Fairbanks, Alaska

Founded on the banks of the Chena River in 1901, not far from the confluence with the Tanana River, Fairbanks is a classic river town. Steamboat traffic was heavy in the early days and steamboats were the only comfortable means of transportation for decades.

Today Fairbanks is a booming tourism city – northern lights can bee seen here frequently and the area is great for outdoor activity. Also, Fairbanks still gains from the gold industry featuring the largest gold mine of the US, the Ft. Know Gold Mine.

The main attraction for steamboat fans in Fairbanks is the S.S. Nenana, a historic paddlewheeler, now restored and serving as a land-based museum.

Though not a historic boat, the steamboat tourist might enjoy a cruise on the Riverboat Discovery III, a beautiful replica of a paddlewheeler.

S.S. Nenana

The S.S. NENANA was launched at Nenana, Alaska, in May 1933 and served for Alaska Railroad on the Yukon, Nenana, and Tanana Rivers, providing access to the interior Alaska.

S.S. Nenana, 2013 (image: National Park Service, Alaska Region)

Retired in 1955, she was bought from the Alaska Railroad by the Greater Fairbanks Opportunities Group in 1957, brought to Fairbanks and moored on the Chena River as a tourist attraction. It was used as a boatel in the summer months when hotels were full in Fairbanks.

She came into the park in 1965, opening in 1967 as the Alaska 67, or A-67. The Park was used for the 100th-year celebration of Alaska’s purchase from Russia.

A-67 subleased the Park from Pioneer Memorial Park Inc., and the Park was opened as “Alaska 67 Centennial Exposition”. The boat had a restaurant on it when it first opened.

In 1968 Pioneer Memorial Park Inc. quitclaimed the Park to the State of Alaska. That same day the State of Alaska quitclaimed the Park to the City of Fairbanks.

On May 1, 1968, City of Fairbanks Mayor Red Boucher signed a letter to the Prime Minister of Ottawa, Canada, stating that “Alaskaland” was the new name for the 40-acre Exposition resulting from the A-67 Centennial site in Fairbanks.

In July 1987, the City of Fairbanks quitclaimed Alaskaland to the Fairbanks North Star Borough. In 2001, the name of the Park was changed to Pioneer Park to more accurately reflect the historical importance of the Park and reduce the expectation of a theme park.

The boat was refurbished back to its original configuration, putting the staterooms back in the boat and upper crew quarters, done by the Fairbanks Historical Preservation Foundation from 1987 to 1992. She has been listed as a museum since this restoration.

The Nenana is 237 ft. long, 43 ft. beam and once was rated 1,00 gross register tons. Like so many other paddlewheel steamboats the S.S. Nenana was built to serve as a packet boat, i.e. carrying passengers as well as freight and mail at the same time. The Nenana had accomodations fo 48 passengers, her freight capacity was 300 tons.

Friends of S.S. Nenana

Pioneer Park