Alaskan Cruisetour Photo Gallery

Day 8 (May 24, 1999) - The Riverboat Discovery III

Riverboat Discovery III
The Riverboat Discovery III

Fish Camp
Demonstration Athabascan fish camp with fish wheel along the banks of the Tanana.

Upon landing in Fairbanks, we were herded on to several busses that promptly took us for a short ride to the dock where we would board the Riverboat Discovery III for a ride down the Chena River to the Tanana River. Our driver for the short trip entertained us with stories of life in Fairbanks, especially during the winter. She is a volunteer firefighter who lives in a cabin outside Fairbanks with no running water. As you can imagine, life for her can get very interesting at 50 degrees below zero (F).

The Riverboat Discovery III (and the older I and II) are run by a family known as the Binkleys. They started the riverboat tours in 1950, and have kept it as an all-in-the-family operation since. Judging by their homes which we passed on the tour, they've obviously done very well for themselves.

Bush Pilot Takeoff
Bush plane takes off from very short runway along the Chena.

Bush Pilot Landing
Same plane on approach to same runway.

This is strictly a tourism operation, and we were not provided with an opportunity to choose to do something else. While the ride was mildly interesting, I would have appreciated a choice of alternative activities, or at least the opportunity to forgo the trip and do some exploring on my own.

Most of what you see on the ride is staged strictly for the tourists. You get to see a bush plane take off and land on a short grass runway; four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher comes out and gives a brief talk (Alaska: Where men are men, and women win the Iditarod); the Binkley family stands on the bank and waves; tame reindeer are herded into a small fenced area; and a visit is made to a reconstructed Athabascan indian village.

Susan Butcher
Four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher, her husband (Dave Monson), and several of her sled dogs.

Dog Sledding
Dave Monson demonstrates dog sledding. The lack of snow does not appear to restrict the pulling power of these dogs.

The other sights on the trip consist primarily of homes, most constructed of logs, along the river. Many are quite nice, but at the same time, you will often see the Alaskan "Sanford and Son" syndrome on full display - many Alaskans do not throw away what they don't need, but instead let the junk pile up in their yards for possible salvage.

The main positive thing I experienced on the trip was an opportunity to try Captain Jim's Smoked Salmon. This salmon is delicious, though it is fairly expensive. The salmon can be ordered from the Discovery's web site (see below).

Approaching the Tanana
Approaching the confluence of the Tanana and Chena Rivers. A mini-dust storm arises from the dusty area on the other side of the Tanana.

The waters of the silty Tanana co-mingle with the clearer waters of the Chena. The Tanana carries great quantities of glacial silt.

A hand-made Athabascan winter parka (complete with modern zipper) is modeled for the tourists at the model Athabascan village.

...of riverboats.

...of the bush plane.

...of Susan Butcher and family.

...of the Athabascan village.

...of riverbank homes.

...of miscellaneous sights and scenes.

Relevant Web Links

NOTE: These links will open a new window in most browsers. To return to this page, just close the new window.


Alaska seek

Copyright © 1999, Pete Hanson