Binkley Legacy Grows: 4 Generations at Helm

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Another member of the prominent Binkley family qualified to take the helm of the sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery on the Chena and Tanana rivers.

That may not seem like such a big deal; after all, three generations of Binkleys already have been riverboat captains.

However, Kai Binkley is the first female to skipper the family's 900-passenger boat. And, at 18, she is the youngest female ever to be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard as a sternwheeler captain.

Kai follows in the footsteps of her father, Johne; her uncles, Jim Jr. and Skip; her grandfather, Jim Sr., and great-grandfather, Charles.

Charles Madison Binkley came north through the Chilkoot Pass in 1898 -- the peak Gold Rush year -- and operated riverboats in Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada. His son, Jim Sr., worked on a fleet of boats delivering mail to villages in the Alaskan interior and, in 1950, founded the family business operating the popular Riverboat Discovery on day cruises out of Fairbanks.

Kai passed all of the exams necessary to earn certification last year but, by Coast Guard regulation, had to wait until her 18th birthday earlier this year to receive her license.

She will spend her summer as an apprentice captain on the boat, sometimes with Dad at the wheel, before attending college in the fall.

Her father is a former Alaska state senator and a former president of the Alaska Visitors Association.

The Riverboat Discovery operates its three-and-a-half-hour Chena and Tanana cruise twice daily through mid-September. The excursion costs $39.95 for adults, $36.95 for youths and military and $29.95 for children between ages 3 and 12.
Riverboat Discovery Tours
Telephone: (907) 479-6673

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