If you want to experience the essence of Alaska, go to a place like Haines. It is one of the best destinations in this state and has many attractions that appeal to visitors. Ruth & I enjoyed its 2 museums, its Bald Eagle foundation and animal rescue center and museum, its free shuttle service, its library, its proximity to Skagway, its Whole Foods-like Mountain Market, and especially Historic Fort Seward, an attraction unique to an Alaskan town that reminded Ruth and me of home in many ways.
The cruise ship dock was near Fort Seward as was the town’s free shuttle. In fact, we would not have experienced Fort Seward if it wasn’t for the shuttle driver that insisted we see it. It made our time there irreplaceable.
The Walt Disney organization also liked Haines. It sent an entire movie-making operation to the Chilkoot Valley where Haines is to film its version of the classic White Fang. If you think the weather might be a problem, think again. Haines averages only 60 inches of precipitation each year. Haines longest day of the year is June 23rd, a day that is 18 hours and 36 minutes long. It has a fairly mild climate year round and is only 42 miles from the Canadian border and its beautiful Yukon Territory. The city of Whitehorse is there, and we never would have visited this city if it were not for its nearness to Skagway, AK.
Fort Seward was constructed and opened in the early years of the 20th century in 1904, a result of a border dispute. It was a true army camp for several years before being decommissioned in 1947. Its hospital has been transformed into an Alaska Indian Arts facility. Tlingits are the natives that can be seen everywhere in Haines. Fort Seward’s 20 or so constructed buildings are now mostly privately owned residences lived in by locals. Its buildings were bought by a group of war veterans. The fort area contains a couple of seasonal hotels like the Halsingland that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Haines began life as a Presbyterian community for natives but became an army base when Fort Seward, named for the Lincoln government man who purchased Alaska, opened.
Haines is surrounded by mountains and is not too far from a canoe and kayaking wonder called the Lynn Canal that is one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords. It is connected to the Alaska State Ferry System and is especially busy in late July when this community hosts the Southeast Alaska State Fair. It welcomes about 400 bald eagles every November and holds a festival for them. The real Alaska State Fair, however, is in Palmer, AK. Haines is the closest town to Glacier Bay National Park.
Ruth and I enjoyed seeing Officers’ Row and the other buildings that have been preserved in Fort Seward. It reminded us a lot of similar Fort Vancouver near our home in Washington. Unfortunately, to see both of them today is best accomplished by a walking tour, so visit Haines when the weather is mild.