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The History of Hyder, Alaska


A Guide to Modern Hyder, Alaska

Hyder is nestled at the head of Portland Canal, a 96 mile-long fjord which forms a portion of the U.S./Canadian border. Hyder is 75 air miles from Ketchikan. It is the only community in southern southeast Alaska accessible by road; the only road into Hyder runs through Stewart, British Columbia, just two miles across the Canadian border. The area encompasses 14.8 sq. miles of land and 0.0 sq. miles of water. Hyder is in the maritime climate zone with warm winters, cool summers and heavy precipitation. Summer temperatures range from 41 to 57° F; winters range from 25 to 43° F. Temperature extremes have been measured from -18 to 89. Rainfall averages 78 inches annually, with annual mean snowfall of 162 inches. It lies at approximately 55.916940 North Latitude and -130.024720 West Longitude.

The Nisga'a tribe, who live throughout western British Columbia, called the head of Portland Canal "Skam-A-Kounst," meaning "safe place," probably referring to the site as a retreat from the harassment of the neighboring coastal Haidas. The Nisga'a used this area as a seasonal berry-picking and bird-hunting site. In 1896, Capt. D.D. Gaillard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explored Portland Canal. Gold and silver lodes were discovered in this area in the late 1898, mainly on the Canadian side in the upper Salmon River basin. Townships sprung up concurrently on the Alaskan and Canadian sides of the border. On the Alaskan side, the township of Portland City was founded. In 1914, local prospectors applied for a postal permit for the settlement. The request was denied on the basis that too many United States communities shared the name "Portland." The decision was made to name the community after Frederick Hyder, a respected Canadian mining engineer who predicted the area would have a prosperous future in mining.

Due to its location along the Portland Canal, Hyder became the access and supply point to Canadian mining. Hyder's boom years occurred between 1920 and 1930, when gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten were extracted from the Riverside Mine on the Alaskan side of the border. The mine operated from 1924 until 1950. In 1928, the Hyder business district was consumed by fire. During the Prohibition era, a small community called "Hyder, BC" was created just across the Canadian border to serve as a legal speakeasy to the Hyder mining community, even housing its own Canadian Customs office. Shortly after Prohibition was repealed, "Hyder, BC" was abandoned.

By 1956, all major mining had closed except for the Granduc copper mine in Canada, which operated until 1984. Several mining startups near Stewart have come and gone in the past three decades, but no mining activity has occurred on the Alaskan side of the border since the Riverside Mine closed in 1950.

Hyder is now largely dependent on tourism from highway visitors. The community continues to pay homage to its mining roots and is known as the "Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska."


To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online


History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development