For relaxing boating in or near Fairbanks, use Chena River access points at Nordale Road east of the city, at the Cushman and Wendell Street bridges near downtown, in Pioneer Park above the Peger River Bridge, at the state campground, and at the University Avenue Bridge.
The Tanana River, with a current that is fast and often shallow, is ideally suited for riverboats. On this river and others in the Yukon River drainage, Alaskans use long, wide, flat-bottom boats powered by one or two large outboard engines. The boats include a lift to raise the engine a few inches, allowing passage through the shallows; lately, it’s more common just to get a jet boat, which doesn’t have a propeller, and so can go into much shallower waters. Arrangements for riverboat charters can be made in almost any river community. Ask at Explore Fairbanks, in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.
Tours and Outfitters
Alaska Outdoor Rentals and Guides. This outfit rents gear and arranges pickups and drop-offs for the Class I waters of the lower Chena River (the only real challenge for canoeists on the lower river is watching out for powerboats), as well as other local rivers. The company also offers guided excursions and private paddling lessons, from basics to self- and assisted-rescue techniques. Pioneer Park Boat Dock, 1101 Peger Rd., along Chena River, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99708. 907/457–2453; www.2paddle1.com. From $32 for 3-hr kayak rental.
Riverboat Discovery. The city's riverboat history and the Interior's cultural heritage are relived each summer aboard the Riverboat Discovery, a three-hour narrated trip by stern-wheeler along the Chena and Tanana rivers to a rustic Native village on the Tanana. The cruise provides a glimpse of the lifestyle of the dog mushers, subsistence fishermen, traders, and Native Alaskans who populate the Yukon River drainage. Sights along the way include operating fish wheels, a bush airfield, floatplanes, a smokehouse and cache, log cabins, and dog kennels once tended by the late Susan Butcher, the first person to win the Iditarod four times. The Binkley family, with four generations of river pilots, has run the great rivers of the north for more than a century. 1975 Discovery Dr., Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709. 907/479–6673; 866/479–6673; www.riverboatdiscovery.com. $62.95. Mid-May–mid-Sept., daily 9 and 2.
Running Reindeer Ranch. After just a few minutes communing with the ranch's herd of reindeer, it's hard not to get a little giggly. Before long it seems like second nature being surrounded by the herd, and by the time you've exhausted your camera snapping photos, that's when the fun begins. You just settle into listening to owner Jane Atkinson, whose love for the natural world, animals she cares for, and indeed all of Alaska's wildlife, is infectious. The conversation flows and, in no time, it feels like you've made a new friend, and you start wondering if a life without a herd of reindeer makes any sense. It's wise to make an appointment, though it's not always necessary. This experience is best for children age 12 and above—younger kids will probably lose interest quickly. Goldstream Rd., near Ivans Alley, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709. 907/455–4998; www.runningreindeer.com. $50 per guest, 2-guest minimum. By appointment only.
Stern-wheeler Tanana Chief. Nightly dinner cruises (6:45 pm) take place on the Chena River aboard the stern-wheeler Tanana Chief, a replica of the riverboats that once plied Interior rivers. Daytime sightseeing and other cruises also take place. 1020 Hoselton Rd., Fairbanks, Alaska, 99709. 907/451–1521; 888/616–0192; www.fairbanksdinnercruise.com. Dinner cruise $54.95; sightseeing cruise $24.95.