Ketchikan: The Salmon Capital
Set in the heart of Tongass National Forest, the largest in the US, Ketchikan has cultural attractions in town and nature’s playground in its backyard, with recreational activities to suit any taste.
A scenic fishing village with an intriguing history, strong Native influence, and artistic soul, Ketchikan stretches for 31 miles along the coast of Revillagigedo Island on the Inside Passage. Before heading into town, step onto your ship’s deck for a fantastic photo op. When you get onto the pier, you’ll encounter Ketchikan’s famous Liquid Sunshine Gauge—a constantly climbing tally of the year’s rainfall. Most years, Ketchikan gets about 13.5 feet of liquid sunshine, so be sure to bring your waterproof gear ashore.
Stop by the Visitors Center at Berth 2 to pick up a copy of Ketchikan’s Historic Walking Tour guide, which covers over 30 sites chronicling the community’s evolution. The self-guided stroll takes about two and a half hours. It details how the commercial fishing industry discovered the salmon-rich creek in the late 19th century and then incorporated the City of Ketchikan in 1900. The annual salmon runs on which the city was formed continue today with all five species of wild Pacific salmon returning to the Ketchikan waterways to spawn.
One of the top spots in town to watch this natural phenomenon is at the waterfall and salmon ladder by the far entrance to Creek Street, a rustic boardwalk elevated on pilings rising from the shoreline of Ketchikan Creek. To learn more about the history of this former red-light district, visit Dolly’s House Museum at 24 Creek Street. It was once the parlor of the city’s most prominent madam. Leading away from Creek Street, Married Man’s Trail winds through the woods to a lookout point that affords unmatched views of the town and Tongass Narrows below.
Farther along Ketchikan Creek, attractions include The Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center, as well as the indoor Totem Heritage Center, which features 33 original totem poles from surrounding Tlingit and Haida Indian villages.
At the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center near Thomas Basin harbor, three large totem poles greet visitors in the lobby, where a school of silver salmon are suspended from the ceiling. The exhibit hall details the Inside Passage ecosystems as well as Alaska Native traditions.
Ketchikan is also a great place to pick up some smoked salmon, seafood, and even locally roasted coffee. Be sure to stop by Salmon Etc. and indulge in handcrafted Alaskan goodies.
While there are plenty of places to explore in downtown, the true wonder of Ketchikan is beyond the town limits. There is easy access to the Misty Fjords National Monument, a 3,570-square-mile wilderness sanctuary within the Tongass that’s replete with sea cliffs, steep fjords, and 3,000-foot-high rock walls jutting out of the water.
Every venture into the Tongass comes with possible wildlife sighting, including bald eagles, black bears, seals, deer, and more than 250 avian species. Ample walking and hiking trails lead through the old-growth forest. The Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary, Knudson Cove Marina, Saxman Native Village and Totem Park, and Potlatch Totem Park are also worth checking out.
Take a private flight to Misty Fjords National Monument and savor a crab feast at the rustic George Inlet Lodge.
In the heated, covered arena, watch lumberjacks bring Alaska’s colorful timber history to life.
Mountain Point offers excellent snorkeling conditions in the calm waters of the Inside Passage.
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