Icy Strait Point

Ketchikan, Alaska

This was something of a surprise when we visited. The town of Hoonah, on Chichagof Island, in Glacier Bay is home to a fishing and logging community.

Here you will find the Icy Strait Point Cannery, which does not quite live up to its name. We pictured snow and ice, bitter cold lakes and floating glaciers. In fact we enjoyed a splendid June summer's day. A glass of Alaskan Amber (the local beer which of course you must try) and a paddle were entirely unexpected pleasures of this remote island.

Climate change has certainly had a very real impact on this community. With lifestyles designed around the cold, it is something of a shock to find that the temperature is in the 80s on somedays, and with no air-conditioning and clothes meant for a much colder environment the local people have had to make rapid adjustments.

The Hoonah people are said to have settled here after the advancing glaciers forced them out of their original lands a few miles away at Glacier Bay. They have a very strong sense of tradition which survives, and the villagers don traditional Tlingit costimes to perform their dances. There are now just two clans remaining: the Raven and the Eagle who now live peacefully together.

Nowdays most visitors will arrive in Hoonah courtesy of one of the cruise lines. There are no facilities for the ships to dock of course, and so a small boat (called a tender) will ferry passengers from the ship to the dock. Don't be surprised if it takes a while to get ashore. With some 3,000 passengers aboard and a typical 100 passengers per tender it will take a while.

The cannery is working, and there are a selection of craft and other shops on the quayside. Along with commercial logging and fishing the tourist trade provides the majority of the income for the 1,000 or so residents.

There are several other things to do when you spend a day here. Wildlife watching, or fishing, or the now everywhere canopy rides. Bear watching is one of our favourite past-times, and Hoonah has a trip into the forest where, with luck, you'll see brown bears in the wild.

Take the twenty minute bus ride out with your guides, and then park up and take a walk through the forest. Now, bear spotting is not as easy as it sounds. You will certainly see signs of where bears have been: paw-prints and torn up wild plants. There are surprisingly deep bogs and your guide will show you just how deep by sinking a 12 foot pole down. Then take a stop on one of the many viewing platforms to look out across the plain to spot some bears. If you are unlucky you may have to make do with a close up view of life-size wooden bears that are hidden in the woods - but if your eyes are sharp and you have some binoculars you will be rewarded with a quick view of a magnificent brown bear.


Icy Strait Point Bear Icy Strait Point Launch Icy Strait Point Hunt Icy Strait Point Beach

Skagway

Skagway

This town has a real frontier feel to it. In 1898 the lure of gold brought prospectors in their thousands to the Klondike. Travelling by train and boat, the adventurers reached the northern tip of the Lynn Canal and here was born Skagway. More...