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Hoonah and Icy Strait Point, Alaska


In July 2022, I took an Alaska cruise around the Inside Passage and to a few port stops in the southeast Alaska panhandle. Among the stops the cruise ship made was to Hoonah, a small city located on Chichagof Island along Icy Strait. Hoonah was originally settled by the Huna Tlingit people in 1754 after re-settling from Glacier Bay due to advancing glaciers there. The new settlement was referred to as Gaawt'akaan, or "village by the cliff". Later the name was changed to Xunaa (Hoonah), which means "where the north wind doesn’t blow" in the Tlingit language.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Hoonah became home to salmon and crab canneries, along with a fish processing plant, capitalizing on the abundance of seafood in the nearby waters. The food canned in Hoonah was sold throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The canneries were in business for several decades, but some of the canneries sat shuttered for decades until a local Alaska Native corporation named Huna Totem Corporation purchased and rehabilitated the facility to create a private cruise port called Icy Strait Point, which opened to the public in 2004. Icy Strait Point is the only privately owned cruise ship terminal in the United States, which works for bringing in visitors who otherwise may have never given Hoonah much of a thought to visit.

Hoonah is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest national forest in the United States and takes up much of the land in the southeastern Alaska archipelago. While activities such as ziplining or whale watching are popular in Hoonah, I took in the opportunity for a leisurely walk around town, learning about its history, admiring the totem poles created by local craftsman, and taking in the scenic views.

Icy Strait Point has plenty of artifacts from Hoonah's history as a center for fishing and seafood, including this boat.

Hoonah also has a number of totem poles around town. Totem poles are read from top to bottom, symbolizing legends and stories, often featuring people or animals.

A view across Port Frederick to another part of Chichagof Island. Port Frederick is the name of the inlet that goes inland from Icy Strait past Hoonah.

Another totem pole at Icy Strait Point.

Piers and scenery.

While Icy Strait Point has its share of gift shops, there is also a canning museum. The canning museum features a number of displays, old photographs, product artwork and canning equipment that was used.

Some of the machinery used in canning. There are also informational placards that describe the canning process.

String enough tin cans together and create a party line telephone.

Now it's time to take a walk from Icy Strait Point to the main center of Hoonah along Cannery Road (which becomes Front Street as you get closer to town). It's about 1.5-2 miles and you can either walk or take a trolley between the two points.

If you noticed the cliff and gap in the hill from the earlier photo, there was an area of the cliff that was blasted away. At first, there was a tunnel, initially for pedestrians and later widened to allow vehicles to pass through. While there is no longer a tunnel, local residents still call this area "The Tunnel"

This is a roads blog, so road signs have to be featured at some point.

Looking down Front Street towards the Hoonah Ferry Terminal. Although I guess you can take a stand up paddleboard if you're feeling adventurous.

Southeast Alaska has plenty of seaplanes and is a common method of transportation. Of course there would be seaplane signs.

The Hoonah Veterans Memorial Sea Walk is the walking path that you can take between Icy Strait Point and downtown Hoonah.

The main building of Icy Strait Point with a cruise ship peeking in the distance.

A view of Port Frederick from The Tunnel.

View of Port Frederick from the Hoonah Ferry Terminal.

Dry docked boats.

Hoonah Trading Company and a covered pier.

Venturing into town, I started to see a bunch of totem poles. This totem pole is a bit different that most totem poles I've come across, telling the story of veterans and military service.

Totems are everywhere in Hoonah.

Totem pole at the side of a building.

You can even watch someone demonstrate how to carve a totem pole in Hoonah. It's an interesting process and I watched for a few minutes.

I even found a totem pole in the middle of a stream.

Maybe someone is getting ready to carve a totem pole or a boat with this log.

The L. Kane Store, established in 1893.

Hoonah's harbor. The conditions for salmon fishing in Hoonah were challenging, yet profitable.

A group of seine boats from Hoonah became known as the "Million Dollar Fleet". By the 1960s, there were at least 400 fishing boats that regularly fished in the area.

But I also enjoy seeing the boats in the harbor with the background of the mountains in the distance.

Back at Icy Strait Point, I was able to see some boats that were used in a bygone era.

I took a walk down the beach at Icy Strait Point, taking in the scenery and the cool conditions on this July day.

Port Frederick and the mountains in the distance. 

Looking back towards Cannery Road and the Hoonah Veterans Memorial Sea Walk.

A man and his boat

The pier at Icy Strait Point.

The clouds are slowly lifting over Port Frederick, showing some majestic mountains in the background.

The Orca Dream Sculpture.

A charter boat of sorts, perhaps wrapping up the day.

Enjoying the beach at Icy Strait Point with others.

I decided to check out some of the outside displays at the canning museum.

Outside of the Hoonah Packing Company, which now houses the canning museum and gift shops.

Maybe that charter boat has other places to visit instead.

And I have other places to visit as well. One last look at the Orca Dream Sculpture and Port Frederick before I head back to my cruise ship to say goodbye to Hoonah and go on to my next Alaskan destination.

How to Get There:

Sources and Links:
Hoonah - Hoonah History
Travel Alaska - Hoonah & Icy Strait Point


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