We were the first ones on the bus that would transport us to our morning float trip through Alaska's Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Once the cruise ship passengers arrived from Skagway, the bus would drive us along Haines Highway as our guide filled us in on the area and the history of the river and the preserve until we arrived at the put-in spot. We signed up for the float through Chilkat Guides and they provided the bus transportation, life jackets and rubber boots - and on this unseasonably cold day in Alaska -in August - they would provide other necessities such as gloves and hats. The head guide said he wasn't having hypothermia on his watch!
The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a state park and national wildlife refuge that protects the world's largest concentration of bald eagles. It consists of river bottom land from 3 rivers - the Chilkat, Kleheni and Tsirku. Five species of salmon spawn in these rivers and their carcasses provide large amounts of food for the bald eagles. We were going floating here to see if we could see any eagles - or other wildlife.
After instruction from the guides, we boarded our non-motorized rafts and our guide, Kristen, started rowing us down the river. The raft had two sections for passengers and Kristen sat in the middle with her oars.
We did alot of cool things in Alaska but I think the Eagle float was my favorite (though it's tough to choose between this and kayaking with whales)Even though the day was cold and cloudy, the scenery was phenomenal. There were low lying clouds and mountain views around every curve. And the river itself was so unique - the river is filled with glacial silt and is therefore, a cloudy gray color. If you put your hand under the water, or say, your sunglasses, you couldn't see them. No transparency at all. It almost looked like gray marble - but it was water.
We weren't floating long when we came upon a few bald eagles. Just sitting on a log on the river waiting to feed.(We learned that eagles are scavengers - and a bit lazy. They will eat leftovers and wait for food to come to them rather than hunt) Truly a wow moment. And on the riverbank on the other side was a mama wolf and her cubs. (they were a bit further away and a little harder to see) Really. Floating on a river in Alaska and seeing eagles and wolves - just too much!
There was a very shallow spot in the river and we had to get out of the raft and drag it along to deeper water and get back in. After that, we came upon a native Alaskan village with a salmon smokehouse, houses and some tribal buildings.
Just like that it was time to get out of the raft and our float trip was over. Lunch was waiting on us - a picnic lunch which I remember as delicious - and we talked with some of the other travelers and the guides to share experiences. We hopped back on the bus for our ride back to Haines.
I hesitated to post this experience on the blog as I knew the quality of the photographs was less than stellar. I didn't trust myself to use my camera - even though this was a float, and not whitewater, trip so I took the photos with a waterproof, disposable camera that uses real film. (I have dropped cameras in water before) So these were shot old school style - and are quite grainy though they do give off a moody quality. But the experience far outweighed the photo quality - so I'm going with it!
This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!