. Tourist river trips on the Chena River began in 1950 and now three vessels with stern-wheels arepart of the line - "Discovery I", "Discovery II" and "Discovery III". The Binkley family has worked on these lines for many decades.
This family business dates back to the late 19th century and has continued for 5 generations. In 1898 Captain Charles Binkley, like many other adventurers, went to the Yukon in search of gold. He didn't succeed and so he had to get a job on a ship plying along the Yukon and its tributaries. Over time, he became a respected captain of the Yukon and later the shipbuilder and owner. His son followed in his father's footsteps and became a captain of one of the paddle steamers that worked on the lower Yukon and Tanana in the 1940s, on one of the transport lines about 1864 miles (3,000 km) long on both sides. During the 120-day navigation, the ship carried an average of 10 voyages. It was a great job but in the 1950s river transport lines on the Yukon went into decline. Captain Jim Binkley and his wife decided to organize tourist river tours in
. In 1950 they bought an old 25-seat paddle steamer, had the boat repaired and organized the first tourist routes. In 1955 they built a new ship with a stern-wheel that carried 150 tourists, naming her "Discovery I". Captain Jim Binkley and his wife, Mary, greatly honored the traditions of the indigenous people of Alaska and wanted the largest possible number of tourists to become acquainted with the land and the culture. The family business turned out to be successful and in 1971 the second ship came on the waters of the Chena River - "Discovery II" - one of the steamers that plied through the Yukon River Basin in the 50s, later converted to a pleasure boat. In 1987 the newest ship of the Binkley flotilla - "Discovery III" - was specially built in Seattle, delivered to the Yukon across the sea and then traveled up the river system of the Tanana and Chena rivers.
But before we move directly to the story of our walk, I'll show you the plans of "Discovery II" and "Discovery III" (currently diesel-powered), equipped with stern-wheels.
Here is "Discovery II":
And "Discovery III":
Today, 2 hour river voyages through the Chena on the stern-wheelers "Discovery I", "Discovery II" and "Discovery III" are one of the main attractions in
. It's time for us to take our trip - at 2 pm, two ships set sail from the quay at the same time - "Discovery II" and "Discovery III". The three-deck "Discovery II" is fully loaded with tourists from the "Princess"; we will have a mini-cruise on her.
We were first to set sail, then "Discovery III" followed.
On the banks of the Chena River you'll see a lot of interesting things. For example, many locals have their own planes. They are parked in a standard garage and take off either from the garden (short take-off strip of the lawn is enough for them) or from the water.
Here one of these planes is landing on the water.
And then, making a turn, it goes full throttle once again and takes off from the water to the delight of tourists onboard the steamer, slowly walking along the river.
Stern-wheeler "Discovery I" is moored at the shore of one of these private houses. It's the third ship of the local fleet - today she has a day off. Living on the banks of the Chena is very steady and calm.
We are slowly splashing through water.
There are long distances and many rivers in Alaska, so a jeep, motor boat and plane are the basic modes of transportation for many locals, not a luxury. And such a view can be seen almost everywhere along the river.
On the shore you can see the remains of the old fleet of Tanana and Chena. It dates back to the middle and first half of the 20th century, when many brave and enthusiastic people climbed up the Yukon to these remote, wild lands...
Now it's difficult to call these places wild:
Meanwhile, our boat slows down and makes a short stop. On the left bank of the river there is a well-known kennel, whose animals are among the best sled dogs in Alaska and has repeatedly won several different competitions. The owner of the kennel comes to the shore to welcomes the tourists:
And now let the dogs show their zeal! This is how sled dogs, who have stood around too long, show how eager they are and how fast they can run.
I must say, their speed is quite impressive. Before I managed to say Jack Robinson, a pack disappeared, dragging their master in a carriage. In less than a minute, making a big circle on the improvised canine "hippodrome", they returned to the shore.
There is nothing better than to swim and take a drink after a race.
And the owner of the kennel wishes the tourists a good trip and to get a lot of impressions. We continue to move down the Chena - on the shore you can see one more stern-wheeler:
Meanwhile, "Discovery III" appeared from the crook. Now her tourists will also be shown the dog races:
Fairbanks residents like to relax on the river - there are a lot of canoeists, fishermen, water skiers and other water sport lovers on the Chena:
Meanwhile, our ship slows down as it approaches the part where the Chena gives its waters to the swift Tanana. Tanana's course is so powerful that the river creates a gulf pf rushing water in the lower part of the Chena: waters don't manage to flow into the main river and become stagnate.
Our boat leaves the Chena in Tanana and makes a turnover - Tanana is very powerful river, carrying its muddy waters from the slopes of the mountain ranges. Tanana is the largest tributary of the Yukon. Transparent waters of the Chena contrast sharply with the muddy yellow stream of Tanana and quickly get lost in it.
After the narrow Chena the steamer goes to the operations space.