Travelling in and around Hyder, Alaska (where the bears are...)

These pictures were taken on a trip to Hyder, Alaska, as well in and around in and around Hyder itself. We were going there to photograph bears, and they are the subject of a separate album devoted entirely to them. (Bears Album) The other pictures I took on this trip are collected into this albu.

Hyder is a very small place, almost (but not quite) a ghost town, just over the border from Stewart, British Columbia. In fact, unless you want to rent a seaplane to take you there, the only way to get to Hyder is by land via Stewart.


5816 The interesting part of the journey starts in the town of Smithers (British Columbia). This town of around 5000 inhabitants is located approximately halfway between the two larger towns Prince George and Prince Rupert - about 350 km - or figure on 5-6 hours drive. The start of the main street is graced with a statue of a man blowing a Flugelhorn - this is because the town adopted an alpine theme when it incorprated as a village in 1967, a recognition of the geography of the surrounding area.


6286 After a night's rest in Smithers, we set out for Hyder - heading North for another day's comfortable drive, stopping to photograph along the way.


5828 We stopped in the middle of nowhere for a brief rest and were surprised by a Coyote who came to examine us from a safe distance. I got to practice a bit with my tele-lens.


5830 After some hours of driving we come to a fork in the road - a welcome diversion from the straight ribbon of asphalt. The decision is either to contine North to Alaska or hang a left and head west towards the coast. At this point, Alaska has a long thin finger stretching south along the coast, and that is where we are headed.

This building is dead ahead at the cross-roads. It is a single building, miles (and miles) from anywhere, but it serves a useful warning to the driver to wake up and pay attention to where the road is going. The sign on the left tells us that Stewart is 45 miles away, the sign above tells us that Hyder is 40 miles away. But Hyder is beyond Stewart, so it would appear that one of the sign painters must have had it wrong. As it turned out, even the 45 miles to Stewart is optimistic... figure on at least an hour...

The building would appear to have at least one inhabitant who can be seen napping on the porch.


5858 On the way to Stewart, the Alpine and mountainous nature of the terrain becomes even more pronounced. Here a glacier terminates in a small lake at the edge of the road. The bluish tinges of the ice and the water in the lake comes from the suspension of microscopic particles of rock that have been ground up by the movement of the glacier.


6158 So far we have been driving through Canada (British Columbia) but here we reach the border. The asphalt road ends and deteriorates into a dirt surface. A flag and a historic stone structure (placed here by the first American surveyor on the scene) mark the border. This is the only way in and out of this territory, nevertheless there is an American border/customs agent who will check your papers and ask if you are importing anything illegal.


0528 On exiting the other side of Hyder, the road follows the creek where we will be looking for bears. Just beyond the creek banks is a small flood plain where it can be fun to sit on the rocks and wait for wildlife to happen - mainly birds in this particular spot.

Because I used a telelens most of the time, a tripod was necessary. The camera is then mounted on the head with a pistol grip so that I could move the camera quickly (to follow moving animals) and then have it held motionless by just relaxing my grip.


5880 A bear will occasionaly catch a salmon and eat just "the good bits" - leaving the rest of the carcass on the bank for the sea-gulls to enjoy.


5963 Various fish-eating birds (is this a heron?) inhabit the quiet pools off the main flow of the creek.


5972 Both in this and the following image you can see how the water in the pool has a distinctive milky-blue color. This means that the water feeding the pool comes from a melting glacier.


6024 Preparing for take-off.


6155 The town of Stewart (over ther border in British Columbia) is a big enough community to support a couple of motels and a restaurant or two. This (The Bitter Creek Cafe) is probably the classiest dining joint in town - serves an excellent hearty breakfast and there is a reaonable choice of good straight-forward food on the dinner menu.


6161 The mail arrives in Hyder by seaplane once a week. There is a floating dock on the fjord past the town dump, and a four-wheel drive pick-up truck is sent down to the dock to collect the incoming mail and hand-off the outgoing mail. There is room in the De havilland Beaver for two fare-paying passengers if anybody needs a ride to or from Ketchikan.


6253 Hyder itself is pretty much a ghost town except for during the summer when tourists will come and the town can support a small population of people who make their living in the tourist business. There is a bar and a small motel, a general store and a camp-ground RV-park. And a collection of derelict buildings... This was once the grocery store.


6254 Some of the buildings are inhabited by "locals" - the process of natural selection tends to encourage residence by eccentrics.


6259 The town apparently once had a second bar. They even built a fake facade for a second storey, but even that wasn't enough to keep the customers coming.


6260 Another outfit trying to survive on the tourist trade, but we never found them open for business.


6182 The road beyond Hyder generally follows the creek, anywhere from a few yards to 1/4 of a mile away - and the creek is what attracts all the wildlife, both bears and birds. These two eagles were feasting on the remains of salmon to be found all along the banks and shallows of the creek.


6316 Here a juvenile eagle is enjoying a snack of some left-over salmon.


6344 This is the same bird taking off moments later.


6355 This is a small lagoon that forms a backwater off the main creek. Again, note the distinctive milky-blue quality of the water.

We could spend hours just watching the activity in this lagoon. There were no salmon in the lagoon, so instead of a feeding ground, it appeared to function as a play area for cubs, and a collecting point for all manner of bird-life. The bears seemed to like balancing their way along the fallen tree-trunk in the distance, until they fell off into the water. The tree stump on the left seemed a natural vantage point for birds to perch a while.


6524 Another eagle, resting after a feast of salmon on the river's edge.


The album with pictures of the bears in this creek can be found here.