Icy Strait Point

IcyPoint

The Hoonah Tlingit have taken a bold approach to cultural tourism that may be a wave of the  future.

Inside Passage cruise ship tourism is a two edged sword.   It brings income to coastal communities and affords visitors an experience both spectacular and affordable.

We thought we’d run into cruise ships frequently.  As it happens, Petersburg and Wrangell take no large cruise ships.   A single large ship a day is allowed in Glacier Bay and they cannot dock or anchor.   Prince Rupert, British Columbia has only one a week, Vancouver of course a few more, but we didn’t go there this year.   In fact, in our whole passage through Canada we encountered underweigh a single  large cruise ship, one of the classic, never-very-large vessels of the Holland America Line.

Cannery

Unfortunately, Ketchikan and Juneau have fallen victim to what the an editorial writer in The Juneau Empire calls “the magic blingdom” on the waterfront.   Mind you, four ships a day can dump 56,000 people a week on towns with populations of  less than 8 and 31 thousand people respectively.    I assume the same is true of Skagway, Haines and Sitka as well, though some towns manage better than others.    In addition to obvious environmental concerns huge,  it’s very sad to see shops operated by the cruise companies themselves or by merchants from the Bahamas, who simply move their operations there every fall.

The attraction for visitors is clear.  Cruise line welcome all members of the family, able bodied or not.     Cruise ships can afford to take on leading scholars, naturalists and historians.   Many if not most cruise ship folks appear to be  foreign visitors to the US, for whom the week on the Inside Passage out of Seattle must be an affordable respite from land based travels.   But so many average foreign tourists traveling in foreign flagged ships probably weakens demand for historical, cultural and eco tourism.

IMG_0798

Enter the Hoonah Tlingit and their locally based approach.  The original people of Glacier Bay, they were forced south across Icy Strait to Chicagof Island when the glaciers advanced in the seventeenth century.   In the early twentieth century many fished for or went to work at the large cannery established at the entrance to their harbor by investors from Port Townsend.     From 1912 to 1953 the Hoonah Packing Company operated as a full fledged cannery.  After that, it turned to other types of fish processing and eventually served as a maintenance base for the purse seine fishing fleet until 1999.

In 2001, the Hoonah Native corporation, which had purchased the site, implemented the new concept of a private, purpose built cruise ship destination known as Icy Strait Point.   The wonderful old buildings of the cannery were renovated to accommodate a museum, restaurants, and thirteen, small Native-owned shops, including a bookstore.  The tribe constructed a new Big House for cultural presentations for themselves and to share.  Beyond the water front there’s a boardwalk with benches, totempoles and a daytime campfire.  Beyond are hiking trails and a ride down Mt. Hoonah on the country’s fastest longest zip line.    And visitors can walk the 3/4 mile to town or hire local guides for fishing, bear tracking, whale watching and the like.

IMG_0783There are no plans for a cruise ship dock at Hoonah; rather ships anchor out and tender passengers in.   Only one ship is allowed at a time for an average of 3.5  visits per week in the summer.

A really nice touch is that Icy Strait Point is open free of change to all local Hoonah people and to visiting fishermen and cruisers in Hoonah Harbor.   We spent a fine sunny afternoon there, a welcome break from oil and anti-freeze.    While the experience is was more packaged than our visit to the North Pacific Cannery with the well trained teenagers of Port Edwards, British Columbia, Ice Strait Point really does have something for everybody.

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2 Responses to “Icy Strait Point”


  1. 1 KAREN February 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I ENJOYED THE AFTERNOON I SPENT AT ICY STRAIT. THERE WAS A HEAT WAVE THAT DAY-85. WE SAT ON THE PIER AND ATE CRAB. I HAD WANTED TO VISIT THE FISH HOUSE BUT I WASNT SURE WHERE IT WAS AND NO ONE SEEMED TO KNOW???? ONE OF MY FAVORITE TIMES WAS WALKING ALONG THE BEACH, LOOKING FOR INTERESTING STONES. I LIKE THE NATURE AND NATIVE SIDE OF TRAVEL.
    I AM LOOKING FOR A WAY TO CONTACT ONE OF THE STORES LOCATED IN THE CANNERY. IT IS RUN BY THE SCHOOLS AND I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO PURCHASE SOME ITEMS THEY SELL. IF ANYONE CAN HELP ME PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
    KAREN


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