After docking at the Alaska Highway Haines Terminal, head right for Lutak Road for an awe-inspiring drive that’ll have the icy Lutak Inlet in close sight. If you have the time, pull over safely and take a walk by the water, the eerie silence only broken by the sharp crunch of frozen seaweed beneath your boots. Our recommendation is to do this at sunset. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse the moon nestling between the mountain ranges.
The Alaska Marine Highway runs between Juno and Haines. This is the MV Aurora, first commissioned in 1977; it handles foot passengers and a small number of cars. The journey is five hours, but don’t let the length put you off – it’s a standout visual feast. The mountain ranges grow steeper and more dramatic as the ferry progresses along its route, so be sure to pack a camera and good hat if you plan to walk on deck.
The Haines Small Boat Harbor sits at the mouth of Haines town. It welcomes fisherman bringing in their daily catch. Hang around the bars for long enough and you’ll be sure to hear the locals grumbling about quotas on their Pacific halibut and king salmon catches. If you arrive at sunset on a clear day, the yellows and oranges ripple across the water and the snow, making for an electric early-morning light show. Well worth the numb fingers!
A bald eagle perches alone in one of the many trees that line the Chilkat River. The brown feathers on the bird’s head initially look like dirt – they are in fact just a sign that he has not yet reached maturity. When he reaches between 4 and 5 years old, he’ll take on the more familiar white head plumage we all know and love. Contrary to popular belief, these birds are no longer endangered; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates some 30,000 reside in the state. Still worth the trip! Put it on your bucket list.
This film was shot in early December. We picked this time partially because feeding areas for bald eagles are often at a premium during this time. This scene is the Chilkat River at 19 mile, where the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve resides, has one of the last river openings not sheeted in ice. Eagles gather in the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) and take turns to swoop in on the salmon that sit too close to the surface. It really is a sight to behold, and one that will stick with you for a lifetime.
Conservation photographer Morgan Heim travels to the wilds of Haines, Alaska, to track and photograph one of America’s most spectacular birds of prey. We juxtapose footage of Morgan's breathtaking adventure with her views on community, personal passion and our enduring responsibility to protect nature.
For a community like Haines — population 2,508 at last count — the best way to really understand it is through its people. It’s a rough and tumble blend of thrill-seekers and entrepreneurs, a hotbed of eccentricity, independence and warmth.