Icy Straight Point – Hoonah, Alaska

Icy Strait Point is a privately owned tourist destination just outside the small village of Hoonah, Alaska. It is located on Chichagof Island and is named after the nearby Icy Strait. Owned by Huna Totem Corporation, it is the only privately owned cruise destination in Alaska, as most stops are owned by the cities in which they are located. Huna Totem Corporation is owned by approximately 1,350 Alaskan Natives with aboriginal ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area. Many of them are of the Tlingit people.

The Tlingit (/ˈklɪŋkɨt/ or /ˈtlɪŋɡɨt/; also spelled Tlinkit) are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their name for themselves is Lingít, meaning “People of the Tides” (pronounced [ɬɪŋkɪ́t]). The Russian name Koloshi (Колоши) (from an Sugpiaq-Alutiiq term kulut’ruaq for the labret worn by women) or the related German name Koulischen may be encountered referring to the people in older historical literature, such as Shelikhov’s 1796 map of Russian America.

The Tlingit are a matrilineal society that developed in the temperate rainforest of the southeast Alaska coast and the Alexander Archipelago. The Tlingit maintained a complex hunter-gatherer culture based on semi-sedentary management of fisheries. An inland group, known as the Inland Tlingit, inhabits the far northwestern part of the province of British Columbia and the southern Yukon Territory in Canada.

Huna Totem Corporation was established as a part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act signed into law in 1971. The Act was intended to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding aboriginal land claims in Alaska, as well as to stimulate economic development throughout Alaska.

The corporation purchased the site in 1996, and Icy Strait Point was first opened for cruise ships in 2004, with Royal Caribbean International and its sister outfit Celebrity Cruises being the two lines to initially make use of it. They would continue to be the main lines there, but subsequently Princess Cruises began making some stops there for several years, as well as Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Only one cruise ship is present at any given time; passengers are tendered into the Icy Strait Point dock. By 2008, cruise stop business accounted for a quarter of Hoonah’s employment, and by 2011, there were some 73 cruise ship visits arriving for the summer season, and by one calculation the cruise business accounted for more than half the local economy.

The 1930s Hoonah Packing Company facility is now converted into a museum, restaurant, and shops. In the view of two travel books, the cannery at the site has been “beautifully restored”. At the dock, traditionally garbed presenters offer a look at Huna Tlingit culture, and an indoor theatrical production along the same lines is also offered. All shops located there are owned by Alaskans. Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen shows visitors the importance of salmon and subsistence fishing in the Tlingit culture and features a culinary instruction space where local residents demonstrate how to fillet salmon and halibut and turn them into burgers, spreads, casseroles, and grilled entrees. The local town of Hoonah is a mile’s walk, and reveals contemporary Tlingit life. A 2014 USA Today article described the chance to experience Alaska Native culture in small villages such as Hoonah one of the ten reasons to visit the state.

For the most part, however, Icy Strait Point is a jumping-off point for shore excursions for the cruise passengers. The most well-known of these is the ZipRider zip-line that completes its run near the facility, which was constructed by the Huna Totem Corporation. Opening in May 2007, it measures 5,330 feet (1,620 m) and made claims to being the longest in the world, or later to at least being one of the longest and highest – at 1,330 feet (410 m) – in North America. It has been rated a statewide “must do” attraction by the Anchorage Daily News. The zip-line was also featured in September 2013 on Travel Channel’s Ride-iculous show.

To get to the start of the zip-line ride at the top of the mountain we had to take a bus round the coast to Hoonah then a steep drive up the mountain till we reached the top. It was a short walk through some beautiful woods and we arrived at the top of the zip-line ride. It took 45 mins to get up there and the zip-ride down was only 90secs!

After surviving the Ziprider zip-line ride what better to celebrate than to eat Alaskan King Crabs on the dockside washed down with some local Alaskan beer or even the local Bloody Mary complete with Alaskan King Crab claw.

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