Location / Coordinates: Haines Alaska, also known as the “Eagle Capital of America,” is located on Portage Cove, Chilkoot Inlet, on the upper arm of Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska. Haines is south of Skagway only about 15 miles—by boat, and north of Juneau about 68 miles, again by boat. Haines Junction is about 160 miles northeast from Haines, driving the Haines Highway.
Coordinates: Latitude 59.235N & Longitude 135.445W.
Population / Elevation: Roughly 1800 people call Haines, Alaska “home.” They share their home with thousands of eagles—celebrated in the Annual Haines Bald Eagle Festival every year. The Eagle Capital of America, AKA Haines, Alaska, begins at sea level, and is built up the hill towards Mt. Ripinski to the north and the end of the Takshanuk Mountain chain to the south.
Description: Haines is a beautiful place, bordering 20 million acres of protected wilderness at the end of American’s longest fjord. Small-town America describes Haines, Alaska. The downtown hosts a post office, travel accommodations, bed & breakfasts, grocery stores, gift shops, art galleries, banks, laundries, and all the amenities needed in a small community. Overlooking downtown Haines is historic Fort Seward. Big, white three-story affairs with sweeping covered porches surround the grassy parade field. If only these buildings could speak, what stories they could tell!
What to do there: Bring your camera. Haines, Alaska is photogenic—year round.
There are annual events through out the year, everything from International Snowmachine Races, Great Alaska Craftbeer & Homebrew Festivals, Summer Solstice Celebrations, to Bald Eagle Festivals. Haines itself offers some very authentic Alaskan Indian Arts—it is in the heart of Tlingit heritage. Watch the Chilkat Dancers perform in traditional costumes and masks. Stand next to the Welcome totems located at the “Y” on the Haines Highway. Learn more about Haines’ history both native and more recent at the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center and the Alaska Indian Arts building.
For those hammer buffs out there, don’t miss the Hammer Museum in Haines—the world’s only museum dedicated to hammers. Who knew you could collect over 1,300 hammers? It’s quite a collection. Dave Pahl and his wife Carol, opened the Hammer Museum in 2001 to share his collection of hammers with the world.
Set up your “base camp” in Haines and take a day trip to Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, or Canada’s Kluane National Park, or Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park.
Haines, AKA “Eagle Capital of America,” is probably best known for its eagles. The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is the gathering site of thousands of Bald Eagles every year from mid-October through December. Eagles feast on spawning salmon along a four-mile stretch of the Chilkat River just north of Haines. This is the largest gathering of eagles in the world. Eagles come from as far away as Washington State to feed. This stretch of the Chilkat River has warm water upwellings providing ice-free fishing for the birds. Mid-October finds hundreds of Bald Eagles along the sand bars in the river and roosting in the cottonwood trees in this area known as the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. The peak viewing season is in mid-November, which coincides with the Bald Eagle Festival. Reservations for viewing sites are recommended.
History: Haines, Alaska has a history that goes back to ancient times. “Dei Shu” the Tlingit name for this area meant “end of the trail.” The Chilkat and Chilkoot Indians met and traded with Russian and American ships at the end of the peninsula. This was also a convenient place to portage canoes from the Chilkat River to Portage Cove and Lynn Canal.
Presbyterian missionaries came to the area in the lat 1870s looking for a place to take up residence and begin a mission and a school. A year later, a trading post for the Northwest Trading Company was established and a school for Tlingit children was built. Within the next decade the Chilkat Presbyterian Mission and the eventually the tiny town surrounding it were named Haines after Francina E. Haines, the secretary of the Presbyterian Women’s Executive Society of Home Missions. She was responsible for raising the funds for the new mission.
At the turn of the century, Haines became an important outlet for the Porcupine Mining District. Thousands of dollars of placer gold had been found in this area. Gold mining and fishing played important roles in the development of Haines. But in 1900, strawberries put Haines, Alaska on the map. Charles Anway’s Alaskan hybrid strawberry, “Bubank,” was a prize winner at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. The annual Strawberry Festival was born and eventually grew into the southeast Alaska State Fair. Today, Haines depends on tourism, halibut and grill—net salmon fishing for its economic livelihood.
The first permanent Army post in the Alaskan Territory was established in Haines. Named for William H. Seward, the secretary of state who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, Fort Seward was built on a hill overlooking Portage Cove. The army post was renamed Chilkoot Barracks in 1922 after the mountain pass and the Indian tribe on the Chilkoot River. Fort Seward was the only permanent U.S. Army Post in Alaska until WWII. It was deactiviated in 1946 and sold to private interests. In 1970, Fort Chilkoot (Fort Seward) merged with Haines to become a single community. In 1972, Fort Seward was designated as a National Historic Site and became officially, again, Fort William H. Seward.
How to get there: Getting to Haines, Alaska is easiest by boat or ferry from Juneau or Skagway. The Alaska Marine Highway ferries provide service year ’round to Haines. Cruise ships also sail to Haines during the summer season. Private boats can moor at Letnikof Cove and at the small-boat harbor downtown Haines.
Driving to Haines is a nice way to see the area too. The Haines Highway runs between Haines, Alaska and Haines Junction in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The Haines Highway is maintained throughout the year.
There is an airport in Haines as well—actually it’s about a little over 3 miles west of Haines. The unattended asphalt strip is about 3,000 feet long at an elevation of nearly 16 feet from sea level; fuel 100 is available.
Facilities: Haines offers several state campgrounds for tent camping: Chilkat State Park, Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site, Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site, and Portage Cove State Recreation Site. There is also a youth hostel (families are welcome here as well). One hotel, five motels, and a quite a few Bed & Breakfasts are available for travelers visiting Haines, Alaska. Call for reservations and whether or not your pet is welcome—many places allow pets. There is also a pet kennel when you want to do a day trip without Fido.
The internet can be accessed at the Haines library. Haines also has a Laundromat, banks with ATMs, several good restaurants, a swimming pool at the Haines Pool, and a supermarket.
RV info: RVs are welcome in Haines, Alaska. There are several RV parks in Haines with full service hook-ups, laundry facilities, showers and internet access.