Discovery - Fairbanks,
toured with Riverboat Discovery in Fairbanks, Alaska on a 3 1/2 hour
tour of the Chena and Tanana rivers on the sternwheeler
The Binkley family has operated sternwheel riverboats
since the Gold Rush of 1898 in Alaska. Captain Jim and Mary Binkley
first offered riverboat tours in Fairbanks in 1950. Their three sons
are all riverboat captains and their grandchildren also join in by age
five. Four decks
allow great views from the sternwheeler. Three of the decks are
heated and glass-enclosed. The fourth is a sun deck. 19 viewing monitors
are available throughout the boat where you will see camera shots from
the bridge and also occasional video clips. A live commentary is given
describing everything we were seeing and gave us interesting details
on the area.
As we travelled along the
Chena River, first we watched as a bush pilot took off in his bush
plane on a very short runway right next to the river. Many bush planes
have a small wheel under the tail to help them take off on short runways.
We passed many modern log
homes along the river, some very large in size. Most were made of huge
white spruce logs and had huge picture windows so they don't get cabin
fever during the long winter months. Some even had wood-fired outside
hot tubs made of wood slats.
the riverboat stopped by the house of Susan Butcher, 4 time winner
of the 1,100 mile Iditarod dog-sled race held every March. The race
runs from Anchorage to Nome. Susan keeps over 100 dogs at her home
where she trains them. We saw a few of the older dogs and some puppies
while there. The older dogs that no longer race help train the young
dogs. Susan and her husband and two small children came out to wave
at everyone and Susan talked to us about her dogs and dog-sledding
over a microphone which was piped into the riverboat.
The riverboat then stopped
in front of a Native indian fish camp where we saw a fish wheel in operation.
These fish wheels are used to catch salmon when they are running. Several
kinds of salmon are caught here including chum salmon also called "dog
salmon" and king salmon which get up to 50 pounds. We watched as an
Athabascan indian woman demonstrated skinning and gutting a salmon and
cutting it for drying. We could see a fish smoke house and salmon drying
on racks out in the sun.
The riverboat turned around in an elbow of the Tanana River and made its
way to Chena Indian Village. Here the passengers disembarked to walk around
the village. We stopped at about 4 different areas in the village where
Athabascan women discussed their way of life with us. We saw the gorgeous
bead and fur work of one Athabascan woman. She showed us several fur coats
and dresses with very intricate beadwork. The work was of museum quality.
Another Native woman showed us furs of all the wild animals in the area
and a cache house where they were traditionally kept. Another woman showed
us a group of live reindeer and showed us huts, a canoe and baby-carrying
baskets that were used by Athabascans years ago.
are domesticated Caribou. They have hollow outer hair that insulates them
and helps them swim. Reindeer and Caribou are the only members of the deer
family where both the male and females have antlers. The antlers are shed
every December except for the pregnant females who keep their antlers to
protect their babies born in the spring.
At the village we also got to see
some of Susan Buthcher's sled dogs up close while another Iditarod sledding
woman told us a little about them. After reboarding the boat the woman
hitched up the dogs to a sled and rode around the village several times
while we watched. The riverboat
contained several snack bars where donuts, water and coffee were complimentary
and other snacks and drinks were available. There were also several gift
shops on board. The riverboat is handicap accessible.
We made our way
on back to Steamboat Landing where had begun our journey. There a large
giftshop, ice cream parlor and Susan Butcher museum awaited us. This
is a must see tour if traveling through the Fairbanks area during your
Alaska vacation. Phone 907-479-6673.Reservations are
necessary. Tours run from mid-May to mid-September with daily sailings
at 8:45 am and 2 pm.
Prices Subject To Change Adult $44.95
Children 3-12 $29.95RV parking is available.
Visit them on the web.
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