Haines Native Culture Experience
Discover the captivating history of the Tlingit People, visit the “Eternal Village” of Klukwan and experience its rich cultural treasures. Guests travel through the Bald Eagle Preserve and learn about the town of Haines and the Chilkat Valley along the way.
- Experience Traditional Tlingit song & drumming
- On our way to Klukwan, we drive through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
- State of the art Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center
- The Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center on the shore of the Chilkat River
Your tour begins as you board a high-speed catamaran for a scenic 45-minute cruise to Haines down North America’s longest and deepest fjord. Along the way, you’ll witness spectacular views of waterfalls and ice-sculpted peaks as your guide helps you search for marine wildlife. Upon arrival in Haines, you’ll meet your guide and board our bus. Prior to heading up the scenic Haines byway on our 22 mile drive up the Chilkat Valley to the native village of Klukwan, we’ll explore historic Fort Seward by bus. Fort Seward is one of the first US military bases in Alaska and its picturesque parade grounds and historic buildings offer a unique insight to life in Haines during the early 1900’s.
After a 40 minute scenic drive through the Chilkat Valley and Bald Eagle Preserve, we’ll come to Klukwan, “Eternal Village” of the Chilkat people. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve hosts some of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the world, and the drive along the ‘scenic byway’ to Klukwan is a photographer’s dream. Located at the confluence of three rivers, the village of Klukwan has a rich culture and history. For hundreds of years the Chilkat Tlingit have lived off the bounty of this special place and their close connection to the land will be further revealed throughout our visit. Guests will gain intimate exposure to the traditional lifestyle of the Chilkat people as their host walks them through the Traditional Knowledge Camp. This guided walk includes a visit to the traditional Adze Shed where their 37 foot dug-out “Heen Yakgaheiyagoo Yaakw” (Water Spirit Canoe) is stored and a short visit to the traditional smokehouse. Our visit to the Camp culminates in the Tlingit plank style, clan house, “Kaaya Haayi Hit,” with storytelling and interpretation of its totemic artworks. Presenters will share traditional songs and drumming that highlight their cultural heritage.
Our next stop is the, newly opened, state of the art, museum-quality center. The Heritage Center provides access to art treasures that have previously not been available to the public. The Whale House collection, uniquely displayed in its place of origin, allows entrance to the Chilkat’s distinctive ethnic landscape. As guests tour this world class facility, and hear the stories of these people, they will gain appreciation for both the depth and complexity of Tlingit society. Indeed, there is much to see and enjoy in this place, but, visitors often say “one of the best things about Klukwan is the people.” The Heritage Center is situated in a stunningly beautiful location that offers incredible views. From this serene setting your guide will set up spotting scopes to watch for mountain goats on the peaks behind Klukwan, or for eagles feeding on salmon along the river’s edge. Before departing Klukwan for our return journey back towards Haines, we will enjoy a picnic lunch while overlooking the glacially fed waters of the Chilkat River. There will also be time to visit the gift shop, where local native arts and crafts can be purchased.
Once our visit to Klukwan is wrapped up we’ll board our bus for another beautiful drive through the Chilkat Valley and Bald Eagle Preserve back to Haines. Upon our arrival in Haines, we will board the ferry for our return trip to Skagway. The return ferry trip will provide guests the opportunity to relax, enjoy the ride, and reminisce on this uniquely Alaskan experience.
(~ 60 minutes) - Upon arrival in Haines, restrooms will be available and you’ll meet your guide and driver for a breathtaking interpretive drive by the historic Fort Seward and up the Haines Scenic Byway through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to the native village of Klukwan.
(~70 minutes) - Upon arriving at Klukwan you will meet your local guides who will lead you through the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center to view the Whale House Collection and other exhibits. Your guide will educate you about the native Tlingit culture through storytelling and interpretation of the native artifacts.
(~40 minutes) - When our time at the Heritage Center wraps up, your guide will walk you through the Traditional Knowledge Camp. Here you’ll see the traditional adze carving shed, a salmon drying smokehouse. Your visit to the Traditional Knowledge Camp culminates at the hand-crafted plank-style clan house for traditional storytelling and drumming.
(~35 minutes) - After your time in the clan house we will head up to hospitality house overlooking the Chilkat River for a picnic style lunch and some free time to use the spotting scopes and visit the native craft gift shop.
(~110 minutes) - Your excursion comes to and end with a leisurely ride back through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to the small town of Haines and your return trip by ferry to Skagway.
Your guide will meet you 15 minutes prior to the tour start time to make sure all necessary paperwork is completed. If you are arriving by cruise ship, your guide will meet you at the end of the pier that your ship docks at. Otherwise the meeting location is the Small Boat Harbor sign. CLICK HERE to see a map detailing these locations in Skagway. Your guide will be holding a sign that says "Skagway and Haines Excursions".
Who are my guides?
One of our professional naturalist guides will host the tour and narrate the drive from the port in Haines to the village of Klukwan. Once in Klukwan, local villagers with expert personal knowledge of their native culture will share their history and traditions with you.
Is there a bathroom?
Yes – restrooms are available on the dock prior to departing for your tour, on the ferry during your travel to Haines and on-site at Klukwan.
Do you cancel due to weather?
Our tours embrace Southeast Alaska’s unpredictable weather. Our tours run rain or shine. If in a rare instance weather does cause us to cancel the tour you will be refunded in full and provided with assistance with finding an alternative activity for the day.
What if I have a food allergy?
Just let us know when you are making your reservation. We have alternative lunch options to accommodate most dietary restrictions with advanced notice at no additional charge
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*Price is per adult in USD, taxes not included.