Hyder is nestled at the head of Portland
Canal, a 96 mile-long fjord which forms a portion of the U.S./Canadian border.
Hyder is 75 air miles from Ketchikan. It is the only community in southern
southeast Alaska accessible by road; the only road into Hyder runs through
Stewart, British Columbia, just two miles across the Canadian border. The area
encompasses 14.8 sq. miles of land and 0.0 sq. miles of water. Hyder is in the
maritime climate zone with warm winters, cool summers and heavy precipitation.
Summer temperatures range from 41 to 57░ F; winters range from 25 to 43░ F.
Temperature extremes have been measured from -18 to 89. Rainfall averages 78
inches annually, with annual mean snowfall of 162 inches. It lies at
approximately 55.916940 North Latitude and -130.024720 West Longitude.
Nisga'a tribe, who live throughout western British Columbia, called the head of
Portland Canal "Skam-A-Kounst," meaning "safe place," probably referring to the
site as a retreat from the harassment of the neighboring coastal Haidas. The
Nisga'a used this area as a seasonal berry-picking and bird-hunting site. In
1896, Capt. D.D. Gaillard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explored Portland
Canal. Gold and silver lodes were discovered in this area in the late 1898,
mainly on the Canadian side in the upper Salmon River basin. Townships sprung up
concurrently on the Alaskan and Canadian sides of the border. On the Alaskan
side, the township of Portland City was founded. In 1914, local prospectors
applied for a postal permit for the settlement. The request was denied on the
basis that too many United States communities shared the name "Portland." The
decision was made to name the community after Frederick Hyder, a respected
Canadian mining engineer who predicted the area would have a prosperous future
Due to its location along the Portland Canal, Hyder became the access and supply
point to Canadian mining. Hyder's boom years occurred between 1920 and 1930,
when gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten were extracted from the
Riverside Mine on the Alaskan side of the border. The mine operated from 1924
until 1950. In 1928, the Hyder business district was consumed by fire. During
the Prohibition era, a small community called "Hyder, BC" was created just
across the Canadian border to serve as a legal speakeasy to the Hyder mining
community, even housing its own Canadian Customs office. Shortly after
Prohibition was repealed, "Hyder, BC" was abandoned.
By 1956, all major mining had closed except for the Granduc copper mine in
Canada, which operated until 1984. Several mining startups near Stewart have
come and gone in the past three decades, but no mining activity has occurred on
the Alaskan side of the border since the Riverside Mine closed in 1950.
Hyder is now largely dependent on tourism from highway visitors. The community
continues to pay homage to its mining roots and is known as the "Friendliest
Ghost Town in Alaska."