Floating the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve


After three full days of “cruising” and “scenic cruising” down the breathtaking Alaskan coast, our first stop was Skagway. It is the picture of a tiny Alaskan fishing town – roughly 1,000 people live in Skagway. However, those 1,000 people host nearly **1,000,000** visitors via cruise ships every year! Needless to say, there were a *lot* of options for our on-shore excursion once we docked.

We were pretty disappointed that the Skagway Brothel Tour was all booked up (joking; but that exists), so we opted for the far less exciting (still joking) bald eagle river float. After a 30 minute boat ride to Haines, pictured below, we took a big white bus to our push-off area for our float! Talk about scenery. What Haines lacks in civilization, it makes up for in grab-your-camera, mouth-gaping-open views and wildlife.


Did I mention that July in Alaska is unpredictable (surprise!!) and can be quite cold? Well, it had been sprinkling rain and cloudy all day, and we happened to underdress juuust a bit. It appeared that this was a common problem, as the tour guides quickly dumped out a heap of mens XXXXL clothing for all of our tourist newbies to put on under our stylish life jackets. You didn’t hear us complain about that, though! I couldn’t have been more grateful once it started pouring rain about an hour down the river (more on this later).


(Above: Us looking devilishly stylish in 50,000 layers.
Below: Just that absolutely not-real scenery I spoke of earlier.)


Once we were on the river, the promise of bald eagles became real very quickly. Honestly, we probably saw 100 or more. Fun fact: baby bald eagles are pretty ugly little things. They don’t don their beautiful white heads until about 5 years old. We saw quite a few that hadn’t reached maturation, and they were pretty awkward looking. We floated by a few that were so close, and so BIG. The sheer size of these birds was awe-inspiring!

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Midway down the float, as mentioned earlier….it began to pour rain. No drizzle, no sprinkle: this was an unforgiving rainstorm. I thanked my lucky stars for the 2 feet of insulation I was wearing, and then continued to soak up the beauty and solitude that was this river and landscape. Once we completed the float, the guides had a nice and simple lunch of fruit, sandwiches, potato chips and hot chocolate (HAPPINESS) awaiting us.

If you are cruising Alaska soon and get the opportunity to stop in Skagway, heading over to Haines for some river floating will not disappoint. If you have been before, tell us how you liked it!

– M & B









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