost town, Slide Cemetery (from gold rush days), campground, trailhead for the Chilkoot Trail
Klondike Gold Dredge: 1.7 miles, movie, mining exhibit and tour
Chilkat Cruises: Haines-Skagway fast ferry (14 miles/35 minutes), with service to Juneau on weekends
Alaska Fjordlines: Daily roundtrip from Haines/Skagway to Juneau
Golden Circle: Drive to Whitehorse, Carcross, Haines Junction and Haines, then take the ferry back to Skagway (360 miles)
Klondike Drive: Drive north to Carcross, Whitehorse, Dawson City and intersect with the Alaska Highway (Alcan)
We arrive in time for dinner at 6:30 pm at the hotel. Then we decide to check out the action at the Red Onion Saloon. It turns out to be a bit smoky, so I decide to wander around town instead. I also need to pack my bags for the return trip home tomorrow.
Overnight in Skagway at the
We have another very early morning today, beginning with bags out at 6:00 am. Today we will cruise via Allen Marine’s Cape Aialik catamaran small excursion day boat down the longest fjord in North America, the Lynn Canal en route to Juneau. Lynn Canal stretches over 100 miles long and is over 2000 feet deep. Marine life abounds in these waters, and a fully narrated wildlife cruise will highlight the morning voyage.
We depart Skagway at 7:30 in the morning and head south through Lynn Canal, the continent's longest and deepest glacial fjord.
The fog is “troll” like, mysterious this morning over the water, a beautiful sight actually.
Lynn Canal Cruise
The fun is in getting there aboard the Lynn Canal Fast Ferry, a 3-hour excursion connecting Skagway and Juneau. The northernmost fjord on the Inside Passage Lynn Canal is lined by high mountains and glaciers of the Chilkat and Chilkoot ranges and dotted with lighthouses on tiny islets. Haines and Skagway at the fjord’s northern ends are both linked by a highway to the Yukon and the rest of the world.
North America's longest and deepest glacier-created Fjord, Lynn Canal features over twenty spectacular waterfalls. Separated from Glacier Bay by the Chilkat Mountain Range, Lynn Canal also has several hanging glaciers along its length. Nesting Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, Humpback Whales, Stellar’s Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Dall's Porpoise and Orca Whales are just a few of the animals who live in the fjord's rich waters and along the shoreline. The skilled captain and crew are excellent at spotting wildlife and will stop briefly for viewing opportunities if time allows.
The boat is a comfortable high-speed catamaran featuring two spacious levels with wraparound viewing. You can move freely about the vessel while underway and remain warm and dry inside the heated cabin or experience nature first-hand on the open upper deck. You will have the chance to look for marine mammals and bald eagles as you pass by numerous glaciers and cascading waterfalls.
We move in and out of the fog all morning until after we pass through the North Pass between Lincoln and Shelter Islands. When the fog lifted here and there, we could see hanging glaciers and nesting bald eagles. At Little Island we encountered mega harbor seals and we stopped at a rookery where hundreds of Stellar sea lions gather in the summer to breed and pup. There must be hundreds of them here, so frisky, noisy and playful.
Then it happened right … out in front of the boat and we had extra time to linger: humpback whales.
This was a surprise and we watched them frolic around us. For the first time, in my by now long life, I heard one of them “talk” to us. That was special. I was overjoyed with this experience.
It’s raining hard when we get to Juneau. Alaska's capital city -- the third largest city in the state -- often called ‘little San Francisco,’ Juneau is nestled at the foot of Mount Juneau on the Gastineau Channel of the Inside Passage in the Tongass National Forest. Downtown Alaska’s state capital is easily accessible for exploring by foot. Along many of the avenues you'll find lampposts trimmed with colorful banners and flower baskets--just one of the ways Juneau says "Welcome!" to its many visitors.
Juneau, the indispensable hub of travel in the Inside Passage is accessed only by boat or plane. Local attractions include the Mendenhall Glacier, Mount Roberts Tramway, and the Alaska State Museum. Charter fishing, flight seeing and sea kayaking are also available in summer months.
Beyond downtown lies the 1,500 square miles Juneau Ice Field. The field feeds 38 separate glaciers, one of which is the easily accessible Mendenhall Glacier. Stop in at the visitor center there for a look at the interpretive exhibits that explain glacial activity.
Our city tour includes a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier, only 13 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska.
The Mendenhall Glacier reached its point of maximum advance in the mid-1700s, and its terminus rested almost 2.5 miles down the valley from its present position. It started retreating in the mid-1700s because its annual rate of melt began to exceed its annual total accumulation. The glacier's terminus currently calves into Mendenhall Lake, where the water is 220 feet deep. The ice is retreating at a rate of 100 to 150 feet a year. At this rate, the glacier would take several centuries to completely disappear.
After a pretty awful and expensive lunch at the famous Red Dog Saloon, the afternoon is free for us to explore on our own and to do some shopping. It’s late in the cruise season and the stores have started the sales.
I decided to wander around and see what ships are in port today. It’s incredible, 8 ships are here.
I see Holland America’s Ryndam tied up and then from smallest to biggest, I find the American Safari Quest, Glacier Bay’s the Wilderness Discoverer, Lindblad’s Sea Bird, Cruise West’s Spirit of ’98, the Radisson Seven Seas Navigator, the Regal Princess at anchor in the bay and the Carnival Spirit.
Isn’t that amazing? Juneau absorbs all these people very well: there is a lot to do here, even though it’s cold, windy and rainy. There are lots of shops too and they are a bit crowded, especially the ones closest to the ships and with the biggest sales.
Here are some recommended things to do while in Juneau.
Waterfront: Colorful banners and flower baskets, several memorials, including U.S.S. Juneau, Hard Rock Miner, Fishermen’s Memorial and Patsy Ann, Juneau’s dock dog and Native and steamship murals. Downtown: South Franklin and Front streets were once home to 30 bars and several bordellos now transformed into gift shops, restaurants and art galleries. Within a seven-block radius are 60 buildings built before 1904 and 143 built before 1914, including the Senate Building, a mini-mall; Emporium Mall (former Alaska Steam Laundry) and Alaskan Hotel and Bar. McDonald’s (Lewis Building, 1896) is on one of the first claimed lots in Juneau, then at the edge of Gastineau Channel.
Alaska State Capitol: (4th and Main) Built 1929-1931, guided tours.
Juneau Douglas City Museum: (4th and Main) videos, books, mining memorabilia, maps and historic displays.
State Office Building: (4th and Main, 8th floor) One of the best overlooks of downtown, free Friday pipe organ concerts, state libraries and the Old Witch Totem.
Governor’s House: (716 Calhoun — 4th becomes Calhoun) “Liberal interpretation of New England colonial architecture,” built in 1912 for $40,000, currently home of Gov. Tony Knowles and family. The Governor’s Totem tells the Tlingit story of the origin of the mosquito.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church: (326 5th St.) Built in Siberia, disassembled and shipped to Juneau in 1894, the octagonal, onion-domed structure is a national historic landmark.
Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin: (past Gold on 5th) First a mission in 1885, then St. Ann’s Hospital and a school (1890). Also Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (Gold and 4th).
House of Wickersham: (213 7th St.) Home of Judge Wickersham. Informal tours, tea. (907) 586-9001
Basin Road and Last Chance Mining Museum: End of Gold St., one of Juneau’s favorite trails. Great waterfall and stream views. Tools, machines and memorabilia from the Alaska-Juneau mine at the museum. (907) 586-5338
Alaska State Museum: (395 Whittier) More than 25,000 works of art, Alaska Native artifacts, Russian and American Alaska history, and natural history specimens. (907) 465-2901
Thane Road: Drive south to the end of the road past the remains of the Alaska-Juneau mine mill, avalanche areas, Alaska-Gastineau mill, Sheep Creek fish hatchery, Thane Ore House (deep-fried halibut, salmon and entertaining Gold Nugget Review) to Thane, once a booming mining community (5 miles south of Juneau).
(enroute to Thane) A tour at the site of what was once the world’s largest-producing gold mill. Don hard hats and walk along a boardwalk into a 360-foot long tunnel carved into the mountain to see where huge stamps crushed up to 10,000 tons of gold-bearing rock per day and tour the superintendent’s house with views of Gastineau Channel.
At 5:15 pm, we meet at the Baranof Hotel for our transfer to the airport for our Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. Depart Juneau on AS flight 78 at 7:37 pm arriving Seattle 10:52 pm.