ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

Canadian National Steamship Prince George:

Alaska Cruise notes, 1961

Northern Ships and Shipping

Alaska Cruise notes, 1961     This information about the various ports to be visited was published for the 1961 sailings of the Canadian National Steamship Prince George between Vancouver and Skagway. The 30-page booklet is 3½ x 6 inches in size.

Canadian National Steamship 'Prince George', 1961

Alaska cruise schedule, 1961


Ports of call and items of interest on your journey through the famed Inside Passage to Alaska

    Three sharp blasts of the whistle. The order is given to "let go" the lines. The "Prince George" backs majestically into Vancouver harbour, and friends and well-wishers wave you bon voyage on your journey to the far north and Alaska.

    The ship's bow turns toward the setting sun, and slowly gathering way, she steams out beneath Lion's Gate, within sight of which two lions in granite, carved by Nature's sculptor, high on the north shore, mount eternal guard.

    As you glide out of Vancouver harbour, Grouse Mountain looms to starboard. On your left is Brockton Point. You pass close by Stanley Park, then Prospect Point, and, finally, under the Lion's Gate Bridge with the signal and lookout station in the centre. In half an hour Point Atkinson looms on the starboard bow, the ship's course points more northerly and you are off for a cruise through the Gulf of Georgia.

    After passing Cape Mudge and Campbell River, world famous salmon fishing resort, in the early morning, the channel narrows still more and the steamer passes through Seymour Narrows, usually at about five o'clock in the morning. If fortune favours she will sail quickly through on a fast current, but at times she must buck a strong flood tide, creeping inch by inch past Maud Island light. Fifteen miles from the Narrows, Chatham Point is reached. From Cape Mudge to Chatham Point you have been in Discovery Passage and now you enter Johnstone Strait.

Vancouver, largest city in British Columbia.

    Shortly after entering Johnstone Strait two logging centres will be observed, first Rock Bay on the port bow, then Knox Bay to the right. Steaming steadily northwesterly, Beaver Cove, scene of extensive logging and lumbering operations, is passed to port, and five miles farther on the Indian village of Alert Bay comes into view. Just beyond Alert Bay is Haddington Island, former site of extensive quarries from whence came most of the granite used in the construction of the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, B.C. From here, looking to your right, you will see the Finnish village of Sointula, situated on Malcolm Island. In half an hour Pultney Point, marked by a light-house, is passed and you leave Johnstone Strait behind as the steamer enters Queen Charlotte Sound.

    Masterman Island is passed to port an hour after entering the Sound, then Scarlet Point lighthouse, 45 minutes later, on the same side. Heading up towards Pine Island, we leave Vancouver Island, our western bulwark, behind, and for two hours you glimpse the broad Pacific. From Pine Island the course leads past Egg Island, and soon the ship is in Fitzhugh Sound, under the lee of Calvert Island to westward. Addenbrooke Island light comes into view on the starboard bow, and an hour later the cannery town of Namu may be seen.

    On the evening of your second day's cruise, the course leads through Seaforth Channel into Millbank Sound, a short stretch of open water, as we enter narrow waters again under protection of Princess Royal Island on the left; through Finlayson and Tomlie Channels in succession, past the former lumbering and pulp town of Swanson Bay to starboard, the cannery site of Butedale and, an hour later, into Wright Sound.

Examining souvenirs in curio shop at Prince Rupert, B.C.


    Prince Rupert, British Columbia's most northerly seaport is situated on Kaien Island, overlooking a magnificent harbour. Founded in 1909, it is the western terminus of Canadian National Railways northern line from Jasper and the east. Its combined rail and ocean facilities enabled it to play an important part in the Pacific campaigns of World War II.

    The $50,000,000 plant of the Columbia Cellulose Company, Limited, subsidiary of the Canadian Chemical and Cellulose Co., Ltd., on nearby Watson Island is an important development. Most of the pulp from this plant goes into the textile industry of Canada and the United States.

    Another huge project in this area is that of the Aluminum Company of Canada at Kitimat at the head of Douglas Channel, which is about 100 miles southeast of Prince Rupert. This aluminum smelter now has a capacity of 186,000 tons of aluminum ingots per year. Potential ultimate capacity is 550,000 tons per year.

    Prince Rupert today is a thriving city of more than 12,000 population. Plank roads have given way to permanent hard-surfaced streets, and visitors will find much of interest in the residential and business sections of the city. Fine specimens of Indian totem poles are placed at vantage points. Those in Alder Park at Fraser and Fifth Streets and adjacent to the dock, are considered among the best specimens of native art to be found anywhere. Curio and souvenir hunters will find interesting shops carrying a varied assortment of native Indian work. The museum houses a good collection of Indian totems and other articles of interest.

    Prince Rupert is an important fishing centre and principal port of supply for the lumbering and mining industries of northern British Columbia and Alaska. The Canadian National Railways operates a rail car ferry slip here. The B.C. Packers Fish and Cold Storage plant, with a capacity of 14 million pounds, the largest cold storage plant in the world devoted exclusively to handling fish, is located here. Millions of pounds of halibut are landed annually, both American and Canadian boats bringing their catch to this port. Regular shipments go forward to eastern markets by Canadian National Express and fast freight. By courtesy of the management, tourists may visit the cold storage plant where they will inspect various forms of sea life found in these northern waters. There are two other large cold storage plants, making this the largest halibut fishing port on this coast.

    At Prince Rupert passengers from Jasper and eastern points board the steamer, and southbound, may leave the ship here for their journey east, stopping en route at Jasper Park Lodge.

Waterfront, Ketchikan, first Alaskan port of call.


    Ketchikan, first Alaskan city on your northern tour, is the port of entry for over 90 per cent of vessels entering Alaskan waters. It is located on Revilla Gigedo Island. The local people refer to the Island as "Revilla". The city has a population of around 8,500 augmented during the summer fishing season by a large influx of workers and fishermen. In the centre of a large fishing, timber and mineral area, fishing and its allied interests is yet the largest single industry. Southeastern Alaska is literally blanketed with a forest, practically untouched. It is estimated that 650,000 tons of pulp can be produced annually in this area. A $40,000,000 pulp mill, operated by the Ketchikan Pulp Company at Ward Cove, Alaska, went into production in 1954 and is now producing more than 450 tons of pulp per day. Ward Cove is situated about six miles from Ketchikan, on a good highway. Most of the pulp is shipped by rail car barge to the rail car ferry slip at Prince Rupert, where it is forwarded by Canadian National Railways to United States points.

    For handling fish landed at this port, there are two cold storage plants with a total storage capacity of seven and one-half million pounds, and six salmon canneries within walking distance of the centre of the city. Fur farming, while still an infant industry, is rapidly assuming a commercial position of considerable magnitude.

    Well equipped with public institutions, Ketchikan has two banks, two theatres, 13 churches and nine hotels. The public schools at present have a daily average attendance of over 860 students. Communication with the outside world is maintained by means of cable and radio service. Pan-American World Airways serves the state with daily mail and passenger service, landing on Annette Island air field about 18 miles distant from Ketchikan by boat or seaplane. One American and two Canadian steamship lines also maintain service to Ketchikan.

    There are many fine specimens of Alaskan native art in Ketchikan. Several well-known totem poles may be seen in this city and two of the finest totem parks in the world lie within touring distance of the city. One totem park is situated in the picturesque native village of Saxman about two miles south of Ketchikan by road. These genuine reconstructed examples of native art were placed there by a WPA Project and the Mud Bight Totem Park to the north of the city was constructed under the administration of the Department of Agriculture of the U.S. Forest Service. One of the unique oddities in Ketchikan is the elevated planked streets on piling. There are a good many of these streets still in existence, although they are gradually being replaced by earth-fill in the interest of economy.

    From Ketchikan to Juneau the course is more westerly than north, traversing in turn Tongass Narrows, Clarence Straits and Stikine Straits. Bounding Tongass Narrows on the southwest is Gravina Island and on the northwest Revilla Gigedo Island. Through Clarence Straits we sail along with the shore of Prince of Wales Island for three hours on the port beam. The passage around Kupreanof Island en route to Juneau is made via Wrangell Narrows, early in the morning, if the tide is suitable; or via Cape Decision and North Chatham Straits and Frederick Sound, thence through Stephens Passage to Juneau, which is located on Gastineau Channel.

Gold mine near Juneau.


    In the early l880's, two prospectors, Dick Harris and Joe Juneau, were attracted to this section by reports that Indians had found gold in what is now known as Gold Creek. They located several claims there and made some very valuable discoveries. Later a number of quartz ledges was discovered and a camp established at the present site of the city of Juneau. This camp was first called Harrisburg, but later the name was changed to Juneau in honour of the other of the locators, and the mining district was known as the Harris Mining District.

    Juneau has a present population of about 8,500. It is the capital of Alaska, and as such is the home of the governor and other officials.

Juneau - capital of Alaska.

    Since the early gold discoveries, several large mining companies have operated here and paid millions in dividends. The Treadwell Gold Mines had a total production of over 68 millions and paid in dividends more than 27 million dollars. Adjacent to Juneau are several other important mining properties ranging from those with production running into the millions, to those which are still in the prospect stage.

    Leading northward from Juneau, a good automobile road, known as the Glacier Highway, extends for 30 miles to Eagle River, and every mile of the trip is a scenic wonder.

    Every tourist to Alaska should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, reached by automobile from Juneau. It is on a spur of the Glacier Highway, about 14 miles from the city. This glacier is unique in that it is easily accessible and visitors are actually able to walk on it and in fact, travel over it as far as they wish. Auto drivers make a reasonable charge for this trip and give ample opportunity to see as much as the traveller wishes. The time required to visit the glacier and return to the steamer is slightly less than two hours. For the convenience of passengers, tickets may be obtained at the Purser's Office.

    Auk Lake lies along this road, about 13 miles from Juneau. It is a gorgeously beautiful spot, the lake lying as it does almost at the foot of Mendenhall Glacier and on clear, calm days the glacier and the mountain back of it are reflected in the deep green of the water, making a picture long to be remembered.

    Tourists who remain in the city during the steamer's stay in port will find much of interest in the Indian works of art on sale in the various curio shops. Or they may visit a museum, which contains works and exhibits portraying the history of the state from its earliest days, as well as displays depicting the resources of the district.

    Leaving Juneau late at night you are on the last leg of your northbound journey, through the superb mountain-bordered Lynn Canal, with here and there glacial formations showing in the mountain passes. Next morning the steamer docks at Skagway. You have reached the northern end of your water journey and the point where "The Trail of '98" begins.

Skagway, Alaska, 1961
Skagway - gateway to northern interior.


    "Skagway" is an Indian name meaning "The Home of the North Wind". Here "The Trail of '98" commences, and from this point thousands followed the lure of gold through mountain passes to the interior of Alaska and the Yukon.

    Skagway has a present-day claim to distinction and might well be called "The Flower City of Alaska", owing to the variety and profusion of floral life found there. When visitors are told of dahlias 10 inches in diameter, sweet peas that grow in vines eight to 10 feet high and pansies often three inches across, they might well be skeptical, and only a visit to these beautiful gardens will tend to remove their doubts.

    A full day may well be spent in Skagway and its environs. Almost everyone will want to visit the grave of "Soapy" Smith, a bandit who flourished for a time during the wild days of '97 and '98, and who met his end in a gun battle with Deputy Sheriff Frank H. Reid. The passing years have added considerable glamour to "Soapy's" life and career. In the combat, Reid was mortally wounded and died within a week, and ironically, time has but served to dim his memory, so that now, when his name is mentioned, it is merely to add authenticity to a rather prominent period in "Soapy's" career. He is known as the man who killed "Soapy" Smith.

    Nearer the graveyard, reached by a short trail, is Reid's Falls, named in honour of the fallen deputy sheriff, and here is seen a more ļ¬tting effort to preserve his memory than in the notoriety which is "Soapy's".

    Several lakes within easy walking distance may lure the angler. The most accessible of these are Lower Lake Dewey, about 800 feet above the town on a good mountain trail, and Black Lake, a five-mile hike to the foothills of the A. B. Mountain.

    Where passengers hold different stateroom accommodation on the southbound journey to that which they occupied northbound, the change will be made on the day of arrival at Skagway.

    Small and personal articles should be packed in handbags and suitcases; outer garments, suits, dresses, etc., may be left on hangers, when stewards will remove your effects to your new location.

Sawtooth Range, en route to Carcross.
Sawtooth Range, en route to Carcross.


    While the "Prince George" is in port at Skagway, ample time is available for the interesting side trip to Carcross, Yukon Territory. This journey, approximately seven and one-half hours, by White Pass & Yukon train follows the old "Trail of '98" taking you through spectacular mountain scenery.

    On the return voyage, the S.S. "Prince George" also visits Wrangell, Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, Douglas Channel - Gardner Canal - Ocean Falls.

    On the homebound voyage Wrangell, the town of totems, is our next port of call.

    The route from Skagway to Wrangell lies through Lynn Canal and Gastineau Channel and the winding 18-mile course of Wrangell Narrows. The fishing town of Petersburg is passed to port as we enter the Narrows and the homes of numerous fox fur farmers may be seen on low-lying points of land as we voyage through the Narrows.

Wrangell - the town of many totems.


    Wrangell, situated on Wrangell Island near the mouth of the Stikine River on Etolin Bay, is one of the oldest communities in southeastern Alaska. It was founded by the Russians in 1834 as a fur trading post. Wrangell is an incorporated town with a mayor and council and has a population of 1,500 persons. Several thriving industries are here, including a sawmill, cutting large quantities of Sitka Spruce used in aeroplane construction, and several salmon, crab and shrimp canneries. Some of these canneries are close by the dock and may be seen in operation as the visitor enters the town. It is the transfer point and distributing centre for all supplies and for travellers going up the Stikine River. In the country back of Wrangell, trapping and hunting are carried on extensively, and annually some $250,000 worth of furs pass through this port.

    Totems, or Indian coats-of-arms, are very numerous here and form one of the principal attractions for tourists. Wrangell has more totems than any other town in Alaska visited by tourist steamers. The original home of Chief Shakes is still intact and visitors should take advantage of the opportunity to view the ancient Indian relics on display there. About 45 minutes' time is required to walk to Chief Shakes' home and return to steamer.

    After leaving Wrangell the vessel continues on the southward journey again calling at the ports of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, B.C. Southward from Prince Rupert the journey is interrupted by a side trip up the famous Gardner Canal and the early morning riser will find that the vessel has entered Douglas Channel en route to Gardner Canal, which is entered about noon, after turning southward at the north end of Hawkesbury Island and passing through Devastation Channel.

The enchanting Gardner Canal.

    Gardner Canal is a picturesque waterway. The mountains on either side of the deep narrow passage are high and rugged. The walls are broken at intervals to disclose glaciers hugging the mountainsides. It might well be termed the "Fiord of the Hanging Valleys". The waterfalls leaping down from these hanging valleys break on the rock walls in a beautiful spray. The Canal is from one to two miles wide and about 80 miles long. Our course lies along a series of reaches to Kemano, which will be seen to port in the late afternoon and close to it the wharf and some of the store installations of the Aluminum Company of Canada. These have been built to serve the company's huge hydro-electric powerhouse, 10 miles up the valley, which is supplying power to the company's aluminum plant at Kitimat, planned to be the largest of its kind in the world, some 50 miles away. The present installed capacity of the powerhouse is 1,050,000 h.p. and the ultimate planned capacity is 2,400,000 h.p. After passing Kemano we go on to Chief Mathews Bay, the turn-around point.

    The return from Gardner Canal is made via Boxer Reach and Ursula Channel - the regular steamer lane being reached in the evening at Kingcome Point near the north end of Fraser Reach.

Ocean Falls is at the head of Fisher Channel
Ocean Falls is at the head of Fisher Channel.

    The next morning we reach Ocean Falls, the head of Fisher Channel, nestling in a picturesque setting of rugged mountain scenery.

    As your first glance sweeps the scene, to the left you will see the hotel, hospital and the residential district. Over the dock towards which the ship's bow points is the town, with its pretty garden-bedecked homes backing far up the hillside. To the right may be seen the mill of Crown Zellerbach (Canada) Ltd., housing an extremely efficient paper-making plant connected by a bridge to the residential section. Almost in the centre of the picture on a higher level, is the dam, holding back the tons of water necessary to operate the mill and furnish electricity for domestic purposes.

    The mill produces more than 280 tons of newsprint daily and over 150 tons of wrappings, including kraft paper, manilla and tissue and in addition various quantities of pulp.

    A walk through the town is suggested. At the dam, an excellent panoramic View of the town and harbour may be had.

Westview is the port for the Powell River municipality
Westview is the port for the Powell River municipality.

    Westview (Powell River), is passed in the early morning on the last day of the cruise.

    Westview is the shipping and passenger port for the Powell River municipality.

    The major industry in this area is the giant pulp and paper plant of the Powell River Company, the largest individual newsprint unit in the world. More than 500,000 tons of paper are produced annually and more than 30,000 tons of high grade, unbleached sulphite pulp is manufactured each year for export.

    There is some independent logging in this district, and Westview also serves as a centre for a thriving fishing industry.

    The cruise is continued southward through Malaspina Strait, past Jervis Inlet on the port side and Texada Island on the starboard side. Entering Georgia Strait, Point Grey, site of the University of British Columbia, is seen to starboard, Howe Sound to port, and ahead are English Bay and Vancouver.

Alaska cruise map, 1961