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CRUISE TRAVELERS : Whales, Wonders and Wilderness... That is Alaska!

  • Whales, Wonders and Wilderness... That is Alaska!
    Alaska is a grand American Vacation destination you don't want to miss! We hope these stories help you plan your travel to Alaska.
    Use the links above to get special deals on an unforgettable cruise and cruise tour adventure to Alaska

    by Raye & Marty Trencher



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    National Parks in Alaska Alaska is home to 15 National Parks and Preserves, more than any other state. Princess can help you experience the depth and breadth of these great parks by spending time at one, or all of our five custom-built wilderness lodges. They are perfectly situated to showcase some of Alaska's great national parks.

    Some 54 million acres of land are under the administration of the National Park Service in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act of 1980- also referred to as ANILCA, created 10 new National Park Service Units in Alaska and increased the size of three of existing park units- Glacier Bay, Denali and Katmai. National parks exist to preserve scenic areas, wildlife populations and recreational opportunities. Activities are closely regulated within national park boundaries. However, regulations for National Park Service Units in Alaska recognize that many of these parks contain lands traditionally occupied and used by Alaska Natives and rural homesteaders for subsistence activities. Therefore, management of some of the parks and preserves in Alaska allow for subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering activities where such activities are customary. The existing park and preserves in Alaska include:

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain ranges converge in what is often referred to as the "mountain kingdom of North America." The largest unit of the National Park System and a day's drive east of Anchorage, this spectacular park includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States. Adjacent to Canada's Kluane National Park, the site is characterized by remote mountains, sweeping valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife. Proclaimed as Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument Dec. 1, 1978; established as a national park and preserve Dec. 2, 1980. Wilderness designated Dec. 2, 1980. Designated a World Heritage Site Oct. 24, 1979.  Encompassing towering mountains, massive glaciers, powerful rivers, a seemingly endless variety of flora and fauna and Kennecott, a National Historic Landmark, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a national treasure with something for everyone. 

    The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge offers a perfect base camp for your exploration into this park. Visitors can choose from a variety of activities that may include travel by road, air, trail or river. Travel in the Park presents challenges to even the hardiest travelers, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a vast, pristine wilderness and remarkable solitude.  

    Kenai Fjords National Park Sweeping from rocky coastline to glacier-crowned peaks, Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses 607,805 acres of unspoiled wilderness on the southeast coast of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. The park is capped by the Harding Icefield, a relic from past ice-ages and the largest ice field entirely within U.S. borders.  The park is accessible from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge via a variety of optional tour excursions. Visitors witness a landscape continuously shaped by glaciers, earthquakes, and storms. Orcas, otters, puffins, bear, moose and mountain goats are just a few of the numerous animals that make their home in this ever-changing place where mountains, ice and ocean meet.

    Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing massive tidewater glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. The park has snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. These diverse land and seascapes host a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers, to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. Diverse habitats support a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife, with opportunities for viewing and research that allow us to learn more about the natural world. Glacier Bay is best viewed from the water as there no roads into Glacier Bay. Princess' voyage of the glaciers cruise is the best way to come face to face with calving glaciers and glacial ice flows.

    Denali National Park and Preserve

    The heart of Denali National Park and Preserve lies in a great alpine valley between the slopes of the Alaska range and foothills to the north. Standing sentry in the midst of it all is 20,320 ft Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest mountain. Few wilderness areas remain so pristine and accessible. It was this special character which led congress to create Denali National Park. Only one, single narrow road penetrates deep into the park, through the rolling tundra. Private vehicles traffic is strictly limited. Park service tours travel all the way to the end of the road for those who ant an in-depth search for wildlife. Denali National Park & Preserve is a fantastic place to visit abundant with wildlife, cultural history, and activities for all age groups. When you plan your Alaskan vacation, do you plan to encounter a striking landscape, a place so expansive that it shelters more than six hundred-fifty species of flowering plants and thirty-seven mammal species? Do you envision your Alaskan tour to include a dizzying six million acres filled with large caribou, moose, and grizzly bears, and offset with startlingly small flowers, miniaturized to suit Alaska's short growth season? Of course we're talking about Denali National Park, a focal point of a Princess combination rail and lodge packages. Denali National Park has long been a place of refuge for those with the will to survive its rugged terrain. Indeed, only the strongest plants flourish in this world of sub-artic wilderness. Species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and others spangle the slopes and valleys of Denali. Deep pools of frost collect just beneath the park's surfaces, and only the thinnest sheen of topsoil thaws enough each year to stimulate new life. But the fragile nature of the region leads to continuous rebirth. New rivers can spurt up in days and flowers bloom just in time to serve as supper for hungry wildlife. How exciting to watch this stunning Alaskan ecosystem adapt and change to suit its environment right before visitors delighted eyes. And of course all this primitive landscape is only a backdrop to the crown jewel of Denali, the regal massif Mount McKinley, the largest mountain in North America.  

    It was this mountain that drew people to the area in ancient times. Before Denali National Park was created to serve as a wildlife refuge, the land offered recluse for the Athabascan native people, from whose language Denali, or "high one" gets its name. Historically, the land that now protects animals was a refuge for these people, a place where nomadic bands of Athabascans could hunt the low hills for caribou, sheep, and moose. They gathered fish, berries, and edible plants from the area's rich supply during the spring through fall seasons, and when harsh winter approached, the low elevations of the river's valley formed perfect crevices in which the natives could shelter themselves. The park itself was dreamt up by a naturalist named Charles Sheldon in 1907, who was struck by the beauty of the area during his own Alaskan travels, but it wasn't established as we know it now until the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act was approved by Jimmy Carter in 1980. Undoubtedly Denali National Park is a diamond of the vast Alaskan landscape, a focal point of any complete Alaskan tour. One of the best ways to get in on the action is through a combined rail and lodge package, an amazing deal that lets you tour Alaska's interior by rail and then drops you off for a stay in a local lodge. For a spectacular value, consider the Princess Denali Rail Tour. Completely customized towards taking the traveler on a tour of Alaska's primitive heartlands, the package includes a train ticket and an overnight at either the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge or the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Both were created to provide convenient access to Denali. The Mt. McKinley Princess featuring stunning views of Mount McKinley and the Denali Princess located at the entry to the park. After an exciting rail tour, experience an evening snuggled into a cozy wilderness lodge with Mount McKinley as your moon. You will sleep in the shadow of the great mountain, whose vast boundaries you have just began to glimpse, creating the perfect dreamscape for tomorrow's big adventure.

    Aniakchak National Park and Preserve The Aniakchak Caldera, is the result of a series of volcanic eruptions, the latest in 1931. A Caldera is a large, basin-shaped volcanic depression that is more or less circular in form. Most volcanic calderas are produced by collapse of the roof of a magma chamber due to removal of magma by voluminous eruptions or subterranean withdrawal of the magma, although some calderas may be formed by explosive removal of the upper part of a volcano. Nearly six miles in diameter and covering some ten square miles, the Aniakchak is one of the worlds best examples of dry caldera. Located in the volcanically active Aleutian chain, the crater contains lava flows, cinder cones, and explosion pits. The site also contains the Aniakchak Wild River which cascades through a 1,500-foot gash in the caldera wall.

    Bering Land Bridge National Preserve The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is one of the most remote national park areas. The park is located on the Seward Peninsula in northwest Alaska and is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia with North America more than 13,000 years ago. The land bridge was a migration route for people, animals, and plants during the glacial epoch. The majority of this land bridge, once thousands of miles wide, now lies beneath the waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Archeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas.

    Cape Krusenstern National Monument Cape Krusenstern National Monument is a coastal plain dotted with sizable lagoons and flanked by rolling limestone hills. Cape Krusenstern's most notable feature is its series of bluffs and 114 beach ridges that record the changing shorelines of the Chukchi Sea over thousands of years. The ridges accumulated over time, the most recently formed ridges are near the shore and the first formed ridges lie inland. This unusual series of beach ridges present, in sequence, detailed evidence of an estimated 9,000 years of prehistoric human use of this coastline. The archeological sites at Cape Krusenstern are older than well-known remains of ancient Greek civilizations. In summer, wildflowers color the beach ridges and nearby hills. Large numbers of migratory birds come from all over the world to Cape Krusenstern to nest. In fall, these migrating birds use the lagoons as feeding and staging areas. Shifting sea ice, ocean currents, and waves continue to form spits and lagoons possessing important scientific, cultural, and scenic values.

    Gates of the Artic National Park and Preserve Congress reserved a vast and untouched area of incredible natural beauty and scientific value - a maze of glaciated valleys and gaunt, rugged mountains covered with boreal forest and arctic tundra vegetation, cut by wild rivers, and inhabited by far-ranging populations of caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and bears (barren-ground grizzlies and black bears). By establishing Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (GAAR) in the Brooks Range, Congress recognized that a special value of the area is its wild and undeveloped character, and the opportunities it affords for solitude, wilderness travel, and adventure. The National Park Service is entrusted to manage the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve to protect its physical resources and to maintain the intangible qualities of the wilderness and the opportunity it provides for people to learn and renew its values.

    Katmai National Park and Preserve Katmai is famous for volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness. Katmai is also home to North America's highest concentration of prehistoric human dwellings (about 900). There are at least fourteen volcanoes in Katmai considered "active", none of which are currently erupting. Katmai National Monument was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano.  Brown bear and salmon are very active in Katmai. The Katmai brown bears population has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world's largest sockeye salmon run each July, and during return of the "spawned out" salmon in September, forty to sixty bears congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines. There is plenty room for great diversity of wildlife in Katmai which encompasses millions of acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake.

    Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park This park celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 through 15 restored buildings within the Skagway Historic District. The park also administers the Chilkoot Trail and a small portion of the White Pass Trail. Included in the park is a portion of the Dyea Townsite at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail.

    Kobuk Valley National Park Kobuk Valley National Park provides protection for several important geographic features, including the central portion of the Kobuk River, the 25-sqaure-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk and Hunt River dunes. Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation. River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals.

    Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a composite of ecosystems representative of many regions of Alaska. The spectacular scenery stretches from the shores of Cook Inlet, across the Chigmit Mountains, to the tundra covered hills of the western interior. The Chigmits, where the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges meet, are an awesome, jagged array of mountains and glaciers which include two active volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna. Lake Clark and many other lakes and rivers within the park are critical salmon habitat to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, one of the largest sockeye salmon fishing grounds in the world. Numerous lake and river systems in the park and preserve offer excellent fishing and wildlife viewing.

    Noatak National Preserve As one of North America's largest mountain-ringed river basins with an intact ecosystem, the Noatak River environs features some of the Arctic's finest arrays of plants and animals. The river is classified as a national wild and scenic river, and offers surperlative wilderness float-trip opportunities - from deep in the Brooks Range to the tidewater of the Chukchi Sea.

    Sitka National Historical Park Alaska's oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. All that remains of this last major conflict between Europeans and Alaska Natives is the site of the Tlingit Fort and battlefield, located within this scenic 113 acre park in a temperate rain forest. Southeast Alaska totem poles and a temperate rain forest setting combine to provide spectacular scenery along the park's coastal trail. The trail circles back along Indian River to the visitor center. Another loop trail continues across the Indian River footbridge past the Memorial to the Russian Midshipmen who died in the Battle of Sitka. The park's story continues at the Russian Bishop's House, one of three surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. This original 1843 log structure conveys the legacy of Russian America through exhibits, refurbished Bishop's living quarters and lavish icons in the Chapel of the Annunciation.

    Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Located along the Canadian border in central Alaska, the preserve protects 115 miles of the 1,800-mile Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin. Numerous rustic cabins and historic sites are reminders of the importance of the Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush. Paleontological and archeological sites here add much to our knowledge of the environment thousands of years ago. Peregrine falcons nest in the high bluffs overlooking the river, while the rolling hills that make up the preserve are home to an abundant array of wildlife. The Charley, a 100-mile long wild river, is considered by many to be the most spectacular river in Alaska.

    Exploring the famous Copper valley and Wrangell-St. Elias Visitors to the remote Copper River area of Alaska may be surprised to learn the river valley was one of the busiest transportation routes at the beginning of the 20th century. After the Klondike Gold Rush, copper was discovered in the Chitina River Valley near McCarthy. A massive building boom ensued, with Wall Street bankers financing the Copper River Railway from Cordova's port, up the river to the Kennicott Mine. During the 30 years the mine was operational, it was both the largest and richest copper mine in the world. In fact, the entire investment in developing the mine, building the railroad and the fleet of ships to carry the copper was paid off in the first trainload of ore which left the mine! Today, the railroad is gone and there is a gravel road which runs over what's left of the rail bed between Chitina and McCarthy. Your first stop while exploring the area should be Princess' Copper River Wilderness Lodge, which sits on a point overlooking the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers. Look to the south and you can see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline snaking over the hills on its way to the ice-free port of Valdez. Look to the east and you'll see three of the tallest peaks in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park framed in the lodge's floor-to-ceiling windows: Mt. Drum, Mt. Wrangell and Mt. Blackburn.  You're making a mistake if you come to the Copper River Valley and you miss going into the park. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the nation's largest national park and there are many ways to explore the area. One of the most popular is an air tour of the mountains, glaciers and river valleys. Kelly and Natalie Bay are the husband-and-wife owners of Wrangell Mountain Air. The couple offers a number of air tours of the park. Naturally, the longer the tour, the more it costs. Don't be surprised, though, if you see mountain goats or bears from the air, along with rock glaciers, remnants of the Kennicott Copper mine and much more. Just up the road from the Princess lodge is the historic community of Copper Center. Local tour guides can give you an Alaskan perspective on the community's strategic location for miners and travelers in the early 1900s. Copper Center was the main supply center for miners in the region. The trail to gold fields in interior Alaska passed through Copper Center from Valdez--and roadhouses were constructed for accommodations, meals and supplies.

    Naturally, the fishing is great along several of the rivers in the area. The Klutina River, which flows right by the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, boasts a great King Salmon run in June and July. And the Copper River has a famous run of red salmon. In fact, some restaurants hire helicopters near Cordova so they can be the first to whisk the "Copper River Reds" from the river to the dinner tables in Seattle, San Francisco and New York. Don't worry, though. There are plenty of red salmon who swim all the way up to the river around Copper Center. Local guides know all the hot spots and they provide rods, reels and everything you'll need to land a lunker. All you need to do is purchase a local fishing license! Even if you're not an avid angler, sign up for a jetboat tour of the Copper River Canyon. Whitewater enthusiasts come from far away to float the canyon or take a jetboat tour. The jetboat option definitely is quicker! Folks who float the river from Chitina to Cordova should budget at least a week! If you have not seen the mining town of McCarthy, make plans to take a tour of the town and the adjacent Kennicott mine. When the Kennicott mine was constructed in the early 1900s, it included many modern amenities, such as electric power, telephones, a school with an interior tennis court and a dance hall. These amenities were developed exclusively for mine managers and visiting dignitaries, though. The bulk of the mine's workforce lived high in the mountains at the entrance to the mine shafts. These mountainside camps held hundreds of miners that typically worked for up to a year at a time without any days off. And the town of Kennicott wasn't all dances and parties, either. The 14-story processing mill operated 24 hours a day, crushing and pulverizing the copper ore in a deafening symphony of water blasting the rocks through ever-smaller screens until the ore was loaded into 50-pound bags on the train for shipment to Cordova. Don't miss the chance to take a walking tour of the mill building.

    From the lodge, it's an easy drive to Valdez for sea kayaking or a Columbia Glacier cruise. On the way from the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge to Valdez, you'll drive over Thompson Pass and past a number of beautiful water falls on the way. It's worth stopping at Horse Tail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls for pictures. Valdez local Stan Stephens operates the Columbia Glacier cruise and reminds guests that Valdez sits in the midst of the world's furthest-north rain forest. It's a much different climate than the lodge's at Copper Center. But it's what makes the beautiful water falls--and it also makes for colorful glacial viewing. Stephens will profess--and others will concur--that glaciers are prettier when it's rainy or cloudy. Why? Because the cloudy weather allows the blue inside the glacier to shine through much more dramatically than when it's sunny. So have your camera ready--along with your raincoat!

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park There are many roads to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. What I mean is there are many reasons which draw travelers to the nation's largest national park. Back in the 1890s, explorers looking for gold happened upon some rich copper veins. The boom that resulted, bankrolled by East Coast industrialists, changed the face of the land forever. The town of Kennicott, in the heart of the park, became the site of the world's richest copper mine in less than five years. When the mining company pulled up stakes in the 1930s, they left behind an "instant" ghost town. Visitors can walk back in time, exploring where the miners lived and worked. Today, travelers come to see the mix of history and adventure in the park. From the lobby of the Copper River Princess, you can see a trio of the huge peaks in the park: Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum and 16,233-foot Mt. Wrangell. It's a spectacular vista from the lodge, overlooking the Klutina River as it runs into the Copper River. Big mountains. Big rivers. Big country. The best way to visit the town of McCarthy and the adjoining ghost town of Kennicott is to fly with Wrangell Mountain Air. The husband-wife team, Kelly and Natalie Bay, oversee a fleet of single-engine aircraft that makes two scheduled flights per day between Chitina Airport and McCarthy. Chitina is on the shores of the Copper River at the end of the paved section of the McCarthy Road, also known as the Edgarton Highway. Although the road is state-maintained, your rental car contract specifically excludes the road from its roadside assistance agreement. That means if your car breaks down, you'll be looking at an expensive tow bill! I suppose that's what happens when you build a road on top of an old railroad bed!

    The flight from Chitina to McCarthy is a fabulous ride. After taking off over the Copper River, your pilot probably will leave the road behind and start climbing toward Fourth of July Pass. Along the way you'll likely see some interesting "Rock Glaciers" and perhaps some mountain goats grazing on the mountainsides. But the highlight of the flight comes when your pilot emerges on the far side of the pass. Below you is a sea of ice. Tumbling off of the south face of Mt. Wrangell is a glacial ice fall--tumbling from 11,000 feet to form Kennicott Glacier. Altogether, three glaciers converge in the valley below. Your pilot will talk about how the huge piles of rock are glacial sediment...not copper tailings from the mine. You should be able to make out some tiny red specks on the far side of the valley up on the mountain. As you get closer, you can see they are the remains of the bunkhouses where the miners lived for up to a year at a time. Missing are the miles-long cable which hauled the ore from the mine to the central processing plant in town. But you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the mines once you're on the ground. On the ground in McCarthy, you can choose from several cool activities. Don't miss the museum in town, which documents the development of the Kennicott Mine and has a trove of great photos, maps and plottings from around the area. You'll learn about how the town of Kennicott had electricity, a movie theater, tennis courts and lots of high-end amenities. You'll also learn about the conditions where the miners worked, how much they earned and where they came from to mine the copper. Make plans to visit the town of Kennicott, located about five miles from McCarthy. Stop in for lunch at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. The lodge sits on the site where the mine manager's office used to be, as well as apartments for visiting VIPs. Across from the lodge, the folks at St. Elias Alpine Guides can arrange for a tour of the main processing areas in the mine building. This 14-story structure took the ore at the top of the building. Then, the ore was sent through a variety of crushers and shakers, emerging at the other end in 55-pound bags to be loaded onto rail cars for the journey down the Copper River Valley to Cordova. There, the ore was shipped to refineries in the Seattle area.

    St. Elias Alpine Guides also can arrange a guided glacier hike. This is great fun and almost anyone can do it! Your guides are safety conscious (EMT trained) and know their way around the country. Don't be surprised if you see a bear on your way up to the glacier! Your guides will go through bear safety tips as well as tips for walking on the glaciers. Everybody gets a pair of crampons to strap on your boots. Then, you hike a little more than a mile up to the face of the glacier. Depending on what you want to do, your guide will show off some of the ice caves, some "moulans" which are super-blue pools of water, some crevasses and other features of the glaciers. Other options include ice-climbing classes and multi-day hikes on the glaciers. If you've had the chance to explore the glacier, seen the mine and flown over the area in a plane, you can hike around the townsite and up into the hills to one of the old mine bunkhouses, including the Bonanza Mine. It's an all-day hike, but the bird's-eye view is spectacular. Don't miss out on a visit to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. You'll discover why this park is one of Alaska's best-kept secrets!

    Alaska is Glacier Heaven In the final great period of the Ice Age, half of Alaska was buried in the ice. Today, about 10,000 years later, five percent remains locked in a frozen world. More than 100,000 glaciers in Alaska continue to shape the landscape in every way, carving mountains, depositing fertile silt in valleys, and crashing into the sea. Once you experience Alaska's immense and powerful glaciers with all your senses, you'll discover how truly alive they are. Your eyes take in towering vertical faces of transparent blue ice, icebergs shimmering in the sun, and milky blue-green hues of the sea tinted by glacial silt. The air feels crisp on your skin and fresh as you breathe it deep into your lungs. You can smell the rich minerals of earth and the salt-tinged ocean. The sounds of a glacier may be most startling of all: the tremendous groaning and creaking of constant movement or the thunder and splash of chunks calving into the water. Basic Glaciology The climatic conditions that form glaciers are ideal in Alaska - regions of high snowfall in the winter and summers cool enough to prevent all of the accumulated snow from melting or evaporating. A glacier grows as the snow accumulates over time, compresses into ice, and begins to flow under the pressure of its own weight. As a glacier nears the end of its cycle, it retreats, dramatically changing the face of the earth it leaves behind. It Takes All Types Glaciers are generally grouped into two categories: Valley Glaciers spread out and down as they carve around mountains and down into the sea, and Continental Glaciers, or ice sheets, spread outward in all directions from a central point. Of the basic types of glaciers, spectacular examples of nearly all of them exist in Alaska. Princess' luxury lodges bring you close to Alaska's many types of glaciers. Mountain Glaciers In the vast Alaska Range, including "the Great One" Mt. McKinley, snow perpetually covers territory above 8,000 feet. Stay at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge and take a summit flight tour by plane or helicopter to see Hanging Glaciers and Mountain Glaciers as they grind down from the peaks, including Buckskin Glacier, Tokositna Glacier, and Kahiltna Glacier, the longest in Denali National Park. Most of the great glaciers, up to 20 and 30 miles in length, flow along the south and west sides of the Alaska Range. Add to your flightseeing thrills by landing on Ruth Glacier, one of Alaska's most spectacular. Standing 5,600 feet above sea level, you have views of the natural amphitheatre's granite walls with Mt. McKinley in the background. The vast silence is broken only by the rumble of distant rock and snow slides. Tidewater Glaciers In Southeast Alaska, many highly-active Tidewater Glaciers calve daily, as giant pieces of ice crack off the front of the glacier and fall into the sea. These glaciers can also calve from underneath the water, shooting ice missiles through the surface to fall back with tremendous splashes. Not all of Alaska's glaciers require planes, boats, or kayaks to reach them. Some of Alaska's most famous tidewater glaciers are within easy reach of the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. One of the most accessible is Worthington Glacier, where a quick walk takes you right to the edge of the blue ice, through high alpine tundra and postcard-perfect valley views. You might choose to sea kayak in Shoup Glacier and visit Valdez, paddling around the ice bergs in the bay and up to the face of the mighty Shoup Glacier, among the sea birds, seals, and wildlife that hang out on the ice. Marvel at your otherworldly surroundings and listen for the thunder of calving ice crashing into the still waters of the protected harbor. Or cruise Prince William Sound to Columbia Glacier, one of the largest tidewater glaciers in North America. Surging Glaciers Most glaciers advance mere inches a day, but there are a few that go through periods of huge advance, galloping down mountainsides hundreds of feet daily. For example, the Surging Glacier in Russell Fjord Wilderness takes off once every 20 years or so. More than two-thirds of the surging glaciers on the entire continent are in Alaska. Yanert Glacier surged in 2000 and 2001, then returned to a quiet phase. Today, you can stay at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and take a helicopter tour to land on Yanert, or trek past ice falls, crevasses, and glacial streams with a professional guide (outerwear, boots, and crampons provided)!

    Icefields While it's certainly hard to choose, some of the most memorable adventures take off from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, including a glacier outback tour, flying over Kenai Fjords National Park to the Chugach National Forest and the massive Sargent Icefield. To capture a true Alaska tradition, take a glacier dogsled adventure, landing on the Sargent Icefield by helicopter. Learn about the art of mushing and ride on a dog sled across the snowcapped glacier. Nearby Exit Glacier, on the Harding Icefield, is another wonder that can easily be reached on foot.

    Cold Ice, Warm Hearts On an organized excursion, it's handy to have expert guides to guide you safely through your glacier adventures and teach you interesting facts, such as that a single ice crystal in a glacier can reach the size of a baseball, or that glacial ice appears a startling blue in color due to how light waves pass off and bounce through the thickest ice. Wherever you stay, the chill of the glaciers is in direct contrast to the friendly warmth of Princess' Alaskan Outfitters, people who bring the benefit of local experience combined with the Princess touch of impeccable service. They are a wealth of information and you should call upon them for restaurant recommendations, shopping tips, optional sightseeing tours, and to inquire about points of interest. Their goal is to help you explore Alaska's glaciers-and the real wilderness and historical cities of this bountiful state - your own way.

    Fairbanks- Alaska's Golden Heart City Where on earth do you think they have a "Midnight Softball League"? If you guessed Fairbanks, you're right! It's just that type of zany activity that gives this city its nickname, the "Golden Heart" city. After all, if you've enjoyed winter temperatures of around -60, you'd go crazy in the summer, too. Especially when the sun shines all night long! On your first visit to Fairbanks, there are some things you have to see and do. At the top of the list is a riverboat cruise on the Chena River. The Riverboat Discovery is operated by the Binkley family. For five generations, the family has offered riverboat cruises. Everybody has a great time on the cruise, which includes a stop at a recreated Athabascan Indian village on the Tanana River. The scenic cruise also features a visit with four-time Iditarod Champion Susan Butcher. The riverboat sails by her home. Susan steps out with a wireless mike and gives an overview of her kennel. Sometimes the kids are running around. Sometimes she's feeding the dogs. Susan's a gracious hostess and everyone has a good time while they learn more about the Iditarod and Susan's interesting life!

    But the highlight of the riverboat cruise is the stop at the Indian village. Here, you'll learn more about Alaska's native people. How they lived, hunted and survived the harsh environment. You'll see how communities worked together to support one another through the winters, how they harvested and preserved food and how they used different parts of the animals for clothing, decoration, tools and so forth.  Plan on spending at least one night in Fairbanks--there's just too much to do! Bunk down at the Fairbanks Riverside Princess, on the banks of the Chena River. My favorite feature? Oh, the food is good and the views along the river are great. But it's the wireless internet access in the common areas. See, you can be a Geek and check your email... all the way up here in Fairbanks! If you want a "down-to-earth" look at Alaska's Gold Rush era, visit the El Dorado Gold Mine. You'll take a ride on the Tanana Valley Railroad through a permafrost tunnel where you'll see how miners worked their claims. On the two-hour tour of the claim, you'll meet and talk with Alaska miners and learn about modern placer mining techniques. Watch as the miners dig deep with a big backhoe, producing rich "paydirt" to rinse through a series of baffles and filter. Learn how water plays an essential role in gleaning the gold from the surrounding earth. After a short course in gold mining, grab your own "poke" filled with pay dirt right out of a sluice box and try your hand at panning for gold. Everyone finds gold! After seeing how they mine the gold, visit the old gold mining community of Ester for a "Gold Camp Buffet" and a musical review at the Malemute Saloon. When the salmon are running (all summer long!), there's a great Alaskan tradition you won't want to miss: an Alaska salmon bake! You'll be bragging about fresh Alaska seafood to all your friends! Right in the middle of Pioneer Park, the Alaska salmon bake is served in the shadow of another great riverboat: the Nenana. Unlike the Riverboat Discovery, the Nenana is grounded--a testament to the golden age of riverboats that once cruised Alaska's interior waterways. Take a tour of the boat and see the interesting displays about riverside communities throughout Alaska. Afterwards, take in the Palace Saloon Show. The music halls and theaters were traditional gathering points throughout Alaska and the Yukon during the Gold Rush years.  

    Fairbanks, at 64 degrees north latitude, qualifies as "far north". But there's half a state out there north of town. You can choose from a couple of options to continue north past the Arctic Circle. Fly with a local air service across the mountains that ring Fairbanks over the Yukon River. You'll actually cross the Arctic Circle and land at the village of Ft. Yukon. Here, a Native Alaskan guide will offer you a guided tour of the town and you'll learn what it's like to live in "Bush Alaska". Or, take a flight north across the Arctic Circle for an air tour of the "Gates of the Arctic" National Park. This bird's-eye view of the Brooks Range is a good reason to bring your camera, your binoculars or both. When you land at one of Alaska's Bush communities, try your hand at fly fishing for Arctic Grayling. Your trip includes an "Arctic Circle Crossing" certificate! Learn more about Alaska with a visit to the University of Alaska's Museum. Recently renovated, the museum hosts a wealth of Alaska art, history, photos, exhibits and artifacts. Learn more: http://www.uaf.edu/museum.   A Tour of Fairbanks: Fun Facts & New Frontiers Fairbanks, Alaska, located on the Chena River, is a city of exciting booms, extreme weather, and cultural posterity, and is the site of continual bursts of business, innovation, and commerce. This has been Fairbanks's story since 1902, when the sleepy little community transformed into a major supply post and hub of prospecting frenzy when gold was discovered in a northern creek. Today, Fairbanks is still a gold-rich area and center of mining activity. In fact, Fairbanks currently holds some of the most fun and tourist-friendly opportunities for gold panning, tours of mining facilities, and more. A direct product of perhaps the most defining event in Alaskan history - the Gold Rush - Fairbanks continues to fight fiercely to maintain its status as a thriving city, always at the forefront of new expansions and changes. Unique for its frontier spirit and wealth of natural resources, Fairbanks is also the footpath into the Alaskan Heartlands- the primitive, wild Interior of Northern Lights and Midnight Sun.

    Fairbanks's unique natural phenomena and interesting historical past are just part of the city's unique appeal. Did you know Fairbanks has fewer clouds in Interior Alaska than anywhere else in the state, and has unusually light rain and snow because air mass loses its moisture crossing the Alaska Range to the south? These quirky climate conditions, along with weird natural wonders like Fairbanks's sundogs-bright rainbow colored spots on either side of the winter sun- or the gusts of "Chinooks"- the surprisingly warm winds that blow through winter- make Fairbanks a fascinating city to visit and natural tourist attraction. Today, there are more reasons than ever to book a tour to Fairbanks. In the city as locomotive as the Alaskan Railroad, there are new frontiers of commerce and culture forging ahead even now that make Fairbanks one of the most exciting Alaskan cities to visit.

    One significant area of advance is transportation. With the ever-increasing popularity of the Alaskan Railroad, Fairbanks, never one to be left out of the action, recently created its very own top-of-the-line train depot, dedicated on May 26,2005. More bus parking and secure transfer areas make a ride on the Alaska Railroad, via Fairbanks, smoother than ever. Touring Alaska by rail continues to be one of the best, most authentic methods of Alaskan travel. But why settle for trains, when you could have planes too? Fairbanks's transportation advances continue with Frontier Flying Services. Fairbanks has recently become a base for Frontier Flying Services, which flies to Nome and Kotzbue for excellent birding opportunities. With flights from Fairbanks to famous birds paradise, Gambell, located on St. Laurence Island, and Nome, birdwatchers can delight in thousands of different bird species by catching a flight from this dynamic city.

    Besides being a hub for transportation, Fairbanks is an exciting center of culture as well. The Golden Heart City is home to the University of Alaska Museum of the North, which is on the cusp of completing an exciting $32 million expansion, doubling its size to 81,000 square feet. Set to open in fall 2005, this famous Fairbanks landmark will encompass the 10,000 square foot Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery and a Multimedia Auditorium featuring films, informative lectures, and performances by Alaska Native athletes and dancers. If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, rest assured there are plenty of guides available for planning your Fairbanks travel experience. Fairbanks's Golden Heart Academy is a hub of learning for tourists. At this learning center, tourists can immerse themselves in the Academy's seminars on eco-tourism, Alaska's deep cultural history, and the must-see tourist sights of Fairbanks. Emerge feeling like a native and ready to take on the day!

    In other new Fairbanks news, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race has chosen Fairbanks native Julie Fougeron as the executive director for the Alaska office. Catch a glimpse of this local celeb during your travels to Fairbanks. If you are questioning where to lodge in this great city of exciting innovations and expansions, consider the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge. This convenient lodge is the best of both worlds, featuring all the comfortable amenities of luxury accommodations, blended with authentic Fairbanks frontier flavor. The Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge is ideal for both its luxury and unbeatable location. Nestled just minutes from the Fairbanks International Airport, with direct access to Fairbanks's thriving downtown area and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the lodge is also a stones throw from such popular Fairbanks's tourist attractions, like the El Dorado Gold Mine, the Riverboat Discovery, and Alaskaland.

    After the exciting whirlwind of touring Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge provides a tranquil haven on the banks of the Chena River. Take advantage of the lodge's premiere amenities, such as a health club, steam bath, and quality dining establishments. If you haven't had your fill of Alaska's Great Outdoors, take a stroll through Fairbanks's Princess Riverside Lodge's perfectly manicured grounds, or recline on the terraced deck and stare out over the water's edge, reflecting on the adventures of your Fairbanks travels. We hope you've enjoyed this guide to traveling in Fairbanks, a city we truly consider one of the fairest of them all! Book your tour today to experience the city's unique adventures, natural beauty, and deep historical culture!

    Alaska's Wild Kingdom

    In Alaska, wilderness is king. You never know exactly what wildlife you're going to see, but your chances of catching caribou, horned Dall sheep, moose, and bears in the Alaska Interior is greater than nearly anywhere else in the world. The wonders begin with marine life and every imaginable species of sea birds along miles of dramatic coastline. To get the full picture, however, you must journey inside, far from the coast, to reveal Alaska's true wild heart. A cruisetour- where you combine a cruise with days on land, nights in a luxury lodge, and travel by railcar-is the best way to see and do it all.

    The Best of Both Worlds Cruising is the only way to experience the marine life tucked in the glacier-carved fjords where the roads don't go. It's possible to encounter more than a dozen species of whales, including the dramatic orca, beluga, and humpback whales. You can hardly miss the pinnipeds, the thousands upon thousands of Stellar sea lions, Pacific walrus, and harbor, fur, and elephant seals. Every imaginable species of sea bird flocks here to dine on their share of the aquatic life. Beyond the reach of the cruise ship lie 586,000 square vast and unspoiled miles, where wild creatures outnumber the human population in many places. Alaska supports nearly a million caribou in 30 distinct herds. Black and grizzly bears number close to 50,000-and that's only those people can get close enough to count.

    Where to See the Wild Things Princess Tours has five grand lodges, located within steps of the state's largest national parks, showcasing hundreds of rare and endangered species in their natural habitats. Staying in one of these magnificent lodges, you indulge yourself with luxury in the wilderness. With trained naturalists and organized expeditions, you avoid the riskier complications of getting up close and personal with nature. For instance, there's no worry that you'll end up, as a recent solo adventurer did, with a tale of trying to find a safe campground, only to see a black bear sitting on the road munching berries, a half-mile from her destination. When she arrived, she warned the existing campers, a woman with five boys ages 8 through 13. "We're not scared," said the woman, "my boys have their .22 rifles!" Our friend hightailed it out of there as quick as she could and slept in her car, knowing that not only would a bullet from a .22 merely annoy a black bear enough to maul everyone in sight, but an eight-year-old with a rifle was as likely to shoot her in the middle of the night as the bear!

    Wildlife in Natural Parks Princess has Denali National Park covered, with the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ on the south side of the park and the Denali Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ only minutes from the park entrance. Only 90 miles of main road traverse the six million acres of Denali National Park, leaving the moose, caribou, Dall sheep, grizzly bears, gray wolves, and red fox free to roam forests, tundra, glaciers, and mountains uninhibited. Meet the park's resident animals on a horseback ride along the northern face of the Alaska Range, while river rafting down the Nenana River, or on a journey 32-miles into Denali to study the wolves with a researcher from the Denali Institute. The Copper River Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ sits at the entrance to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, America's largest national park. Nature hikes and river walks along the mighty Copper and Klutina Rivers offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. At each step of the way, you'll learn from experienced backcountry guides and naturalists of the flora, fauna, and native species. Set on the jagged southern end of the ice-sculpted Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park begs to be explored. The Kenai Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ is a gateway to what the locals call "Alaska's Playground." Filled with rugged capes, sea arches, and ice caves, the park is home to more than 100 species of birds, from bald eagles to a colony of 40,000 puffins on Chiswell Island Marine Wildlife Refuge. From the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge, you can take a Fairbanks Fossils and Fur tour at the Animal Research Station, where you practically rub noses with Musk Oxen-shaggy survivors of the last ice age- and view reindeer and caribou while learning about their ecology and natural history. You can whale watch and glide past seal colonies and bird rookeries on a wildlife cruise, or in a kayak or a canoe. You can capture the bigger picture from a distance on a flight seeing expedition. It's all up to you. Almost as prevalent as the wildlife, friendly Princess Alaskan Outfitters(sm) will quickly become another familiar sight. Wherever you are, these local experts are the perfect people to get you off the beaten track to find the best wildlife adventure, most scenic hiking trail, inspiring viewpoint, or plentiful fishing locale.

     

     

    The Angling Experience of a Lifetime We begin with a tale of three fishermen. The first is a dapper 90-year-old who wears a T-shirt that reads, "Women Want Me, Fish Fear Me." Indeed, he is the most eligible bachelor in his retirement community and he regales admirers with stories from his glory days in the land of the midnight sun. The second gentleman volunteers in a small visitors center. He keeps a tin of hand-tied flies in his pocket and a rod in his pickup, dashing out into the snow at lunch to catch some dinner. Then there's the brew master who supplements his refrigerator full of beer with a regular bounty of shrimp, king crab, halibut, and salmon from the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, calling the waters his personal "Gastineau Grocery." These are all true Alaska stories. So, if you believe that even a bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office, Alaska is your sportfishing playground. The only trouble with that old saw is that you're going to have a mighty tough time finding anything less than an ideal fishing experience in this angler's paradise.

    The One that Didn't Get Away If fishing in Alaska were a numbers game, the odds are heavily in your favor. With more than 627 species of fish in three million lakes, at least 3,000 rivers, innumerable streams, and tidewaters, catching fish isn't the tough part- deciding where to cast your line is the dilemma. Fortunately for you, Princess has built magnificent riverside lodges showcasing some of the world's richest fishing waters in the unspoiled natural beauty of the real Alaskan wilderness.

    Go Where the Big Ones Are Biting What's your pleasure? Take your pick of the best fly-fishing, saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, and even ice fishing in the world. Princess takes care of all the nitty-gritty details-our guides will secure the correct fishing licenses and they'll know the catch-and-release rules and possession and bag limits. Gear, tackle, and waders are provided; there's no need to schlep your gear and risk damaging it in transit. Where regulations allow, your catch can be cleaned, deliciously smoked or filleted, vacuum-packed, and shipped to your home to remind you of your adventure for months to come.

    Wrangle Salmon on the Kenai The The Kenai Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ is truly special. On the lovely Kenai Peninsula, this grand lodge is within casting distance of the confluence of the Kenai and Russian Rivers, site of what local residents affectionately call the "combat fishing zone."  The Kenai River is famous for its dazzling blue-green hues and as a haven for accomplished and novice anglers alike. The Tour Desk is staffed with Princess professionals who arrange fishing tours on the Kenai River, with a reputation for trophy-sized fish.  Sample sport fishing on the Upper Kenai River, aboard a non-motorized drift boat or raft amidst dazzling mountain scenery. Depending on the season, cast for sockeye or coho and rainbow trout. Don't miss the opportunity to angle for giant king salmon and fighting silver salmon, with experienced guides who take you to their favorite hot spots for unforgettable fishing surrounded by the beauty of the Upper Kenai River.  

    Net Sockeye "Reds" Built where the Copper and Klutina Rivers meet, the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge(sm) is your plush base camp for world-class fishing. Jet boat or raft the scenic tributaries with professional guides and fish for the rich, firm pink sockeye salmon that is the envy of the finest restaurants in the world.

    Wilderness Fly-Ins The Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ is your pickup point for wilderness fly-in fishing, an exhilarating adventure. You'll travel by motorcoach to Talkeetna, where you board a bush plane for a flight over the Susitna Valley to a secluded wilderness lodge, where you'll be outfitted before going out on a riverboat to the best fishing holes in the area. Cast for sockeye and coho salmon, trout, and grayling. Brag to your friends about finding the hiding spots for intriguing arctic grayling in the arctic circle while luxuriating at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge(sm). Flirt with the Dolly Varden, a trout named for the character in Charles Dickens' book Barnaby Rudge, with its distinct olive green skin and brilliant pink, orange, and red spots.

    If you'd rather try your line saltwater fishing in Seward, relish an epic battle with a giant "barn door" Pacific halibut; delight in the acrobatics of feisty silver salmon; or go in hunt of an assortment of rockfish while the whales, sea lions, porpoises, sea otters hang out nearby. These are only a sampling of the fishing expeditions offered by Princess in Alaska. Fish the days away knowing that once you've caught your limit, a cozy armchair awaits by a stone fireplace, an irresistible haven for sharing your Alaska fish tales.

    Kenai Fishing With 627 fish species, 3 million lakes, 3,000 rivers, and innumerable streams - your Alaska fishing experience is closer than you think! Many anglers are surprised at the different species of fish available in and around the Kenai River. There are rainbow trout, Arctic Char, silver salmon, red salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon and the giant King Salmon. But it's more than that. If you come to Alaska and stop by a fly shop, they're likely to remind you of the difference. "There's fishing...and then there's catching." It's a common refrain.

    Just ask the many folks who come year after year to fish the gin-bright streams of the Russian River, which flows into the Kenai River just downstream from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. The lodge, in fact, is a great place to start your fishing adventure on the Kenai River. If you're angling for a trophy-size rainbow trout, the Russian River is a perfect place to start. Bring your hip waders, because you can walk the length of the river in search of rainbows. Other clear water streams in the area, including Quartz Creek, offer great char and trout fishing. If you want to drift through some of Alaska's most beautiful scenery while hooking into some great trout, arrange for a drift boat charter on the upper Kenai River, which drifts right by the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. No motorized craft are allowed on this stretch of the river-- and you're likely to see moose, eagle and maybe even a bear on your day float. Depending on the season, you can opt for salmon fishing. On the upper reaches of the river, you can count on seeing beautiful red (sockeye) or silver (coho) salmon.

    Even if you're not an avid angler, the scenic float is a "must do" on your Alaskan vacation. After floating along the upper stretches of the river, there's a rough-and-tumble whitewater ride through the Kenai River Canyon! It's a swift ride that ends up in Skilak Lake. Bring your camera! Local Alaskans love the hiking and mountain biking available all around the Kenai River drainage. You can follow the trails which parallel the Russian River up to a series of lakes that is a popular day hike. The trails are well-maintained and mountain bikers can continue for several miles into the mountains.

    Other trails lead up into the mountains over Resurrection Pass to Hope. As you're headed up into the mountains, take your binoculars and keep your eyes open for Dall sheep along the steep slopes. If you're seeking one of the giant King (Chinook) Salmon that return each year to the Kenai River, make sure you have some heavy fishing line. Better yet, rely on one of the professional guides to get you rigged up on the lower Kenai River. The lower river is a completely different fishery. The glacier-fed Kenai River is a bright opaque aqua color. Somehow, the fish can figure out which way to swim without bumping into the shore! Actually, many of the guides have a sixth sense as well. You cannot see into the water, but the professional guides seem to know exactly where the fish are!

    While it's possible to fish for Kings on a fly, most of the successful anglers troll with eggs. Once you get a fish on the line, you'll immediately understand why anglers return each year. It's a world-class thrill to fight a giant fish that can tip the scales from 35-85 pounds! If you need any more incentive, stop into one of the fine restaurants on the Kenai Peninsula and order a salmon entree. You'll be ready with your rod and reel the very next morning! Saltwater anglers can arrange for a charter trip into Cook Inlet for halibut or salmon. From the Kenai River, you can choose to fish out of Seward in Resurrection Bay or Cook Inlet from Ninilchik. Seward charters are more popular for silver salmon charters, while halibut lovers cast their lines in Cook Inlet. Whether it's in Ninilchik, Anchor Point or further south in Homer, there are several ports where charter boats can launch for a daylong fishing adventure. While sport fishing is a cornerstone for any visit to the Kenai River area, the fishery once hosted a thriving commercial operation. Near the mouth of the Kenai River, the old Ward's Cove Cannery is being renovated as an artist's mall and restaurant called Kenai Landing. Stop in and learn about the history of commercial fishing in the Kenai area. Afterwards, drive into Kenai and visit the art display at the Kenai Visitor's and Cultural Center. Many Alaskan artists are featured in this year's exhibit, dubbed "Native Arts Now". In addition to oil and water colors, the show features several media, including sculpture, fiber and acrylic. If you're an angler, get ready for some great fishing! Bring your sturdiest gear and get ready for some "catching"! If you're along for the ride, bring a big appetite, your camera and your sense of adventure!

    Kenai Area Fishing If you want to drift through some of Alaska's most beautiful scenery while hooking into some great trout, arrange for a drift boat charter on the upper Kenai River, which drifts right by the Kenai Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ The Kenai Peninsula is Alaska's Playground Looking for a great Alaska vacation? You know-- glaciers, whales, wildlife, exciting fishing, sightseeing... the works. Well, plan a visit to the Kenai Peninsula and you'll see all of this. There are beautiful national parks, stunning harbors, world-class fishing and adventures. Most folks fly into Anchorage, the state's largest city, to start their Kenai Peninsula holiday. Others sail into Whittier or Seward, pick up a car and set off on their independent adventures. The town of Seward is a "must-see" on any Kenai Peninsula itinerary. Seward is notable in Alaska history for many reasons. It's the beginning of the Iditarod Trail to Nome, although the annual race starts each year in Anchorage. Reigning Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey hails from this harbor town and offers visitors an up-close look at his prize-winning dogs and kennel. Check the website: http://www.ididaride.com. Visitors can go on a real sled-dog ride during their visit! The Seward Harbor is the primary access point for Kenai Fjords National Park. This stunning array of glaciers, mountain cliffs and wildlife is a big draw for visitors. Thousands head off on daily tours by Kenai Fjords Tours. Don't be surprised if you see more than one kind of whale on your excursion. Watch for exotic Alaskan birds like puffins, oystercatchers and Bald Eagles. The glaciers are everywhere. If you've got binoculars, you'll want to bring them on this tour for an up-close look at the mountains of ice and snow!

    Don't leave Seward without visiting the Alaska SeaLife Center. This waterfront facility offers visitors a chance to see some of Alaska's most exciting marine mammals and other sea critters. Look for king crab, octopus, harbor seals, sea lions and much more. There's a big display on salmon migration, plus a hands-on display on tidal pools for the kids. Sort of an underwater petting zoo! Fishing enthusiasts can plan a charter fishing trip for salmon or halibut right downtown.

    No visit to the Kenai Peninsula is complete without a trip down the Kenai River! This pristine river starts in Kenai Lake, about 30 miles from Seward. Overlooking the headwaters is the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, well known for gracious accommodations and great grub, too! The resort is a collection of little cabins with a big main lodge for lounging and dining. There are fireplaces in the rooms, as well as private balconies overlooking the lake. Nice! Another popular feature is the big outdoor hot tub. It's a perfect way to relax after a day of fishing or exploring. Whether you want to try your hand at fishing or just want to float the river, plan on spending a day on the water. The spawning fish draw all sorts of wildlife, including eagles, bear and moose. Depending on the season, your guide can set you up for fishing for rainbow trout, king salmon, red salmon or silver salmon. The lower Kenai River, past Skilak Lake, is better known for lunker King Salmon. Anglers come from around the world to catch these silver beauties, some of which top the scales at more than 90 pounds! There are many fishing lodges and day-charters available in Soldotna and Kenai for visitors. You can learn more about the Kenai River's unique habitat here: http://www.kenairiversportfishing.com. If you ever wonder why people fall in love with Alaska, just drive down the Sterling Highway from Soldotna to Homer. As you crest the bluff and begin your descent into Homer, you are faced with a fabulous vista overlooking Kachemak Bay, one of Alaska's most prolific marine environments.

    Glaciers tumble down from icy peaks almost to the water. You can see little specks on the water, which turn out to be fishing boats on the hunt for salmon and halibut. There are water taxis taking people to remote communities across the bay. And there's a "spit" of land which extends about five miles out into the bay. The Homer Spit features a small boat harbor, some RV parks and lots of options for travelers who want to see more of the area.

    But don't forget to explore the artsy Homer shops! The beautiful setting inspires many artists who set up shop and offer their wares to visitors! Don't just stand at the end of the Homer Spit and look out and wonder "What's on the other side?" That's the mistake I made for about 24 years. Hop aboard the "Danny J", which sails each afternoon over to the artist's community of Halibut Cove on the other side of the bay. Included in your ticket is dinner at "The Saltry", a waterfront restaurant located on the boardwalk in Halibut Cove. Run by the Tillion family, the trip offers a unique look at some of Alaska's off-beat lifestyles. Take a stroll around the boardwalk and some of the shops before returning to Homer. Alaska Coastal Marine offers a great wildlife tour across Kachemak Bay to Seldovia each day. Captain Tim Cashman knows the area well and steers his ship around Gull Island where you'll see plenty of Alaska birds, including... you guessed it... seagulls! Your tour includes a stop in Seldovia, which once was a bustling center for herring processing and other fisheries before its decline in the 1960s. Make sure you allow enough time to see the wonders of the Kenai Peninsula on your trip to Alaska. If not, well, you'll just have to come back again, right? Right!

    Mushing in Alaska Dog sledding, more popularly called mushing, traces its roots back to the Eskimos of the 15th century. It remained a primary mode of winter transportation in Alaska's bush country until pilots began flying air routes in the 1920's. Alaskans have been racing dogs since the early 1900's. The All Alaska Sweepstakes race began in 1908 traveling between Nome and Candle. Today, the most famous race in the sport, the Iditarod, takes place every March. It begins in Anchorage and ands Nome, following an old supply route. It is said to have been inspired in part, by the famous Serum Run of 1925. Nome was stricken with a diphtheria epidemic in 1925. Isolated by winter wilderness with no feasible way of getting in or out of Nome, the residents sent an urgent plea for help via wireless transmitter. The only possible way to get the serum to Nome was by dog sled. Mushers departed from Nome and Nenana and relayed the serum from one team to the next until they were able to rendezvous 250 miles from Nome. Leonhard Seppala, the greatest musher at the time, helped deliver 300,000 units of serum in time to save the village. Today, mushing is mostly a recreational sport. Some mush for sheer pleasure while others compete in a wide variety of races. Races range from sprint mushing to long distance events such as the Yukon Quest and Iditarod. During the month of March, the whole state of Alaska tunes in to daily updates on the progress of the Iditarod racers.  Do you want to try it? Princess offers you many opportunities to learn about mushing first hand. In Denali, we have teamed up with three-time Iditarod winner Jeff King, for a personal tour of his homestead and kennel. You will also get a chance to meet his and his wife, well-known wildlife artist Donna Gates King. The tour can be booked at the Outfitter desk at the Denali Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ.

    During the summer months, mushers use wheeled carts to keep their dogs in shape for the winter sporting events. At the Copper River Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ , Princess offers the opportunity to learn about mushing by actually riding in a training sled with real dogs. A local musher brings his team right to the entrance of the lodge and offers you the chance to go for a ride!  The Kenai Princess Wilderness LodgeŽ offers an incredible dogsled adventure combining a thrilling helicopter ride with mushing on the massive Sargent Ice field. Your flight will take you over the glacial ice fields nestled in the Chugach National Forest only to land at a remote dogsled camp on a glacier! The mushing portion of the tour features a top Iditarod team and last for about an hour of mushing. You then helicopter back down from the glacier. There are many ways to discover the vast Alaska wilderness and its unique way of life. What better way to learn about it than from the back of a sled piloted by one of Alaska's great mushers.

    Alaskan Jade Plans for touring Alaska conjure images of that ancient glimmering substance found in rocks and rivers, that bright sparkly rock for which Alaska is famous. No, it's not gold. It's the Alaskan state gem, jade. The Alaska Legislature chose jade as the state gem in 1968. No Alaskan tourist can travel through Alaska without at least glimpsing this precious gem, glimmering out of gift shops, adorning natives and-for some lucky Alaskan visitor-glistening out of river beds. As a visitor, if you are looking for the perfect Alaskan souvenir, a jade keepsake is definitely your answer. Jade is a stone valued by Alaskans for its luminescent colors and smooth surfaces. Colors range from hues of green, to yellow, to red, black, and white. Lavender Jade is the most highly valued because it is the most rare. One might assume that jade is easily found at Alaska's majestic Jade Mountain, a real mountain made completely of dark green jade. However this Alaskan wonder is inaccessible to visitor, as it is situated on the Seward Peninsula, a remote region unreachable by highway. Jade in Alaska is generally found in the Dall, Shungnak and Kobuk rivers. The Kobuk River, a 200-mile stream spanning Brooks Range to Kotzuebue Sound to the Chukchi Sea, has been a historically valuable source of jade. Visitors to Alaska can spend an enjoyable day at the Kobuk Valley National Park, home of the Kobuk River as well as the Kobuk Valley Jade, a unique store where you can actually see jade boulders being sawed and shined, and where many Alaskan handcrafted products, from jade jewelry to Eskimo-carved walrus ivory, are made. When visitors explore this area, they will know they are following in the footsteps of the ancients. When the original Alaskans found the nuggets of jade that tumbled downstream in the Kobuk River, they used the gem to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Later anthropologists in the 1940's and the 1960's journeyed across the Kobuk tundra, traveling the Kobuk River by canoe, stopping along the way to dig for jade at the base of the resplendent Jade Mountain. The Kobuk River today spawns jade artifacts that are a hundred years old and have been found at archeological sites along the Bering and Pacific coasts of Alaska and British Columbia. By purchasing a jade souvenir for friends and family, you aren't just buying a gift. You are buying an important emblem of Alaskan history, a symbol of Alaska's vast natural resources and the exquisite craftsmanship abilities of the native people. The U.S. Navy lieutenant George M. Stoney was the first non-native to discover jade in the Kobuk River in 1886. From 1943 to 1945, the Alaska Territorial Department of Mines investigated the area. By 1945, eleven tons of jade were found. Government geologists determined jade could be found in the forty-mile stretch parallel to the Kobuk River.  

    When touring Alaska, don't forget to stop by Kobuk Valley National Park, or any local gift shop, for a jade souvenir to bring home. The versatility of the gem, along with the natural resourcefulness of the Alaskan people combine to create an impressive variety of jade gifts and souvenirs. You'll be able to choose from a wide variety of jade dolls, figurines, jewelry, knives, and more. Conclude your Alaskan tour with the perfect souvenir, a glimmering piece of Alaskan history to remind you of your travels.

    Did you know.... When the original Alaskans found the nuggets of jade that tumbled downstream in the Kobuk River, they used the gem to make tools, weapons, and jewelry. Conclude your own Alaskan tour with the perfect souvenir, a glimmering piece of Alaskan history to remind you of your travels.

    Fun Alaska Facts Alaska is land worthy of many superlatives. Here we provide you with an interesting collection of some of Alaska's vital statistics that may help satisfy your curiosity and whet your appetite. Name Origin: The name of Alaska comes from the Aleut work Alyeska, meaning The Great Land. Nick Names: The last frontier, Land of the Midnight Sun Motto: North to the Future Flower: Forget-me-not Capital: Juneau is the only capital in the United States accessible only by boat or plane. Statehood: The US purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,00 (about 2 cents an acre) and made it the union's 49th state on January 3, 1959. Land Area Size: Alaska is the largest state in the union, covering 570,373 square miles, approximately one fifth of the entire United States. Alaska is so large that the state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times. Population: The population of Alaska is only 670,053 and compared to the population of bears in Alaska, there is 1 bear for every 21 people. Tallest Mt. in North America: Mt. McKinley stands at 20,320 feet. Alaska is also home to 16 of the 20 highest mountains in the U.S. Greatest concentration of glaciers in North America: There are more active glaciers and ice fields in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world. The largest glacier is Malaspina at 805 square miles. State Symbols and emblems: State Bird: Alaska Willow Ptarmigan State Tree: Sitka Spruce State Marine Mammal: Bowhead Whale State Fish: King Salmon, also known as the Chinook Salmon State Sport: Dog Mushing State Gem: Jade State Mineral: Gold State Insect: Four spot skimmer dragonfly Light vs. Dark: The Arctic Circle is an imaginary circle around the globe where on December 21 the sun never rises for twenty-four hours and on June 21 for twenty-four hours it never sets. Gardening: Giant vegetables are common in Alaska due to the extremely long days in summer which account for a record cabbage weighing in at 94 pounds.

     

    laska is a grand American Vacation destination you don't want to miss! We hope these stories help you plan your travel to Alaska. Click here to get special deals on an unforgettable cruise and cruisetour adventure to Alaska! National Parks in Alaska Alaska is home to 15 National Parks and Preserves, more than any other state. Princess can help you experience the depth and breadth of these great parks by spending time at one, or all of our five custom-built wilderness lodges. They are perfectly situated to showcase some of Alaska's great national parks. Some 54 million acres of land are under the administration of the National Park Service in Alaska. The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act of 1980- also referred to as ANILCA, created 10 new National Park Service Units in Alaska and increased the size of three of existing park units- Glacier Bay, Denali and Katmai. National parks exist to preserve scenic areas, wildlife populations and recreational opportunities. Activities are closely regulated within national park boundaries. However, regulations for National Park Service Units in Alaska recognize that many of these parks contain lands traditionally occupied and used by Alaska Natives and rural homesteaders for subsistence activities. Therefore, management of some of the parks and preserves in Alaska allow for subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering activities where such activities are customary.

    The existing park and preserves in Alaska include:

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain ranges converge in what is often referred to as the "mountain kingdom of North America." The largest unit of the National Park System and a day's drive east of Anchorage, this spectacular park includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in the United States. Adjacent to Canada's Kluane National Park, the site is characterized by remote mountains, sweeping valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife. Proclaimed as Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument Dec. 1, 1978; established as a national park and preserve Dec. 2, 1980. Wilderness designated Dec. 2, 1980. Designated a World Heritage Site Oct. 24, 1979.  Encompassing towering mountains, massive glaciers, powerful rivers, a seemingly endless variety of flora and fauna and Kennecott, a National Historic Landmark, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a national treasure with something for everyone.  The Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge offers a perfect base camp for your exploration into this park. Visitors can choose from a variety of activities that may include travel by road, air, trail or river. Travel in the Park presents challenges to even the hardiest travelers, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a vast, pristine wilderness and remarkable solitude.

    Kenai Fjords National Park Sweeping from rocky coastline to glacier-crowned peaks, Kenai Fjords National Park encompasses 607,805 acres of unspoiled wilderness on the southeast coast of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. The park is capped by the Harding Icefield, a relic from past ice-ages and the largest icefield entirely within U.S. borders.  The park is accessible from the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge via a variety of optional tour excursions. Visitors witness a landscape continuously shaped by glaciers, earthquakes, and storms. Orcas, otters, puffins, bear, moose and mountain goats are just a few of the numerous animals that make their home in this ever-changing place where mountains, ice and ocean meet.

    Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing massive tidewater glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. The park has snow-capped mountain ranges rising to over 15,000 feet, coastal beaches with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. These diverse land and seascapes host a mosaic of plant communities ranging from pioneer species in areas recently exposed by receding glaciers, to climax communities in older coastal and alpine ecosystems. Diverse habitats support a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife, with opportunities for viewing and research that allow us to learn more about the natural world. Glacier Bay is best viewed from the water as there no roads into Glacier Bay. Princess' voyage of the glaciers cruise is the best way to come face to face with calving glaciers and glacial ice flows.

    Denali National Park and Preserve The heart of Denali National Park and Preserve lies in a great alpine valley between the slopes of the Alaska range and foothills to the north. Standing sentry in the midst of it all is 20,320 ft Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest mountain. Few wilderness areas remain so pristine and accessible. It was this special character which led congress to create Denali National Park.  Only one, single narrow road penetrates deep into the park, through the rolling tundra. Private vehicles traffic is strictly limited. Park service tours travel all the way to the end of the road for those who ant an in-depth search for wildlife. Denali National Park & Preserve is a fantastic place to visit abundant with wildlife, cultural history, and activities for all age groups. When you plan your Alaskan vacation, do you plan to encounter a striking landscape, a place so expansive that it shelters more than six hundred-fifty species of flowering plants and thirty-seven mammal species? Do you envision your Alaskan tour to include a dizzying six million acres filled with large caribou, moose, and grizzly bears, and offset with startlingly small flowers, miniaturized to suit Alaska's short growth season? Of course we're talking about Denali National Park, a focal point of a Princess combination rail and lodge packages.  

    Denali National Park has long been a place of refuge for those with the will to survive its rugged terrain. Indeed, only the strongest plants flourish in this world of sub-artic wilderness. Species of mosses, lichens, fungi, algae, and others spangle the slopes and valleys of Denali. Deep pools of frost collect just beneath the park's surfaces, and only the thinnest sheen of topsoil thaws enough each year to stimulate new life. But the fragile nature of the region leads to continuous rebirth. New rivers can spurt up in days and flowers bloom just in time to serve as supper for hungry wildlife. How exciting to watch this stunning Alaskan ecosystem adapt and change to suit its environment right before visitors delighted eyes. And of course all this primitive landscape is only a backdrop to the crown jewel of Denali, the regal massif Mount McKinley, the largest mountain in North America. It was this mountain that drew people to the area in ancient times. Before Denali National Park was created to serve as a wildlife refuge, the land offered recluse for the Athabascan native people, from whose language Denali, or "high one" gets its name. Historically, the land that now protects animals was a refuge for these people, a place where nomadic bands of Athabascans could hunt the low hills for caribou, sheep, and moose. They gathered fish, berries, and edible plants from the area's rich supply during the spring through fall seasons, and when harsh winter approached, the low elevations of the river's valley formed perfect crevices in which the natives could shelter themselves. The park itself was dreamt up by a naturalist named Charles Sheldon in 1907, who was struck by the beauty of the area during his own Alaskan travels, but it wasn't established as we know it now until the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act was approved by Jimmy Carter in 1980.

    Undoubtedly Denali National Park is a diamond of the vast Alaskan landscape, a focal point of any complete Alaskan tour. One of the best ways to get in on the action is through a combined rail and lodge package, an amazing deal that lets you tour Alaska's interior by rail and then drops you off for a stay in a local lodge. For a spectacular value, consider the Princess Denali Rail Tour. Completely customized towards taking the traveler on a tour of Alaska's primitive heartlands, the package includes a train ticket and an overnight at either the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge or the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Both were created to provide convenient access to Denali. The Mt. McKinley Princess featuring stunning views of Mount McKinley and the Denali Princess located at the entry to the park. After an exciting rail tour, experience an evening snuggled into a cozy wilderness lodge with Mount McKinley as your moon. You will sleep in the shadow of the great mountain, whose vast boundaries you have just began to glimpse, creating the perfect dreamscape for tomorrow's big adventure.

    Aniakchak National Park and Preserve The Aniakchak Caldera, is the result of a series of volcanic eruptions, the latest in 1931. A Caldera is a large, basin-shaped volcanic depression that is more or less circular in form. Most volcanic calderas are produced by collapse of the roof of a magma chamber due to removal of magma by voluminous eruptions or subterranean withdrawal of the magma, although some calderas may be formed by explosive removal of the upper part of a volcano. Nearly six miles in diameter and covering some ten square miles, the Aniakchak is one of the worlds best examples of dry caldera. Located in the volcanically active Aleutian chain, the crater contains lava flows, cinder cones, and explosion pits. The site also contains the Aniakchak Wild River which cascades through a 1,500-foot gash in the caldera wall.

    Bering Land Bridge National Preserve The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is one of the most remote national park areas. The park is located on the Seward Peninsula in northwest Alaska and is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia with North America more than 13,000 years ago. The land bridge was a migration route for people, animals, and plants during the glacial epoch. The majority of this land bridge, once thousands of miles wide, now lies beneath the waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Archeologists agree that it was across this Bering Land Bridge that humans first passed from Asia to populate the Americas.

    Cape Krusenstern National Monument Cape Krusenstern National Monument is a coastal plain dotted with sizable lagoons and flanked by rolling limestone hills. Cape Krusenstern's most notable feature is its series of bluffs and 114 beach ridges that record the changing shorelines of the Chukchi Sea over thousands of years. The ridges accumulated over time, the most recently formed ridges are near the shore and the first formed ridges lie inland. This unusual series of beach ridges present, in sequence, detailed evidence of an estimated 9,000 years of prehistoric human use of this coastline. The archeological sites at Cape Krusenstern are older than well-known remains of ancient Greek civilizations.  In summer, wildflowers color the beach ridges and nearby hills. Large numbers of migratory birds come from all over the world to Cape Krusenstern to nest. In fall, these migrating birds use the lagoons as feeding and staging areas. Shifting sea ice, ocean currents, and waves continue to form spits and lagoons possessing important scientific, cultural, and scenic values.  

    Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve Congress reserved a vast and untouched area of incredible natural beauty and scientific value - a maze of glaciated valleys and gaunt, rugged mountains covered with boreal forest and arctic tundra vegetation, cut by wild rivers, and inhabited by far-ranging populations of caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and bears (barren-ground grizzlies and black bears). By establishing Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (GAAR) in the Brooks Range, Congress recognized that a special value of the area is its wild and undeveloped character, and the opportunities it affords for solitude, wilderness travel, and adventure. The National Park Service is entrusted to manage the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve to protect its physical resources and to maintain the intangible qualities of the wilderness and the opportunity it provides for people to learn and renew its values.

    Katmai National Park and Preserve Katmai is famous for volcanoes, brown bears, fish, and rugged wilderness. Katmai is also home to North America's highest concentration of prehistoric human dwellings (about 900). There are at least fourteen volcanoes in Katmai considered "active", none of which are currently erupting. Katmai National Monument was created to preserve the famed Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a spectacular forty square mile, 100 to 700 foot deep, pyroclastic ash flow deposited by Novarupta Volcano.  Brown bear and salmon are very active in Katmai. The Katmai brown bears population has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world's largest sockeye salmon run each July, and during return of the "spawned out" salmon in September, forty to sixty bears congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines.  There is plenty room for great diversity of wildlife in Katmai which encompasses millions of acres of pristine wilderness, with wild rivers and streams, rugged coastlines, broad green glacial hewn valleys, active glaciers and volcanoes, and Naknek Lake.

    Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park This park celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 through 15 restored buildings within the Skagway Historic District. The park also administers the Chilkoot Trail and a small portion of the White Pass Trail. Included in the park is a portion of the Dyea Townsite at the foot of the Chilkoot Trail.

    Kobuk Valley National Park Kobuk Valley National Park provides protection for several important geographic features, including the central portion of the Kobuk River, the 25-sqaure-mile Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk and Hunt River dunes. Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation. River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals.

    Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is a composite of ecosystems representative of many regions of Alaska. The spectacular scenery stretches from the shores of Cook Inlet, across the Chigmit Mountains, to the tundra covered hills of the western interior. The Chigmits, where the Alaska and Aleutian Ranges meet, are an awesome, jagged array of mountains and glaciers which include two active volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Iliamna. Lake Clark and many other lakes and rivers within the park are critical salmon habitat to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, one of the largest sockeye salmon fishing grounds in the world. Numerous lake and river systems in the park and preserve offer excellent fishing and wildlife viewing.

    Noatak National Preserve As one of North America's largest mountain-ringed river basins with an intact ecosystem, the Noatak River environs features some of the Arctic's finest arrays of plants and animals. The river is classified as a national wild and scenic river, and offers surperlative wilderness float-trip opportunities - from deep in the Brooks Range to the tidewater of the Chukchi Sea.

    Sitka National Historical Park Alaska's oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. All that remains of this last major conflict between Europeans and Alaska Natives is the site of the Tlingit Fort and battlefield, located within this scenic 113 acre park in a temperate rain forest. Southeast Alaska totem poles and a temperate rain forest setting combine to provide spectacular scenery along the park's coastal trail. The trail circles back along Indian River to the visitor center. Another loop trail continues across the Indian River footbridge past the Memorial to the Russian Midshipmen who died in the Battle of Sitka. The park's story continues at the Russian Bishop's House, one of three surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. This original 1843 log structure conveys the legacy of Russian America through exhibits, refurbished Bishop's living quarters and lavish icons in the Chapel of the Annunciation.

    Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Located along the Canadian border in central Alaska, the preserve protects 115 miles of the 1,800-mile Yukon River and the entire Charley River basin. Numerous rustic cabins and historic sites are reminders of the importance of the Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush. Paleontological and archeological sites here add much to our knowledge of the environment thousands of years ago. Peregrine falcons nest in the high bluffs overlooking the river, while the rolling hills that make up the preserve are home to an abundant array of wildlife. The Charley, a 100-mile long wild river, is considered by many to be the most spectacular river in Alaska.

    Exploring the famous Copper valley and Wrangell-St. Elias Visitors to the remote Copper River area of Alaska may be surprised to learn the river valley was one of the busiest transportation routes at the beginning of the 20th century. After the Klondike Gold Rush, copper was discovered in the Chitina River Valley near McCarthy. A massive building boom ensued, with Wall Street bankers financing the Copper River Railway from Cordova's port, up the river to the Kennicott Mine. During the 30 years the mine was operational, it was both the largest and richest copper mine in the world. In fact, the entire investment in developing the mine, building the railroad and the fleet of ships to carry the copper was paid off in the first trainload of ore which left the mine!

    Today, the railroad is gone and there is a gravel road which runs over what's left of the rail bed between Chitina and McCarthy.  

    Your first stop while exploring the area should be Princess' Copper River Wilderness Lodge, which sits on a point overlooking the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers. Look to the south and you can see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline snaking over the hills on its way to the ice-free port of Valdez. Look to the east and you'll see three of the tallest peaks in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park framed in the lodge's floor-to-ceiling windows: Mt. Drum, Mt. Wrangell and Mt. Blackburn. You're making a mistake if you come to the Copper River Valley and you miss going into the park. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the nation's largest national park and there are many ways to explore the area. One of the most popular is an air tour of the mountains, glaciers and river valleys. Kelly and Natalie Bay are the husband-and-wife owners of Wrangell Mountain Air. The couple offers a number of air tours of the park. Naturally, the longer the tour, the more it costs. Don't be surprised, though, if you see mountain goats or bears from the air, along with rock glaciers, remnants of the Kennicott Copper mine and much more. Just up the road from the Princess lodge is the historic community of Copper Center. Local tour guides can give you an Alaskan perspective on the community's strategic location for miners and travelers in the early 1900s. Copper Center was the main supply center for miners in the region. The trail to gold fields in interior Alaska passed through Copper Center from Valdez--and roadhouses were constructed for accommodations, meals and supplies.

    Naturally, the fishing is great along several of the rivers in the area. The Klutina River, which flows right by the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, boasts a great King Salmon run in June and July. And the Copper River has a famous run of red salmon. In fact, some restaurants hire helicopters near Cordova so they can be the first to whisk the "Copper River Reds" from the river to the dinner tables in Seattle, San Francisco and New York. Don't worry, though. There are plenty of red salmon who swim all the way up to the river around Copper Center. Local guides know all the hot spots and they provide rods, reels and everything you'll need to land a lunker. All you need to do is purchase a local fishing license! Even if you're not an avid angler, sign up for a jetboat tour of the Copper River Canyon. Whitewater enthusiasts come from far away to float the canyon or take a jetboat tour. The jetboat option definitely is quicker! Folks who float the river from Chitina to Cordova should budget at least a week!

    If you have not seen the mining town of McCarthy, make plans to take a tour of the town and the adjacent Kennicott mine. When the Kennicott mine was constructed in the early 1900s, it included many modern amenities, such as electric power, telephones, a school with an interior tennis court and a dance hall. These amenities were developed exclusively for mine managers and visiting dignitaries, though. The bulk of the mine's workforce lived high in the mountains at the entrance to the mine shafts. These mountainside camps held hundreds of miners that typically worked for up to a year at a time without any days off. And the town of Kennicott wasn't all dances and parties, either. The 14-story processing mill operated 24 hours a day, crushing and pulverizing the copper ore in a deafening symphony of water blasting the rocks through ever-smaller screens until the ore was loaded into 50-pound bags on the train for shipment to Cordova. Don't miss the chance to take a walking tour of the mill building.

    From the lodge, it's an easy drive to Valdez for sea kayaking or a Columbia Glacier cruise. On the way from the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge to Valdez, you'll drive over Thompson Pass and past a number of beautiful water falls on the way. It's worth stopping at Horse Tail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls for pictures. Valdez local Stan Stephens operates the Columbia Glacier cruise and reminds guests that Valdez sits in the midst of the world's furthest-north rain forest. It's a much different climate than the lodge's at Copper Center. But it's what makes the beautiful water falls--and it also makes for colorful glacial viewing. Stephens will profess--and others will concur--that glaciers are prettier when it's rainy or cloudy. Why? Because the cloudy weather allows the blue inside the glacier to shine through much more dramatically than when it's sunny. So have your camera ready--along with your raincoat!

    Wrangell-St. Elias National Park There are many roads to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. What I mean is there are many reasons which draw travelers to the nation's largest national park. Back in the 1890s, explorers looking for gold happened upon some rich copper veins. The boom that resulted, bankrolled by East Coast industrialists, changed the face of the land forever. The town of Kennicott, in the heart of the park, became the site of the world's richest copper mine in less than five years. When the mining company pulled up stakes in the 1930s, they left behind an "instant" ghost town. Visitors can walk back in time, exploring where the miners lived and worked. Today, travelers come to see the mix of history and adventure in the park. From the lobby of the Copper River Princess, you can see a trio of the huge peaks in the park: Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum and 16,233-foot Mt. Wrangell. It's a spectacular vista from the lodge, overlooking the Klutina River as it runs into the Copper River. Big mountains. Big rivers. Big country.

    The best way to visit the town of McCarthy and the adjoining ghost town of Kennicott is to fly with Wrangell Mountain Air. The husband-wife team, Kelly and Natalie Bay, oversee a fleet of single-engine aircraft that makes two scheduled flights per day between Chitina Airport and McCarthy. Chitina is on the shores of the Copper River at the end of the paved section of the McCarthy Road, also known as the Edgarton Highway. Although the road is state-maintained, your rental car contract specifically excludes the road from its roadside assistance agreement. That means if your car breaks down, you'll be looking at an expensive tow bill! I suppose that's what happens when you build a road on top of an old railroad bed!

    The flight from Chitina to McCarthy is a fabulous ride. After taking off over the Copper River, your pilot probably will leave the road behind and start climbing toward Fourth of July Pass. Along the way you'll likely see some interesting "Rock Glaciers" and perhaps some mountain goats grazing on the mountainsides. But the highlight of the flight comes when your pilot emerges on the far side of the pass. Below you is a sea of ice. Tumbling off of the south face of Mt. Wrangell is a glacial ice fall--tumbling from 11,000 feet to form Kennicott Glacier. Altogether, three glaciers converge in the valley below. Your pilot will talk about how the huge piles of rock are glacial sediment...not copper tailings from the mine. You should be able to make out some tiny red specks on the far side of the valley up on the mountain. As you get closer, you can see they are the remains of the bunkhouses where the miners lived for up to a year at a time. Missing are the miles-long cable which hauled the ore from the mine to the central processing plant in town. But you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the mines once you're on the ground. On the ground in McCarthy, you can choose from several cool activities. Don't miss the museum in town, which documents the development of the Kennicott Mine and has a trove of great photos, maps and plottings from around the area. You'll learn about how the town of Kennicott had electricity, a movie theater, tennis courts and lots of high-end amenities. You'll also learn about the conditions where the miners worked, how much they earned and where they came from to mine the copper.

    Make plans to visit the town of Kennicott, located about five miles from McCarthy. Stop in for lunch at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge. The lodge sits on the site where the mine manager's office used to be, as well as apartments for visiting VIPs. Across from the lodge, the folks at St. Elias Alpine Guides can arrange for a tour of the main processing areas in the mine building. This 14-story structure took the ore at the top of the building. Then, the ore was sent through a variety of crushers and shakers, emerging at the other end in 55-pound bags to be loaded onto rail cars for the journey down the Copper River Valley to Cordova. There, the ore was shipped to refineries in the Seattle area. St. Elias Alpine Guides also can arrange a guided glacier hike. This is great fun and almost anyone can do it! Your guides are safety conscious (EMT trained) and know their way around the country. Don't be surprised if you see a bear on your way up to the glacier! Your guides will go through bear safety tips as well as tips for walking on the glaciers. Everybody gets a pair of crampons to strap on your boots. Then, you hike a little more than a mile up to the face of the glacier. Depending on what you want to do, your guide will show off some of the ice caves, some "moulans" which are super-blue pools of water, some crevasses and other features of the glaciers. Other options include ice-climbing classes and multi-day hikes on the glaciers. If you've had the chance to explore the glacier, seen the mine and flown over the area in a plane, you can hike around the townsite and up into the hills to one of the old mine bunkhouses, including the Bonanza Mine. It's an all-day hike, but the bird's-eye view is spectacular. Don't miss out on a visit to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. You'll discover why this park is one of Alaska's best-kept secrets!

    A Tour of Fairbanks: Fun Facts & New Frontiers Fairbanks, Alaska, located on the Chena River, is a city of exciting booms, extreme weather, and cultural posterity, and is the site of continual bursts of business, innovation, and commerce. This has been Fairbanks's story since 1902, when the sleepy little community transformed into a major supply post and hub of prospecting frenzy when gold was discovered in a northern creek. Today, Fairbanks is still a gold-rich area and center of mining activity. In fact, Fairbanks currently holds some of the most fun and tourist-friendly opportunities for gold panning, tours of mining facilities, and more. A direct product of perhaps the most defining event in Alaskan history - the Gold Rush - Fairbanks continues to fight fiercely to maintain its status as a thriving city, always at the forefront of new expansions and changes. Unique for its frontier spirit and wealth of natural resources, Fairbanks is also the footpath into the Alaskan Heartlands- the primitive, wild Interior of Northern Lights and Midnight Sun. Fairbanks's unique natural phenomena and interesting historical past are just part of the city's unique appeal. Did you know Fairbanks has fewer clouds in Interior Alaska than anywhere else in the state, and has unusually light rain and snow because air mass loses its moisture crossing the Alaska Range to the south? These quirky climate conditions, along with weird natural wonders like Fairbanks's sundogs-bright rainbow colored spots on either side of the winter sun- or the gusts of "Chinooks"- the surprisingly warm winds that blow through winter- make Fairbanks a fascinating city to visit and natural tourist attraction. Today, there are more reasons than ever to book a tour to Fairbanks. In the city as locomotive as the Alaskan Railroad, there are new frontiers of commerce and culture forging ahead even now that make Fairbanks one of the most exciting Alaskan cities to visit. One significant area of advance is transportation. With the ever-increasing popularity of the Alaskan Railroad, Fairbanks, never one to be left out of the action, recently created its very own top-of-the-line train depot, dedicated on May 26,2005. More bus parking and secure transfer areas make a ride on the Alaska Railroad, via Fairbanks, smoother than ever. Touring Alaska by rail continues to be one of the best, most authentic methods of Alaskan travel. But why settle for trains, when you could have planes too? Fairbanks's transportation advances continue with Frontier Flying Services. Fairbanks has recently become a base for Frontier Flying Services, which flies to Nome and Kotzbue for excellent birding opportunities. With flights from Fairbanks to famous birds paradise, Gambell, located on St. Laurence Island, and Nome, birdwatchers can delight in thousands of different bird species by catching a flight from this dynamic city. Besides being a hub for transportation, Fairbanks is an exciting center of culture as well. The Golden Heart City is home to the University of Alaska Museum of the North, which is on the cusp of completing an exciting $32 million expansion, doubling its size to 81,000 square feet. Set to open in fall 2005, this famous Fairbanks landmark will encompass the 10,000 square foot Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery and a Multimedia Auditorium featuring films, informative lectures, and performances by Alaska Native athletes and dancers. If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, rest assured there are plenty of guides available for planning your Fairbanks travel experience. Fairbanks's Golden Heart Academy is a hub of learning for tourists. At this learning center, tourists can immerse themselves in the Academy's seminars on eco-tourism, Alaska's deep cultural history, and the must-see tourist sights of Fairbanks. Emerge feeling like a native and ready to take on the day! In other new Fairbanks news, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race has chosen Fairbanks native Julie Fougeron as the executive director for the Alaska office. Catch a glimpse of this local celeb during your travels to Fairbanks. If you are questioning where to lodge in this great city of exciting innovations and expansions, consider the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge. This convenient lodge is the best of both worlds, featuring all the comfortable amenities of luxury accommodations, blended with authentic Fairbanks frontier flavor. The Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge is ideal for both its luxury and unbeatable location. Nestled just minutes from the Fairbanks International Airport, with direct access to Fairbanks's thriving downtown area and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the lodge is also a stones throw from such popular Fairbanks's tourist attractions, like the El Dorado Gold Mine, the Riverboat Discovery, and Alaskaland. After the exciting whirlwind of touring Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge provides a tranquil haven on the banks of the Chena River. Take advantage of the lodge's premiere amenities, such as a health club, steam bath, and quality dining establishments. If you haven't had your fill of Alaska's Great Outdoors, take a stroll through Fairbanks's Princess Riverside Lodge's perfectly manicured grounds, or recline on the terraced deck and stare out over the water's edge, reflecting on the adventures of your Fairbanks travels. We hope you've enjoyed this guide to traveling in Fairbanks, a city we truly consider one of the fairest of them all! Book your tour today to experience the city's unique adventures, natural beauty, and deep historical culture!  

    Alaska's Wild Kingdom In Alaska, wilderness is king. You never know exactly what wildlife you're going to see, but your chances of catching caribou, horned Dall sheep, moose, and bears in the Alaska Interior is greater than nearly anywhere else in the world. The wonders begin with marine life and every imaginable species of sea birds along miles of dramatic coastline. To get the full picture, however, you must journey inside, far from the coast, to reveal Alaska's true wild heart. A cruisetour- where you combine a cruise with days on land, nights in a luxury lodge, and travel by railcar-is the best way to see and do it all.

    The Best of Both Worlds Cruising is the only way to experience the marine life tucked in the glacier-carved fjords where the roads don't go. It's possible to encounter more than a dozen species of whales, including the dramatic orca, beluga, and humpback whales. You can hardly miss the pinnipeds, the thousands upon thousands of Stellar sea lions, Pacific walrus, and harbor, fur, and elephant seals. Every imaginable species of sea bird flocks here to dine on their share of the aquatic life. Beyond the reach of the cruise ship lie 586,000 square vast and unspoiled miles, where wild creatures outnumber the human population in many places. Alaska supports nearly a million caribou in 30 distinct herds. Black and grizzly bears number close to 50,000-and that's only those people can get close enough to count. To learn more go here.

    Alaska is land worthy of many superlatives. Thanks for taking the time to read up on an interesting collection of some of Alaska's best things to see and do.  They may help satisfy your curiosity and whet your appetite.  

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