Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fairbanks, Alaska: Riverboat Discovery

Ah, the riverboat. It's a wonderful throwback to those days on the Mississippi River, when visitors traveled in luxury.

Except, this is still the Alaska section of this blog. The river is the Chena, and Mark Twain never wrote a book about it.

This is one of Fairbanks' most popular attractions, a three-hour tour of the area. (No Gilligan's Island jokes, please.) What's different about this business is that the owners work hard to make more than just a ride up and down the relatively small river; the novelty of such attractions wear off rather quickly in my case.

There are stops along the way. A floatplane pilots does a sample takeoff and landing to entertain the visitors; it's actually fun to watch. Then it's on to a demonstration by a dogsled team on shore. The group is owned by Dave Monson, the husband of the late Susan Butcher, an Iditerod champion.

Finally, there's a stop at a replica of a Native village. There are demonstrations of life and how the Athabascans  survived the harsh climate for thousands of years, and the dogs from down the river turn up to be petted by the tourists.

At the end of the ride, "Steamboat Landing" lures visitors into the gift shop. There's a "40 Below" room so they can see what a winter day in Fairbanks is like. Its popularity is, um, surprising. Those on tour are moved into a large room for a lunch of beef stew and vegetables. When we were there, four-time Iditerod winner Lance Mackey turned up to answer some questions, and then headed to a booth to pose for pictures for a small fee. Remember, those dogs on the sled need to eat too.

Here's the video version; the announcer is the same I believe:


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