I have seen others talk positively about the Valley of the Eagles float trip in Haines. I have seen Karen16 comment that floating is the best way to view wildlife and that there is little opportunity from bus or jet boat. I get the jet boat noise issue. I need convincing that a float trip is better for wildlife viewing than a bus + walking tour.
Without knowing the lay of the land, I would think that a bus + walking tour would provide better wildlife viewing/photography than a float trip. The float trip (1) involves moving and (2) no opportunity for spotting scopes, which seem to be the thing on the bus + walking tour. Also, does the float trip pose too much of a risk for taking picktures?
For clairfication- this trip "wildlife" means eagles- you are NOT likely to see anything else. Only on average 25% of the trips see other wildlife and that can range up to a mile away. The eagles are also- near the water- NOT on the road- there is far more sightings of the eagles from the water- hence on a float trip, same for other possible animal sightings- they aren't on the road. The Chilkoot River is extensive. Easy for photos from the raft, and correct- as mentioned- about the distance for the scopes- there can be a moose sighting- a mile away- I've called them my moose dot tours. A GREAT deal for other wildlife will be the time you go- you have a better chance in Sept due to the late salmon runs. Eagles will be scarce before that but there always will be some. The float trip is also very scenic- so that needs to be more of an interest than the wildlife.
The Nature Tour (bus/walk) sent me something giving their statistics for 6/15/03-7/15/03: 100% eagles, 82% mountain goats, 75% harbor seals, 70% dippers, 60% brown bear, 15% humpback whales, 12% river otters. That sounded reasonably good, but I guess they get that by using significant magnification through free-standing spotting scopes that allow you to get pretty close.
I'm heading up during the second/third week of August and will be doing some additional time in Denali & the Anchorage vicinity (Turnagain drive, Coastal trail biking, hiking at Eagle River Nature Center perhaps). I guess I need to decide whether that will afford enough wildlife viewing for me and whether it should be complemented by the spotting scope method or whether my chances will be better by raft. Our port is Skagway and we figured we would spend some time looking around town and then head to Haines, which seemed more interesting than the railroad.
Your timeframe will have very very slim chance of bear sightings- they aren't likely before the begining of Sept. Your mountain goats will be from your ferry-maybe. Seals are right at the docks in Skagway. If you go all the way to Kincaid Park- 11 miles on the Coastal trail, I've seen moose fairly frequently. Definately get to at least Eielson in Denali Park and take the first available shuttle. I have always seen moose close by then- but never on the return trip.