Experience Fairbanks at its Best
Almost like a fairy tale, the story of Fairbanks is one that is deeply entwined with steam powered paddle wheelers. Were it not for that fateful day in 1901 when Captain xxxxx desperate to refloat his grounded steamboat threw E.T. Barnette and all of his goods onto the south bank of the Chena River the City of Fairbanks would have never been born. And from then on, all the way through World War Two and beyond steamships were Fairbanks life line bringing in a steady stream of dry goods, heavy equipment, and fresh immigrants.
Historic photo of S.S. Tanana
And then on one crisp autumn day in 1953 it was all over, when the last great Alaskan river streamer the SS Tanana pulled up its anchor for the last time and was unceremoniously dry docked. But like in every fairy tale, this one too has a happy ending. Unable to imagine life in Fairbanks and along the Chena River without hearing the sound of a brass steam whistle or watch a paddle wheeler churn its way up and down stream, Skip Binkley refused to let this Fairbanksan tradition die.
A third generation riverboat pilot himself, Skip Binkley began offering tour boat rides taking 15 passengers out a day, on board a small barge that later becamethe Riverboat Discovery I. At the time it was felt that while Skip was preforming a noble duty, operating a riverboat tour in Fairbanks was not financially viable. My my my how times have changed, today Discovery III carries up to 700 passengers at a time, and the Riverboat Discover is by far Fairbanks most popular attraction.
If your thinking of simply dropping by for a ride I might caution you that reservations are advised at this site. The day that I dropped by (which I might add was not real buzy)there must have been at least sixty tour busses parked in front and while I stood taking pitcure more were arriving at the rate of two-three per minute.
Tours depart daily at 8:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Steamboat Landing, off Dale Road. When demand calls for it, the family runs an evening cruise at 6:30 p.m. Discovery's tour season runs from May 15th through September 15th.
More than a gift shop the Riverboat Discovery's Steamboat Landing is a full service mall inside which they offer a tour service desk, gift shops, boutiques, eateries, and places for photo ops.
The ship, Steamboat Landing as well as the entire grounds are well maintained. Everywhere you look someone always seems to be upkeeping and cleaning something.
The biggest attraction and by far in Fairbanks, the Riverboat Discovery is a must see. Discovery three has three deck offering plenty of open air as well as indoor seating. The indoor seating area's has this really great feature of wide screen televisions so that those seated indoors can watch what's happening on both sides of the river at the same time.
Click on Discovery to begin your Virtual Tour
Riverboat Discovery Tours
NOTE: The availibility of Riverboat Tours in mid -May and mid- September depend on the whether the Chena River is free of ice and local weather conditions. If you are in fact planning a trip to Fairbanks in mid- May or mid-September you should call the Riverboat Discovery in advance to see if they are will be conducting tours during your visit.
For more information on tours and times Call: (907) 479-6673
Or visit the Riverboat Discovery's web site at: http://www.ptialaska.net/~discovry/