The town of Hyder, Alaska, is both the geographically easternmost town in Alaska, as well as the southernmost town in Alaska that can be reached by car. However, one cannot drive to Hyder from the rest of Alaska.
The reason? Hyder is what is called an “inaccessible district”.
In other words, an inaccessible district can be define as “parts of the territory of one country that can be approached conveniently – in particular by wheeled traffic – only through the territory of another country.”
And, believe it or not, there are several famous national-level inaccessible districts around the world, such as the Kleinwalsertal in Vorarlberg, Austria, can only be accessed from Germany, or Os de Civís, Spain, can only be accessed from Andorra.
The only road into Hyder winds under a hand-painted sign that reads, “The friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska,” and past a bar and some stores, before leading to a few residential streets and a post office nearly hidden by towering pines.
Because it is so remote from any other census-designated place in the state, Hyder is often confused with its Canadian next-door neighbor, Stewart, British Columbia. Separated from American governments and bureaucracies by immense wilderness, Hyder has no property taxes or police. Yet the village has long relied on neighboring Stewart for food, electricity and emergency services.
To reach the rest of the state, the 87 souls recorded in the last census have to wait for the United States mail plane that flies from Ketchikan twice a week. Weather permitting. Ketchikan is the closest Alaskan city, although the ferry stopped running from Hyder to Ketchikan over a decade ago.
There are no border controls at the Hyder-Stewart Border Crossing, all establishments in Hyder accept both American and Canadian currency (except for the U.S. Post Office), and it even uses British Columbia’s 250 area code instead of Alaska’s 907.
Moreover, even though Hyder is technically in the Alaska Time Zone, its residents set their clocks to British Columbia’s Pacific Time.
The most major difference between the two towns is probably the fact that almost everyone in Hyder is well-armed, due to looser gun restrictions in the United States than in Canada.
The spirit of international cooperation between Hyder and Stewart goes back to the early 1900s, when the two communities were founded as mining towns on the shores of a fjord abundant with salmon, seals and halibut. The two towns were once home to about 10,000 people, during the gold rush more than a century ago, when Hyder was built on stilts over tidal flats and Stewart was notorious for its brothels. But the population dwindled as the mines shut down.
Despite they may be in different countries, daily life has bound them ever closer through marriages, blizzards and bears that fail to respect international borders.
For years, locals sent their children over the border to the school in Stewart, which has roughly 500 permanent residents, the only grocery store for miles and not much else. Neither town has a bank.
It is tourism that has largely replaced mining in these parts. Residents say more than 100,000 people arrive by car, motorcycle and other vehicle in the summer, drawn by splendid natural monuments like the Canada’s 5th largest glacier, Salmon Glacier, about 18 miles from town and over the Canadian border. However a local guidance is necessary. Why? Just about everyone can recall close encounters with black bears or grizzlies in town, some of which have not ended well….
Interestingly, the Canadian border offers a lure for certain young locals: a legal drinking age of 19, two years lower than in the States.
There is a curious local tradition, known as being “Hyderized”, in which two of the town’s bars issuing certifications to patrons who consume a shot of 151 proof (75.5% alcohol) Everclear.
And exist also another competition, known as the Bush Woman Classic, in which women (and a few men in drag) do a variety of challenges, including chop wood, flip a pancake, catch a fish (in a bucket), shoot a water gun at a man in a bear costume and apply lipstick on the way to the finish line.
Images from web – Google Research