Haines: The Adventure Capital of Alaska
Haines is a popular stop for RVers traveling between the Yukon and Alaska—with its combination of history, culture, scenery and adventure, there’s something for everyone.
Located at the northern end of Southeast Alaska, Haines sits on the shores of the northern Lynn Canal, the deepest, longest fjord in North America. Haines is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Fishing, rafting, kayaking, boating and guided nature walks are just some of the activities available.
Haines retains the character and charm of small-town Alaska while still hosting a range of interesting museums (including the Hammer Museum, dedicated to preserving the history of man’s first tool) and a thriving arts community. You can see demonstrations by native carvers and artists at Alaska Indian Arts, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and continuation of traditional native craft and culture.
The Haines Highway between miles 18 and 24 is a main viewing area for eagle watchers. Bald eagles are attracted to the area by the availability of spawned-out salmon and open waters in late fall and winter on the flats of the Chilkat River.
Getting to Haines is an adventure in itself. The Haines Highway is both a State and a National Scenic Byway and is one of the most spectacular drives in North America, with high peaks, glaciers, rivers and lakes along the entire route.
Be it hiking, fishing, wildlife, arts & culture, or sipping from our award winning brewery and distillery…in Haines, your adventure awaits!
Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
The State of Alaska created the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in June 1982. The Preserve was created to protect and preserve the world’s largest convergence of Bald Eagles and their critical habitat. It also sustains and protects the natural salmon runs.
The Preserve consists of 48,000 acres. The boundaries only include areas important to eagle habitat. Eagles use virtually every portion of the Preserve at some time during the year.
The river “flats” of the Chilkat River between Mile 18 and Mile 21 of the Haines Highway constitute the main viewing area for eagle watchers. This area is considered critical habitat in the Preserve. In this four-mile stretch known as the “Council Grounds,” thousands of eagles congregate each year. They are drawn to the area by spawned-out salmon and open waters in late fall and early winter.
The natural phenomena responsible for five miles of open water on the Chilkat River during freezing months is called the “alluvial fan reservoir.” Here, warm water “percolates” into the river and keeps it from freezing, producing conditions that facilitate the late run of salmon. After spawning the salmon die, and their carcasses provide a feast for the eagles at a time of year when food is scarce elsewhere. This combination of open water and plentiful food brings over 3,000 eagles into the Chilkat Valley beginning in early October and lasting until January. The peak of the gathering usually occurs in mid-November.
Eagles have a wingspan of over six feet, and their average weight is thirteen pounds. Immature eagles are a mottled brown, and often appear larger than mature birds. Females are somewhat larger than males. They obtain the distinctive white head and tail feathers when they molt in the spring of their fifth year. Eagles can fly at 30 mph and dive for prey at up to 100 mph.
Bald eagles mate for life and live 30 years or more. A pair of eagles renew their bond in spectacular aerial courtship displays, diving and somersaulting through the air with talons locked. They build nests that can reach twelve feet across and weigh over a ton, and return to the same nesting site each spring. Two eggs usually hatch in May. Over 200 eagles nest in the Haines area and can be seen here and there throughout spring, summer, and fall. But October until January is the time of the great congregation of eagles when thousands can be seen along the Chilkat River.
Visitors to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve need only drive 18 miles from Haines on the Haines Highway to find excellent eagle viewing areas. There are pullouts along the highway for eagle watchers and photographers. Interpretive displays, walking trails, and shelters also enhance the experience.
To see this unique gathering is to witness a real wildlife phenomenon of international scale. Haines, in Alaska’s beautiful Inside Passage, is your gateway to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Contact us at the Haines Visitor Information Center for help in planning your trip.