Twenty kilometres from Haines Junction is Kathleen Lake. There is a turnout that offers a great view of the windiest lake in the Yukon. Conflicting winds from the mountains will shoot water 30 metres into the sky when conditions are just right. Bird watching will give you a chance at seeing harlequins, northern pintails, American wigeon, lesser yellowlegs and spotted sandpipers. If you brought your fishing rod, and fishing licence purchased in Haines Junction, you can catch rainbow, lake trout, kokanee and grayling. Kathleen Lake Campground, the only established campground in the Kluane National Park, is just 1.5 kilometres off the highway.
Remember that people are not the only ones who like to fish along this highway. Wherever the fishing is the best, you are likely to run into bears. They may look sluggish and cuddly, but they are unpredictable and very dangerous. Make lots of noise so they are warned away – a startled bear is likely to attack.
Fifteen kilometres down the road is Dezadeash Lake. It was visited often by the Chilkat First Nation before the Gold Rush for its easy fishing. Dezadeash Lake Campground is placed at the most scenic spot.
Klukshu, a genuine native fishing village, is eight kilometres further down the highway. Families still return here each year to collect steelhead, king, sockeye and Coho salmon in the traditional fish traps. Besides the residents’ log cabins and meat caches, there is a museum and gift shop here where you can buy moose hide beaded slippers, birch bark baskets, smoked salmon, soapberries and homemade jams.
Dalton Post, the mid-way point on the Dalton Trail, is 12 kilometres from Klukshu. Unfortunately, the road is not fit for motorhomes or truck campers.
Just a bit further is Million Dollar Falls Campground at the Takhanne River Bridge. Boardwalks allow for an easy hike to a platform overlooking the falls. Below the falls is a good spot to catch grayling, Dolly Varden, rainbow and king salmon.
As you get closer to the mountains, you will start to see bald eagles playing in the thermals swirling around the mountaintops that you will be driving through. The best views will come as you get closer to Haines, but the mountainous backdrop from the Chilkat Pass will provide wonderful photo opportunities. This is the highest elevation on this trip at 1,065 metres above sea level. It is one of a few access points to the interior and was jealously guarded by the Tlingit Indians who didn’t want their business with Russian and coastal native fur traders to be threatened. But they were overwhelmed by the stampede to the Klondike gold fields in 1898.
In less than four hours of straight driving, you will be getting close to Haines, Alaska. You will need to go through American Customs, so have your identification handy. And, remember, you will lose an hour as you enter a new time zone. Also, please be aware that there is a restriction on some foodstuffs which may be taken into Alaska. You may be asked if you have any fruit or meat with you and it may be confiscated if it was not of US origin. We suggest you consume these items prior to arriving at the border. Citizens of countries other than the USA and Canada may also need to complete immigration documents here and pay a small documentation fee.
Thirteen kilometres from customs is the Mosquito Lake State Recreation Site. A private campground is close by. If you want to do some serious eagle spotting, stop here for the night because you will be at the edge of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
The road into Haines follows the Chilkat River. In November, when the rest of the rivers in the Yukon and Alaska freeze up, this river still flows because of the friction of water percolating through the porous riverbed. This phenomenon attracts up to 4,000 bald eagles to feast on the chum salmon that have come here to lay their eggs and die. From October to December, you will see bald eagles hanging like grapes on the vine on both sides of the highway. Some of the better vantage points have interpretive centres and lots of room for parking.
Haines, Alaska is a town of 2,500 that has always been a port on Portage Cove, the furthest you can sail inside the Inside Passage. First it was a port for the Chilkat First Nations and then the Russian fur traders. Today, it is a port for many cruise lines and the Alaskan Ferry System that brings in visitors and supplies.
The American military established Fort William H. Seward here. The design of barracks and homes has a definite southern influence; on a nice summer day you can imagine yourself in the heart of Georgia. Now de-commissioned, these buildings have been converted into homes, bed and breakfasts and quaint restaurants.
For a small population, the downtown core is surprisingly robust. Downtown Haines offers shopping and restaurants that serve halibut a week fresher than any other you have likely ever tried. And the American Bald Eagle Foundation has a display of taxidermy in an unbelievably realistic setting. The Alaska Indian Arts Center will give you a chance to meet with local artisans and carvers and buy their crafts. Our recommended campground in Haines is the Haines Hitch-up RV Park. Conveniently located near the heart of Haines and surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Chilkat Mountains, the campground offers CanaDream guests a discount off their campground fees.
In the evening, just before dusk, drive five minutes along the shore on Lutak Road (just follow the signs to the ferry terminal) and turn left when you reach the bridge. Just down this road, you will find a weir across a river. Park your camper and watch the show: Bears will come in from the forest on the other side of the river to feast on the salmon slowed by the weir and eagles will dive into the water right in front of you. It is an amazing sight.
Next door to the campground on this road, you will find the Takshanuk Mountain Trail. You can rent a “Mule”, which is a 60-cc, four-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle. Even if you are in a wheel chair, you can climb to 700 metres above sea level for an awesome view.
This will take up a morning. So, in the afternoon, you can visit Kroschel Films Wildlife and Educational Centre. It is set up for Hollywood to film Alaskan animals in their natural habitat. If you enjoy your tour, leave a donation.
Chilkat Cruises and Tours has sightseeing tours of the eagle preserve and area.
If you'd like to visit Juneau, Alaska Fjordlines offers a 12 hour Wildlife and Sightseeing Cruise departing from Haines at 8.45 daily from mid-May until early September. Head south through the Lynn Canal, the continent's longest and deepest glacial fjord, stretching over 100 miles long and over 2000 feet deep. You'll see hanging glaciers, nesting bald eagles, harbor seals and whales. CanaDream guests can get a discount on this trip by picking up a coupon from our Whitehorse location.
Once you have enjoyed this coastal town to its fullest, it will be time to drive onto the ferry and head to Skagway. It only takes an hour, but if you were to drive, it would take you eight hours.