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Photo of the river boat Discovery II (middle ground) and Discovery III (right) at the dock on the Chena River west of Fairbanks in College

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Riverboat Discovery Tours

Taking a tour on the Riverboat Discovery is a Must-do for every Fairbanks visitor in summer. Actually, there are three of these boats with Riverboat Discovery I being the smallest and Riverboat Discovery III being the largest boat. There is a port-like dock with a Saloon for lunch or dinner and a store for ticket sale and souvenirs at the Chena River. The large two boats dock here for river tours which are really informative. You will learn about dog mushing and see the late Susan Butcher‘s dog yard. You will see Senator Murkowski‘s house where President Ronald Reagan spent a night. Part of the tour is also a visit of an Indian village, a fish wheel, a float plane starting and landing on the Chena, and a demonstration how to pin-bone a salmon with just two cuts by an ulu*.


Riverboat Discovery landing post near Fairbanks Alaska
Collage showing from bottom right against the clock’s rotation the souvenir store and Susan Butcher gallery, the landing place with the Discovery II in the center, and the view out of the window of Discovery II onto the stern wheel of the Discovery III and the pouring rain

Salsa and Tequila Tasting Cruise

One of the riverboat tours is different. All tables and chairs are brought on land. Only a long table is left for a Mexican buffet and two short tables for tequila and Margarita tasting. Once all passengers have boarded and eaten their food, the boat sails with loud salsa music down the Chena towards the Tanana River. Passengers dance to the music on all decks. Well not all passengers, some passenger take care of the tequila tickets of the dancing passengers.
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View on the White Mountains as seen from the Discovery II cruising the Chena River
View onto the Chena towards the White Mountains (top) and along the Chena outside of Fairbanks

River Cruise Outfits

Of course, like any cruise, this annual dance cruise asks for dress-up. Since the best space is on the top deck which is open, the weather determined the outfits. When it is humid outside, there will be a lot of mosquitoes. Thus, you will see many women wearing jeans with glamour long sleeve tops. When it is warm and sunny, they opt for party dresses of all kinds. You can find tips what to wear on a river Saturday Nite dance cruise in the post at the link.

Looking at my outfit in the first photo of this post guess what the weather was like. When ever I am on vacation, it rains. LOL.

blogger Nicole Mölders in a maxi coat with dance shoes
Duster with Stephanie Professional dance shoes (all own)
style blogger in jersey eShakti fit-and-flare dance dress with red details
eShakti dress over layering top with Moschino belt, and Stephanie Professional dance shoes (all own). I accessorized my updo with a silk rose

Mixing of the Chena and Tanana Looks Like Pouring Milk in Coffee

Besides dancing my favorite part of the salsa cruise is when the boat reaches the Tanana River. The Tanana River is glacier-fed. Consequently, her water is milky from silt. On the contrary, the Chena is rain-fed meaning that the water is crystal clear. The point where the Chena flows into the Tanana shows how the rivers mix because their water colors differ. The eddies of various size change in color due to the mixing process.

Another interesting thing is the higher water table of the Tanana than that of the Chena. This means some water of the Tanana flows upstream into the Chena. It actually flows down the gradient from the higher to the lower water table. You can imaging that watching this play of nature is my favorite part of the tour. It is just fascinating.

Fairbanks insider travel tip: Take a Chena river cruise to watch the mixing of the milky Tanana River and clear Chena River.

Chena and Tanana rivers
Collage from left with the clock to the button right view from the Riverboat Discovery II over the Chena towards the Tanana on the horizon, view over the Tanana towards the hills, mixing of the Tanana and Chena waters and view onto one of the many mud islands in the Tanana, and view onto the Tanana. See the different water colors.


Are you planning a cruise vacation to Alaska or elsewhere? Then you may like to read about what to pack for a dance cruise.

Do you like river tours? Do you like wine or other drinks tasting events? Have you been on a cruise? What did you wear? Let me know, I am curious.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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