Hyder, AK and Stewart, British Columbia – bears and beauty

Now that we are finished with fishing in AK and headed back down to the lower 48, we wanted to do some sightseeing along the way. We picked Hyder, AK and Stewart, BC as a destination for 2 -3 days to see a special place that is built over a salmon spawning ground so you are very close to bears who take advantage of thousands of salmon in a small area. Plus it is NOT on the cruise ship or marine ferry circuit which makes for fewer travelers and a more rustic feel.

View from Stewart

View from Stewart

We chose to come south down the Cassiar through the Yukon Territories and British Columbia because it is a smaller highway that is less traveled and it winds through the Cassiar Mountains. Extremely beautiful and the paved road was in great shape. The drive to these sister cities is 40 miles off the Cassiar Highway and gives you ‘gifts’ all along the way – close up views of Bear Glacier, multiple waterfalls, a wild fast-flowing milky colored river and mountains.

Waterfalls along the way

Waterfalls along the way

Bear Glacier near Stewart

Bear Glacier near Stewart

It is temperate area due to the coastal location however because of its location, the average snow fall is 244″ per year. Record snow fall was 41 inches in one day! It is very remote with the locals having to drive 3 ½ hours to go to a dentist or shopping to the next largest town. Until about 10 years ago when the road was paved, the trip took 12 hours one way.

Moss looks like Mardi Gras beads

Moss looks like Mardi Gras beads

 

We needed a shower (it had been six days) and laundry so we stayed in town at Rainey Campground so we could ride our bikes around the village of Stewart. The campground had big beautiful pines with almost a Mardi Gras look – the moss looks like someone threw green beads on the limbs. We are used to Spanish moss in the trees in coastal Texas and this growth is similar except this close to the coast of Gulf of Alaska it is like a rainforest.

Stewart is a town of about 400 people and Hyder about 100. Both had substantially more people when mining activity was more prevalent in the area. It was interesting to us because in the span of a few miles on the same road we went from Canada to US to Canada to US to Canada again.

Salmon swimming upstream to spawn

Salmon swimming upstream to spawn

The salmon spawning area is in the Tongass National Forest and there is a long elevated walkway so you can watch the females making their beds and the lone male that is waiting for her to lay her eggs to fertilize them. The males are quite aggressive with each other to protect their rights to a particular female.

With salmon in a shallow stream, it makes for easy meals for grizzly and black bears. You stand on the observation deck above the stream and wait for bears to come to feed. Most people come in the morning and then return for the evening because the bears are more likely to be feeding. We were lucky and the first night right before dusk, a dark grizzly female came out of the woods to eat. It was so interesting to watch her choose one of the salmon, take it on shore to carefully eat it, eat some grass, and then go back for another salmon. We were told that they prefer the salmon that are still alive – not the ones who have died after spawning.  We were so close we could hear her crunching on the bones.

Choosing her dinner

Choosing her dinner

 

 

 

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Twenty miles up the mountain on a road they use for access to gold mines (real steep, no guard rail, dusty, rutted) you can drive to Salmon Glacier and stand just above it. It is simply breath taking. Our cameras don’t even begin to convey how massive and beautiful this Glacier is. Like all glaciers in North America, it has receded a great deal in the past 50 years.

Salmon Glacier

Salmon Glacier

Full view of Salmon Glacier

Full view of Salmon Glacier

 

Deep cracks in ice

Deep cracks in ice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schoolbus fresh fish

Schoolbus fresh fish

You have to love the spirt

You have to love the spirit

Doesn't look like it, but it was a long way down

Doesn’t look like it, but it was a long way down

Bear along the road

Bear and cub along the road

 

Before leaving we went to The Schoolbus – successful because of word of mouth from travelers. It is a restaurant in an old school bus on a back road in Hyder. One of those places that you have to be looking to find it. The owners fish for a living and each day have fresh Hailbut and Oyster selections. Sooooo good.

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3 Responses to Hyder, AK and Stewart, British Columbia – bears and beauty

  1. Leo Christl says:

    GC: Did you or were you tempted to drive into Telegraph Creek off the Cassiar Hwy in BC just above Stewart? I am curious as I want to but was unsure of the steepness of the road. Your comments would be appreciated – how steep of grades were you driving on in some places? Telegraph Creek is suppose to have some short 20% grades. cheers Christl

    • gconthemove says:

      Christi – we did not go to Telegraph Creek. 20% grade would be a nail bitter for sure – especially if the road had curves. The steepest grade was 13% and with our 14,000 lbs (truck and camper), we put the truck in manual and shifted that way. Tow Haul setting makes the engine rev too high for us. What type of rig do you have?

  2. Pingback: 2015 Trip to Hyder, Alaska – Meeting fellow Bloggers | Steel Horse Journeys

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