Tenakee Springs, Chichagof Island

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Tenakee Springs, Chichagof Island

by | Jan 23, 2019

Tenakee Springs is a small community established in 1903 on the north shore of Tenakee Inlet, on Chichagof Island, Alaska. The name is derived from the Tlingit word “tinaghu” possibly meaning “Coppery Shield Bay”.

In the late 19th century, early prospectors and fishermen came here to wait out the winters and enjoy the natural hot springs. A salmon and crab cannery was located 4 miles (6.5 km) to the east on Tenakee Inlet from 1916 to 1974. At one-point Tenakee was known as “Robbers Roost” for the bank robbers and other outlaw types reportedly hiding out here. The most notorious of these were members of the Soapy Smith gang who reputedly settled here after Smith’s death in Skagway in 1898. Gambling and prostitution were part of the rowdy frontier town and there was no reliable law here until 1917 when Deputy U.S. Marshalls’ began making regular visits. Today, the community is connected to Juneau by the Alaska State Ferry, and commercial fishing and tourism are an important part of the Tenakee economy.

The hot natural spring was an open steaming pool just above the tide line until around 1900 when it was enclosed in a log cabin. The pool itself was enlarged at the same time. About 20 years later the U.S. Forest Service poured concrete around the tub and built a larger cabin. This building lasted until 1940 when the structures which are still in use today were built. In the 1930s a volunteer Bath House committee was formed to oversee and maintain the bathhouse. The committee, still serving the same purpose today, relying on donations to fund the maintenance that keeps the bathhouse clean, safe, and opened to the public. Read more here and here. Explore more of Tenakee Springs here:

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