Traditionally, Alaskans have used Haines as a weigh station. Going north, it was the last stop for vehicular visitors and residents who were planning to drive north via the Haines Highway, which connected with the Yukon Territory and eventually northern Alaska. It was a popular connection for people catching the Marine Highway for points south, and unless the ferry schedule required it, few people tended to spend much time in Haines.

Haines has always been a historic and interesting little community along the Chilkat River and is home of the Southeast Alaska State Fair; that alone shows that it's an odd little mix of Southeast frontier town and farming community. Driving along its narrow streets, it's not unusual to see horses and more than few residents (who grow their own vegetables) take advantage of the mild weather and the good glacier and river soil.

The town is a center of Native arts, with the Alaska Indian Arts Native Cultural Center. The 1904 former military base, Fort William H. Seward, lends it a dignified, parade-ground air.

And, yes, there are the bald eagles. It's almost impossible to talk about Haines without mentioning that it has more bald eagles than just about anywhere on Earth. In the winter especially, they gather along the river banks, several to each tree. Year-round, it's just about impossible to look skyward and not see several circling.

Like many small Alaskan towns, Haines is of two minds about the tourist industry. It loves visitors, but it really doesn't want too many of them (the occasional cruise-ship visits have been controversial).