Day 4 of the Cruise
We left Colt Island in the early hours of Monday, 8/5, sailing north through Stephen's Passage into Lynn Canal on our way to the gold rush town of Skagway. In spite of its name, Lynn Canal is actually an inlet of the inside passage of the Gulf of Alaska. It is about 90 miles long from Stephens Passage to the Chilkat, Chilkoot, and Taiya Inlets. Lynn Canal is over 2,000 feet deep, is the deepest fjord in North America, and is one of the deepest and longest in the world.
Tourism is the principal economy today, with as many as five large cruise ships in port at one time during the summer. As we cruised into port there were two ships already docked. Painted on the cliffs above the harbor are advertisements, and logos of the cruise lines, a practice started by local merchants during the gold rush period.
At Carcross, YT, after clearing Canadian customs, we boarded 2 small buses for the trip back to Skagway via the Klondike Highway. We traveled on only a short portion of the highway which runs all the way from Skagway to Dawson City, YT where it joins the AlCan Highway. After a brief stop to sample some wild blueberries, we continued to the US/Canada border where we stopped for a refreshing drink from a waterfall.
After a brief sojourn we left Haines to sail about 140 miles back down Lynn Canal and Stephens Passage on our way to Tracy Arm Fjord south of Juneau.
It was a quiet trip punctuated by a great many spectacular waterfalls and a glimpse of one last glacier of the day.
The final sight was Eldred Rock Lighthouse. The lighthouse was manned continuously from 1906 until personnel were removed in 1973 when its operation was automated.
Skagway, our first port of call for the day, is on the Taiya Inlet off the Lynn Canal. Prior to 1887, Skagua (a Tlingit word meaning windy place) was a hunting and fishing center used by the Chilkoot and Chilkat indians. After 1896 when gold was discovered 600 miles away in the Klondike area of the Canadian Yukon Territory, Skagway boomed as the starting point for prospectors heading over White Pass. Click here for more information about Skagway's history, and here to go to the Wikipedia entry about the Klondike Gold Rush.
Our off-ship activity was a ride aboard the White Pass & Yukon railroad, a 67.5 mile trip that will take us over White Pass to Carcross, Yukon Territory, Canada. The route was completed just as the gold boom was winding down and is now operated as a purely tourist oriented excursion. The route climbs steadily out of thick forest (at points clinging to the edge of steep cliffs) along the Skagway River, terminating above the tree-line in tundra covered mountains. As you can see from these photos (click here for more) it was a very foggy day so some of the scenery was obscured, but it was, nevertheless, ruggedly beautiful.
Then it was back aboard ship for a trip to Haines, AK. Haines is the southern terminus for the Haines Highway which ends at Haines Junction, YT, Canada where it joins the AlCan highway. Formerly, Haines was a commercial fishing and cannery center until the last cannery closed in 1973. Now it is the starting point for various outdoor & wilderness activities.
The next installment: cruising up Tracy Arm Fjord.