3 1/2 hour narrated tour on a stern-wheeler along the Chena and Tenana Rivers. The cruise ship is run by the Binkley family who have been running cruises for 4 generations. "The cruise provides a glimpse of the lifestyle of the dog mushers, subsistence fishermen, traders, and native Alaskans who populate the Yukon River drainage. Sights along the way include operating fish wheels, a bush airfield, floatplanes, a smokehouse and cache, log cabins, and dog kennels once tended to by the late Iditarod champion Susan Butcher." (Fodors Alaska, 2010)
I was unsure about taking this tour based solely on the price, but my kids begged me to go on it after seeing a photo of the boat in the Milepost. I used the Alaska TourSaver book to save the cost of one of their tickets.
The trip was very informative for both the kids and adults. We live in Alaska and know quite a bit about the state, but we learned lots of interesting things about native life from the visit to the replica Athabascan village. The kids enjoyed the float plane takeoff and landing (right alonside the boat in the river!) and the sled dog kennel demo.
The free doughnuts and salmos spread were a hit with my kids, but bring your own snack as the ride is long. Also bring bug spray- the mosquitoes were fierce.
A tip: sit on the left side of the boat, as that is where both of these things happen! We did not know that and had to scramble around a TON of cruise ship passengers who were there that day to see the action. There are TV monitors on board that show live shots of the sights.
If I could give this riverboat cruise more stars, I would. It was definitely a highlight of all the tours or attractions that we visited while in the Fairbanks area.
We boarded the huge 4 story riverboat on a cloudy noon day in Fairbanks and enjoyed sitting inside the cabin while our guide welcomed us to a great afternoon of cruising the Chena and Tenana Rivers. He was on a microphone and there was a live video feed on each level of the boat so that all could hear and see clearly. As we cruised, we got to witness and experience many things that were native Alaskan or unique to Alaska. Some of these included: watching a float plane take off and land right next to our boat on the Chena River; seeing the sled dog kennels of the Iditarod champion, Susan Butcher; watching these sled dogs pull a 4 wheeler with excitement; viewing a traditional fish camp and watching a guide prepare salmon for drying; visiting a traditional Athabascan Indian camp and learning about furs, hunting, clothing, and fishing; seeing reindeer come to the water's edge and feast on plants there; observing the many homes and buildings along the edge of the Chena River. Even as I list them, I am amazed at all the things we got to see and do.
My 7 year old's favorite thing was seeing the sled dogs in action from the deck of the boat and then getting to meet the dogs and pet them later on at the Indian Village. I enjoyed taking my boys upstairs on the boat while we were chugging back up the river to watch the paddlewheel churn up the water as the sun reflected off of the water. We laughed at everyone who stood on the shore and waved at us, but it felt so fun to wave back and smile.
Some good things to keep in mind if you want to take this cruise are:
*Call ahead for reservations. Spaces fill up with tour groups.
*Seating is first come, first served but every seat has a great view. The lower and 2nd decks are indoors so there is no need to worry about children going overboard. We explored the upper decks and found all the guard rails well protected to keep little ones safe.
*Dress in layers. The weather in Alaska changes often and it's good to be prepared for chilly skies.
*Water and coffee is always available but it costs money to purchase more food. We were glad we brought snacks on board to keep our kids happy for the long voyage. A small salmon dip and cracker snack is offered near the end of the cruise.
*Half way through the cruise, all the guests are ushered off the boat into groups to visit the Indian village. There is quite a bit of walking from one small amphitheater to another on gravel trails. We did not take a stroller because our youngest (20 months) is able to walk well, or we carried her. I don't know if strollers are allowed on board but it's good to know that an umbrella stroller would probably not be able to tackle the gravel paths.
We fully enjoyed this cruise and tour and would love to go again if we ever visit the Fairbanks area.