On the eastern fringe of Misty Fjords National Monument, at the head of Portland Canal, is Hyder, a town that may be in Alaska but identifies more closely with its Canadian neighbors just across the border in Stewart, British Columbia.
Even though Hyder has mainland road access, the town is so isolated from the rest of Alaska that its 60 residents are almost totally dependent on the larger Stewart (pop. 600), just across the Canadian border. Hyder's residents set their watches to Pacific Standard Time (not Alaska Standard Time), use Stewart’s area code, send their children to Canadian schools, and do most of their grocery shopping across the border. All this can make a side trip here seem like an international affair.
THINGS TO DO
Hyder has a number of gold rush-era saloons, which are popular with visitors. The Glacier Inn is the best known and features interior walls papered in signed dollar bills, creating the “$20,000 Walls” of Hyder. There’s also the Toastworks in Stewart, a restaurant that doubles up as a toaster museum with more than 500 models on display.
But the best reason to find your way to this out-of-the-way place is for bear viewing. From late July to September, you can head six miles north of town on Salmon Glacier Road to the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site and watch and photograph large brown and black bears feeding on pink and chum salmon that are spawning by the thousands upstream. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a viewing platform and boardwalk here and there are interpreters onsite during the summer.
Eight miles north of Stewart along Highway 37A is Clements Lake Recreation Site. From May to October, Clements Lake offers good opportunities for picnicking, canoeing, camping, and a sandy beach for swimming.
From Hyder you can also reach Salmon Glacier, the fifth largest in Canada and a spectacular sight. The glacier is a 25-mile drive along Granduc Road that starts in Hyder at sea level and follows the Salmon River to its birthplace, the Salmon Glacier, a climb of 4,300 feet into the British Columbia mountains. The view is mesmerizing as you can gaze down on Salmon Glacier and the valley it has carved. During the drive you pass several old gold mines including the famous Premier Gold Mine, now called Westmin Gold, which has been in operation off and on since the 1920s.
Preserving both Stewart and Hyder's history is the Stewart Historical Museum in downtown Stewart. The museum has exhibits that trace the gold mining booms and busts of Stewart and the surrounding area.
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