Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hyder AK

Biking across the border into Hyder, Alaska
1896 Storehouse at Hyder
It was pouring buckets today but that didn’t stop us from visiting Hyder, Alaska located just two miles from Stewart, B.C.  We donned our rain jackets, pants, and boots and peddled our bikes across the border to the intriguing little town of Hyder.  The rain, mist, and puddles added full measure to the banner overhead – “Welcome to Hyder, Alaska.”  Just inside the border we noticed a small stone structure and stopped to investigate.  It turned out to be a “storehouse” built in 1896 by Captain Gaillard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  He was ordered to investigate Portland Canal and build four storehouses along the west bank – Storehouse no. 1 and 2 on Pearse Island; Storehouse no. 3 in Halibut Bay (ruins remain); and Storehouse no. 4 at Hyder, still seen today.  Storehouses 1 and 2 are now on Canadian soil as a result of the 1903 Boundary Tribunal decision when the Alaska-Canada border was re-established north of Pearce and Wales Islands.  The storehouse in Hyder is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.  
A shop for the tourists, Hyder
Hyder was settled by many of the same miners and prospectors that came through Stewart. 
Archival Photo, Hyder
The early pioneers called the Hyder/Stewart settlement Portland City, but when locals made application in 1914 for a postal permit, it was denied on the basis that too many U.S. communities were named “Portland.”  The new name of Hyder was chosen in honor of Frederick Hyder, a respected Canadian mining engineer.  The town’s boom years ended in 1928 when the mines entered a long decline; around the same time a fire swept through the town’s business district. 
The old Trading Post, Hyder
Today Hyder has a population of 94 people who are proud of their mining roots and call their little town in the outback the “Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska.”  Hyder has several old historic buildings still intact, plus two old-fashioned general stores, and two Gold Rush-era saloons which help to preserve the town’s unique character.  It is interesting to note that Hyder is the only town in Alaska that has no city police, everyone helps keep a watch on the affairs of the community. 
A house or shop from Yester-Year
Hyder is also the only town in Alaska that uses British Columbia’s 250 area code instead of Alaska’s 907 code because Hyder obtains all its electricity and telephone service from the Canadian side of the border.  Our fold-up bicycles came in handy once again for a four-mile trip north of Hyder where a U.S. Forest Service viewing platform is positioned along Salmon Creek.  Visitors can watch salmon spawn from July to September and some visitors are lucky enough to see bear snatching their share of fish from the stream.  
Boardwalk Viewing Platform along Salmon Creek
The salmon run provides an extensive food supply for bears, wolves, eagles, and other birds and animals.  We saw plenty of fish but the bears must have stayed home for an afternoon nap out of the rain.  We watched the fish wiggle through the stream, digging out sand and gravel to lay their eggs.  After spawning, the adult salmon will die, returning their nutrients to the creek ecosystem and a new generation will continue the cycle.  Most Chum salmon spawn in small streams and intertidal zones where they build nests, called a “redd” which are simply depressions in the gravel.  
Spawning Salmon
The female lay eggs in the “redd” and the male sprays milt on the eggs, after which the female covers the eggs with gravel.  After emerging from the gravel as tiny fry, chum and pink salmon quickly migrate to the ocean, while Coho salmon spend up to two years as juveniles in the stream before migrating out to sea.  The rain continued to pour down and never let up; we endured the four-mile bike ride back to Hyder and pulled up to the check point with passports in-hand.  We must have been a strange sight waiting on our bicycles to cross the border into Canada.  Another two miles and we were back at the boat ready to dry off and warm up with a hot cup of tea.

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