One of the better-preserved boomtowns of the Alaska mining era, Eagle is a quaint hamlet of log cabins and clapboard houses. Located at the north end of the Taylor Highway and just six miles west of the Canada/Alaska border, Eagle overlooks the Yukon River below Eagle Bluff.
The Athabascans established the original settlement, today called Eagle Village, long before Francois Mercier arrived in the early 1880s and built a trading post in the area. A permanent community of miners took up residence in 1898. A year later, the U.S. Army decided to move in and build a fort as part of its effort to maintain law and order in the Alaska Interior, which was developing rapidly due to the numerous gold rushes in the area. Judge James Wickersham established a federal court at Eagle in 1900, and the next year President Theodore Roosevelt issued a charter that made Eagle the first incorporated city of Interior Alaska. Eagle reached its peak at the turn of the 20th century, when it boasted a population of more than 1,500 residents, some of whom went so far as to call their town the ”Paris of the North.”
Things to do
Eagle is said to have the state's largest “museum system,” boasting five restored turn-of-the-century buildings. Most visitors see the buildings and learn the town's history through the Eagle Historical Society, which stages a three-hour town walking tour throughout the summer that includes Wickersham's Courthouse, Eagle City Hall, the Log Church, Fort Egbert, Redmen Hall, the Customs Building Museum and Amundsen Park, where a plaque commemorates explorer Roald Amundsen's visit.
Historically an important riverboat landing, Eagle is still a popular jumping-off point for Yukon River travelers. Summer float trips from Eagle downriver through the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve to Circle are a popular activity. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to cover the 154 river miles between Eagle and Circle. Many float the river from Dawson City, Yukon, which is about 100 miles upriver and across the Canadian border from Eagle. After several days on the river, Eagle is a welcome stop! The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Visitor Center in Eagle is the best place for information on float trips in the 3,906-square-mile preserve.
At Amundsen Park visitors will see a plaque that commemorates explorer Roald Amundsen who hiked overland to Eagle in 1905 after his ship froze in the Arctic Sea off Canada.
Eagle serves as the departure point for paddlers who float along Yukon River through the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Most canoers schedule five to 10 days to paddle the 154 miles from Eagle to Circle. Within eagle are outfitters who rent canoes for travel on the Yukon River between Dawson City, Eagle and Circle.
Eagle Historical Society and Museums
The Eagle Museums feature exhibits in six restored historic buildings dating from the end of the 19th century: James Wickersham's first courthouse, U.S. Custom House, the Improved Order of Red Men Lodge and three Fort Egbert buildings, all with period furnishings. Displays inside range from Eagle as a gold rush town and the military fort to Han Indian exhibits. The Eagle Historical Society (www.eaglehistoricalsociety.com/) leads a narrated walking tour through the historical buildings daily during the summer.
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Visitor Center
The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Visitor Center (www.nps.gov/yuch) is also the headquarters for the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Inside are exhibits and videos about the natural preserve and the town of Eagle along with the reference library and a sales counter that sells books and maps.