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Travel to Discovery Stern Wheeler – Fairbanks, AK

By Guest Author Peggy Bradshaw; Photos by George Bradshaw

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Fairbanks, Alaska is the Discovery Sternwheeler boat, docked on the Chena River not far from downtown. It is owned by the Binkley family, who have been in the riverboat business since the days of the Klondike gold rush. It has been a tourist attraction since 1950 and has been continuously captained by members of the Binkley family.

Take a ride on the Discovery Sternwheeler

Take a ride on the Discovery Sternwheeler

Discovery now makes at least two trips a day, sometimes three, down the Chena to the Tanana River, past shore demonstrations which include Susan Butcher’s famed Iditarod dog kennels, landing and take off by a bush pilot and a fish cutting and smoking demonstration by natives in the area. It is a three and a half hour cruise, ending in an hour walking tour of a mock Athabasca village.

The village has demonstrations of native art, sewing of furs, and a hands-on lecture with the sled dogs. Native housing has been built on the site and are replicas of the original dwellings and show both winter and summer means of living, styles of clothing and cooking and storage of foods. The fish cutting and preservation is still done the way it was a hundred or more years ago. The salmon that is caught in traps on the Tanana River are used to feed both people and the dogs. The dogs are well taken care of because they are vital to winter travel in Alaska.

The houses that are on the banks of the Chena River illustrate all kinds of architecture, both old and new. Many are expensive homes built by residents of Fairbanks and are situated along side the older homes of the old-timers who have been there forever. All are fortified for the winter months and have boats docked at wharves, and many have small float planes tied up along side the boats. A large percentage of Alaskans own airplanes because they are the only way to get into the outlying areas of the state.

The sternwheeler now mainly carries tourists brought in by the bus load and there is the usual gift shop on board and at the dock, but the trip is not boring. It is a slice of Alaska history that still lives on.

Come back tomorrow for a visit to Portland, Oregon brewpubs.

Check out our “Shop”  with some great views you can keep! 

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One Response to “Travel to Discovery Stern Wheeler – Fairbanks, AK”

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