|a l a s k a j o u r n e y . c o m|
Humpback whales roll through the waters, lofting their tails before diving deep. Eagles perch on the tops of the tall evergreens, their white heads serving as beacons of identification to the sharp-eyed. As your ferry, cruise ship, tour boat, or kayak rounds a point, yet another great glacier becomes visible. Abundant waterfalls, misty clouds, and ephemeral rainbows paint the landscape with motion and color.
Four roads link Southeast towns with ferry connections to highway routes in Canada. In British Columbia, Prince Rupert is reached via B.C. 16 from Prince George, while Highway 37A connects the Cassiar Highway to Stewart and its tiny neighbor, Hyder, Alaska. From the Yukon, the Klondike Highway crosses from near Whitehorse over White Pass into Skagway. Haines is reached on the Haines Highway via Kluane National Park, British Columbias Alsek-Tatshenshini Wilderness Park, and the Chilkat River. In summer, ferries serve Prince Rupert, Haines, and Skagway several times a week. The Hyder-Ketchikan ferry runs weekly (see chapter 6 for details).
Though every town of the Southeast is unique, most share a common heritage. Camps and villages of the native Tlingit Indians grew into many of todays larger settlements. Resource exploitationwhether of otter pelts, fish, timber, or goldled to the creation of virtually all the modern towns. Southeastern communities share a dependence on the calm water routes of the Inside Passage for transportation and supplies.
Today, all of the larger towns are bound together by tourism as well. Most visitors to Alaska travel in the Southeastand wisely so! In prioritizing areas to explore, the Southeast should be at or near the top of most lists. People familiar with the islands and mountains of the Pacific Northwest will find the landscape somewhat similar, though much wilder and greater in scale. For the rest of us, the Alaskan Southeast will seem stunningly different. For all, its some of the best the Earth has to offer.
Information on many of the sights featured in this chapter can be obtained from the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, 50 Main Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, 228-6214, r10_ketchikan_Alaska_Info@fs.fed.us, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/discoverycenter.