Monday, July 18, 2016

Alaskan Cruise (Skagway: Bald Eagle Preserve Float Trip)

While our cruise ship was docked in Skagway, we had lots of options for excursions.  Marilyn and I decided to go on an Eagle Preserve Float trip out of Haines, Alaska.  Our outfitter was Chilkat Guides.  Like our other activities off of the cruise ship, getting to the destination for the actual excursion was part of the fun.  We rode the Haines Skagway Fast Ferry.  You might ask your self, "Well, couldn't you ride a bus from Skagway to Haines?"  Well, yes... you could. There is actually a road, it's over 350 miles long, you have to go in and out of Canada to get there, and it is recommended you take a few days to make the trip by car.  The Haines Skagway Fast Ferry was our option. It was a beautiful 45 minute ferry ride.

Here is a map of the road from Skagway to Haines.  I bet it's a beautiful drive.  I found this Alaska tourism site and they discuss the route in further detail in this article.

Here are some photos I snapped while we were on the Haines Skagway Fast Ferry. As you can tell, it was another beautiful day in Alaska! We were very fortunate.

Here we are in Haines, Alaska. If you happen to be a fan of the television program called "Gold Rush", Parker Schnabel is from Haines, Alaska.  If you are not a fan of that show, disregard.

Haines, Alaska, used to be a military base.  Ongoing border disputes between the United States and Canada were the justification for the military presence in Haines.  I found this article about the history of Haines. We took a bus ride from town to get to our float trip location.  The guide on the bus was born and raised in Haines so we heard about the history of the town as well as what it was like living in and growing up in Haines.  We also drove past the old military housing; the grand homes still stand today and it appears they are being lovingly and carefully restored.

After our long ferry ride and our informative and beautiful bus ride, we got to the destination for our float trip.  We were divided among two rafts. Our guides did all the rowing, so we could just sit back and relax, while we took in the gorgeous scenery and listed to our guide tell us about the flora and fauna in the area, the history of the area, and the life of eagles, salmon, and other creatures in this ecosystem.

The river was very shallow and the water was murky with silt, as it was run off from glaciers.  We were given instructions on what to do in the event the boat got stuck in a shallow spot. When asked how deep the water was, we were told, "Chest high on a duck!"  There were some shallow spots where we could hear our rubber raft scraping a bit, but we never got stuck.

We were floating through an eagle preserve.  You can read more about it HERE.  What makes this area so special is that it's the world's largest concentration of bald eagles.  Turns out five types of salmon spawn here at different times of the year.  Another special thing about the area is that there is a portion of the river that does NOT freeze in cold weather due to some interesting natural phenomenon.  No wonder the bald eagles stick around, there is a lot of food and the eagles have relatively easy access to it!  We certainly saw lots of bald eagles and bald eagle nests on our float trip.

Below, our raft guide, Sam. He was great and I especially enjoyed is knowledge of the plants and animals in the area. I am a nerd like that. 

Sam told us an interesting story about what you can see in the photo above. Do you see the "V" or "Y" shaped rocky area where there are no trees in the mountain range above?  It's just to the left of center.  Long ago, there was a native tribal leader and he told the people in his village that they all needed to leave to go fishing. So they set off on a fishing expedition far away. While the people of the village were gone, they mountainside gave way and their village was buried.  He must have had a premonition telling something bad was going to happen.

Above, me and my travelling buddy, Marilyn, enjoying our float trip.

What a beautiful ride we enjoyed.  While I was on this Alaskan cruise and as I think about my trip now that I am home, I can't help but think one could go on this very same cruise over and over, and simply choose different excursions for a totally different experience!

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