The road on the way to visit Hyder, Alaska. Photo courtesy Tjipke de Vries.
When the U.S.-Canada border closed to all but essential traffic in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Hyder, Alaska, were affected more than most. The small community of about 65 in southeast Alaska is isolated from the rest of the state. The only road out of town goes through the Canadian border to Stewart, British Columbia, a town of about 400 just a few miles away.
Though the two towns are technically in separate countries, they often consider themselves one community. Hyder residents take Canadian currency, operate on the Pacific time zone, and travel to Stewart for groceries and other services. Because there are less than 10 students in Hyder, the Southeast Island School District closed the one-room schoolhouse there and made plans for students to attend school in Stewart.
When the border closed, friends were separated, recreational trips ceased, and students were banned from going to school in Stewart. Hyder residents were allowed across the border once a week for three hours to buy groceries, gas, and other necessities.
Canada eventually eased restrictions at the end of October 2020. Hyder students were allowed to go to school, and residents could cross the border anytime for necessities.
In typical years, tourists often drive to Hyder in summer to see the area’s natural beauty and visit the Fish Creek Bear Viewing Area when the salmon are running.