With bald eagles, bears, and gorgeous scenery, these tours out of Haines are soft adventure at their best: You don’t have to have any previous experience to enjoy these kayaking and rafting tours, but you’ll get the up-close experience of a veteran adventurer.
An Artistic Beginning
Rainbow Glacier Adventures was founded by guide and photographer Joe Ordonez, who first arrived in Haines in 1986 as a naturalist aboard a small expedition ship. He decided to stay for good in 1987 to manage a local rafting company; in 1992, he founded Rainbow Glacier Adventures to conduct small group visits to local artists’ homes. Over the years, he diversified his tour offerings—like wildlife viewing and photography (Joe has published a photography book himself, Where Eagles Gather, the Story of the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve), as well as these scenic kayaking and rafting tours.
Personal, Small Tours
These tours on the water are nicely small—not more than 14 guests at a time—so you’ll get plenty of quality time with the guides. Like Joe himself, the knowledgeable guides all share a passion for the history and beauty of Haines. They are an eclectic mix: some are retired, and many are longtime, year-round residents of Haines.
Rainbow Glacier Adventures offers two main tours on the water, which run from May through October. Both tours last about four hours (in Haines) all told—with about 1.5 hours on the water—and depart from either Haines or Skagway. (If you depart from Skagway, total tour time is 6.5 hours as you’ll also get scenic ferry rides, of 45 minutes each, between Skagway to Haines and transfers.) Here are your options:
Chilkoot Lake Kayaking
You’ll paddle around this scenic lake, seeing waterfalls, bears (most likely after August 1st), and spawning salmon (most likely after mid-July)
Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Rafting
You don’t have to paddle at all on this mellow, no-whitewater tour, as the guide does the work. That way, your hands are free to take pictures of the bald eagles, which steal the show.
Front Row for the Wildlife
Guests who take these trips rave about the intimate size, as well as the mellow, unrushed pace. And indeed, you only need to be able to get in and out of a boat to be up to the challenge. Guests are also struck by the high quality of the guides, and the authentic, unscripted ambience.
In August, for instance—when you might see brown bears feeding on salmon on Chilkoot Lake—the kayaking tours sometimes get delayed just a bit while waiting for a bear to amble along from its location near the dock. And on the rafting trips, guests often get up-close encounters with bald eagles feasting on salmon. The atmosphere is so natural that you’ll start to feel like a longtime local yourself.