Back in 1880 Joe Juneau and Dick Harris found gold here and gold mining continued here until halted by World War II. Fortunately Juneau developed an ‘industry’ to replace gold mining, namely government in the form of the state capital and local government centre. Surrounded by icefields on three sides and water on the other, Juneau has no road connections to the rest of Alaska or to Canada. It seems strange in the car-orientated USA that the capital of Alaska is not connected to the road system, but the city thrives courtesy of good ferry and air links plus regular cruise ship arrivals.
Red Dog Saloon
Historic saloons seem to be an Alaskan speciality. In Skagway we managed a drink in the Red Onion after the crowds had thinned out but in Juneau with we found the Red Dog overcrowded with escapees from the several cruise ships that were in town. Although the history of the Red Dog goes back to the early days of Juneau, the current building is relatively modern. Nevertheless great effort has been made to recreate the frontier atmosphere, primarily for tourists.
A major problem for a city that relies on cruise ship trade is that one minute the place is quiet then the next it is crowded out. Most of the people from the cruise ships headed for the saloons, restaurants and gift shops, so we decided to wander a little further afield. In common with much of Alaska and British Columbia, the native people have a proud tradition of carving totem poles. We found this one by the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. No, we weren’t drunk (we’ve already explained that the Red Dog was full), if you look at the building in the background you will see that the picture is vertical, it is the totem pole that is leaning.
Although most of the shops are geared to tourists what strikes you about Franklin Street is, well, not a lot. It looks remarkably like a normal street in any mid-sized US town, rather than the product of a frontier city in a hostile environment cut off by icefields. The local people may not be able to drive far, but you still have to watch out for the traffic.
Click on Minimap to navigate
To move forwards or backwards through the Alaska trail click the arrows above, or select your next destination on the Minimap.
Interior of St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Despite our comments on the Alaska state page about the State Capitol, Juneau is far from bereft of interesting buildings. Alaska was, of course, Russian territory until it was sold to the USA in 1867 for $7.2m. Nowadays there is little evidence of the Russian era, but they did leave one legacy. Many of the Tlingit native people converted to the Russian Orthodox faith. The city of Juneau post dates the Russian era and this church was built in 1893 with Russian funds to serve the Tlingit community. Click on Tab 2 to see the exterior of the church.
Juneau from MS Jubilee
We admit it. We went a cruise to visit this part of Alaska. Although we enjoyed the cruise we did find the constraints of observing sailing and meal times much too restrictive. Next time we will probably design our own schedule, hire a car and use the Alaska Marine Highway ferries. We learned in New Zealand’s Milford Sound that places that are thronged during the day can be magical when the tourists have left. Our cruise was from Seward to Vancouver on the MS Jubilee and this shot shows Juneau as we were leaving the dock.