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Location/Climate: 80 miles north of Juneau on the Chilkat Peninsula at the head of Lynn Canal. Moderated maritime climate, 23°F66°F.
Population: 1,394 (18.1 percent native, mainly Tlingit).
Travel Attractions: Fort Seward, Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, local and regional arts center, Sheldon Museum, Mount Ripinski and other hikes, kayaking, tours and flightseeing, regional access.
Getting There: Vehicle access via Haines Highway from Haines Junction, Yukon; scheduled ferry from Skagway or Juneau; scheduled small-plane air service from Juneau.
Information: Haines Visitor Information Center, 122 2nd Avenue, Haines, AK 99827, (800) 458-3579, 766-2234, www.haines.ak.us.
Most visitors to Haines are just passing through, arriving with their vehicles from Prince Rupert or Bellingham and heading inland on the Haines Highway (or vice versa). Built during World War II along the route of an old Klondike gold-rush toll road, the Haines Highway is the most direct of the two road routes from the Southeast to the rest of the state. Those who stay on the ferry to reach Skagway have another road option, though it is longer and no more scenic. Consider Haines as both a destination in its own right and as a transit alternative to historic but very touristy Skagway.
Haines is an excellent recreational gateway. Located on the Chilkat Peninsula where the Lynn Canal (longest fjord in the United States) splits in two, Haines is situated at a remarkable junction of valleys. Within 15 miles of town, six major watersheds branch off from Lynn Canal, reaching up toward the glaciers of the jagged divide that circles the head of the panhandle, roughly parallel to the U.S.-Canada border. Access to trailheads and raft, canoe, and kayak put-ins is good. In addition to the Haines Highway along the Chilkat River, minor roads lead south along the peninsula to Chilkat State Park and northward to the mouth of the Chilkoot River. Haines hosts several tour-boat, flightseeing, and charter companies.
Things to See and Do in Haines
The town of Haines is given historic character by the marvelous old homes of Fort Seward. Cruise ships are infrequent visitors, which means that merchants move less junk while residents are more open and less jaded. Artists and craftspeople have made Haines a regional center of creativity. Best of all, perhaps, Haines is sheltered from the west winds by many mountains and receives about a third of the annual rainfall experienced in Sitka or Ketchikan.
Alaska Indian ArtsNative artisans can be observed making totems, masks, blankets, and jewelry at this nonprofit center in the old base hospital at Fort Seward. Head to the south side of the parade grounds, 766-2704, www.ravenswindow.com/aia.htm, open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
American Bald Eagle FoundationThis nonprofit foundation was established in 1982 to study and protect the American bald eagle. Theres an excellent wildlife museum, featuring dioramas that include most of Alaskas native species. Its on 2nd Avenue at the Haines Highway, halfway between town and Fort Seward, 766-3094, www.gauntletllc.com/abef; open in summer, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons in winter. Donation requested.
Chilkat Center for the ArtsLocated in Fort Sewards old recreation hall a block south of the parade ground, this is home to the Chilkat Dancers, 766-2160, who perform throughout the summer. The center also hosts melodrama shows. Call the visitor center for information, (800) 458-3579, 766-2234, www.haines.ak.us.
Fort SewardThe stately, evenly spaced, uniformly designed structures of old Fort Seward surround a parade green and are unmistakable to those passing by on the ferry. The fort was built at the turn of the century as a military base to secure a region heated by gold fever. Located about half a mile south of downtown via 2nd Avenue, several structures of this designated national historic site are privately occupied today, but some are used in whole or part for lodging, food, or arts-and-crafts centers
Sheldon MuseumThe chief downtown attraction, a library and exhibits, ". . . interpret the history and native culture of the local region while conveying unique local stories, tales and legends." Its just up from the shoreline at 11 Main Street, Haines, 766-2366, www.sheldonmuseum.org; open daily in summer, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; open shorter hours, Monday through Saturday in the off-season: $3.
Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
For about two months starting in late September, tens of thousands of chum salmon return to area rivers to spawn and die. Birds, bears, and wolves feed on the bounty; over 3,000 bald eagles at a time have been counted along the 5-mile stretch of
the Chilkat River north of Haines during the feast. Road access to the preserve is excellent since the Haines Highway follows the lower Chilkat past prime viewing areas. Another unit of the preserve is north of town along the lower Chilkoot River.
Dont forget that eagles can be seen year-round throughout the Southeast, perching in the treetops, fishing or scavenging near harbors, and winging along the shore. Several hundred nesting sites are located in the region. Indeed, if the ferry hours are long and most of the tourists are snoozing in the recliners, step out on deck into the bracing wind and search for bright white heads atop the spruce and hemlock.
Remember that eagles should not be approached or disturbed in any way. Observers along the Chilkat and elsewhere should stay behind binoculars and telephoto lenses, well clear of feeding areas. Information on the preserve is available at the Alaska State Parks, Southeast Area office, 400 Willoughby, 4th floor, Juneau, AK 99801, 465-4563, www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/eagleprv.htm.
Where to Stay in Haines
Alaska State Park CampgroundsPortage Cove, Beach Road, just south of Fort Seward. No vehicles. Mosquito Lake, Mile 27, Haines Highway. Chilkoot Lake, Lutak Road, 10 miles north of town, past ferry dock. Chilkat State Park, off Mud Bay Road, 7 miles south of Haines. Open mid-Maymid-October, $6$10 per night.
Bear Creek Camp and International Hostel, Small Tracts Road, 766-2259. $8 (camping), $14 (dorm), $38 and up (family cabins). Showers, kitchen facilities, free ferry shuttle, tours, bike rental, laundry, store.
Fort Seward Lodge, Fort Seward, (800) 478-7772, 766-2009, fax 766-2006. $60$70 (private bath), $45$55 (shared), $75$85 (kitchenette). Located in old Post Exchange, family owned, restaurant and saloon.
Hotel Halsingland, Fort Seward, (800) 542-6363, 766-2000. A fine hotel in an original Fort Seward Victorian. Rooms with bath start at $90, cheaper ones with shared bath start at $50.
A Sheltered Harbor Bed-and-Breakfast, 57 Beach Road (below Fort Seward at Port Chilkoot dock), 766-2741. Waterfront location, breakfast, private baths, views, no pets, no smoking.
Where to Eat in Haines
Bamboo Room Restaurant/Pioneer Bar, downtown Haines, restaurant, 766-2800; bar, 766-9901. Open year-round, daily 6 a.m.
Chilkat Restaurant and Bakery, 5th Avenue and Main Street, 766-2920. Open daily. Fresh baked goodies and a big, tasty menu.
33 Mile Roadhouse, Mile 33 Haines Highway, 767-5510. Open daily in summer. Food, gas, propane, dining, breakfast all day, big burgers, steaks. RH