Ketchikan, AK

Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” because it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north. Located on an island, Ketchikan began life as an Indian fishing camp. The name Ketchikan comes from a Tlingit phrase that means “eagle with spread-out wings,” a reference to a waterfall near town.

In the early 1900s, when gold was Alaska’s claim to fame, fishing and timber industries were established in Ketchikan. The growth of these industries helped make this Inside Passage port Alaska’s fourth-largest city.

Visitors to Ketchikan will be intrigued by its rich Native heritage, which includes the world’s oldest collection of totem poles at Totem Heritage Center. The Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian are all a part of the city’s colorful history. Ketchikan, with its abundance of salmon, is also a sportfishing paradise. Sightseers will be impressed with both the scenic town and its surroundings, especially Misty Fjords National Monument.

Saxman Native Village, Dance Performance & Totem Park

Saxman Native Village performing native dances and stories

We began our with a short motorcoach ride to the Saxman Native Village experienced the rich living culture of southeast Alaska’s Native Americans. The Village offers countless photo opportunities and we had access to areas not typically available to independent guests.

When we arrived, we were greeted with an elaborate tribal ceremony, the same way the Tlingits have welcomed visitors for generations. After a short video, which introduced us to the culture and history of Saxman, we enter the Beaver Clan House. Inside, we got to witness tribal members perform traditional songs and dances and tell tales.

Our visit continued with a chance to learn more about the impressive totem poles that are a unique part of the Native Alaskan culture. At Saxman Totem Park, our guide helped us understand the mysteries of these towering, majestic works of art. We then get to visit the Village Carving Center where carvers are busy working, passing on the craft to young apprentices. Applying skills passed down for centuries, these craftsmen create some of the most sought-after Native art in the world. A stop at the Village Store was an opportunity to purchase some of the finest Native art available or just a memento of our visit.

Then, it was back aboard the motorcoach for a scenic ride as we made our return trip back to our ship. Ketchikan is Alaska’s busiest waterfront, bustling with floatplanes and boats. We even drove by infamous Creek Street, Ketchikan’s former red-light district during the Gold Rush, and saw historic residential areas and the turn-of-the-century style downtown area.

Other Attractions in Ketchikan

There are plenty of attractions in Ketchikan that we didn’t have time for – a good excuse for a return trip in the future.

Clover Pass Resort

Clover Pass Resort is located about 15 miles north of Ketchikan. If you want to go fishing, you can hire a charter boat or you can rent resort boats and go fishing on your own for salmon, halibut and many other tasty varieties of fish.

Clover Pass is sheltered from the rough waters and you don’t have to go far to catch fish on your own. You will most likely have a fantastic experience with nature, with eagles all around, sea lions swimming in the cove, whales coming and going, and dolphins.

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a must-see entertainment event the whole family will enjoy, located in downtown Ketchikan. You will see log rolling, speed sawing with power and hand saws, axe throwing, speed chopping, power races, and speed climbing.

Don’t worry about the weather, rain or shine, you will be comfortably shielded from inclement weather and warmed with overhead heaters while you sit on padded seats. Be ready to laugh, stomp your feet, shout out encouragement and clap your hands. This is a fun, interactive, audience participation show.

Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument is a national monument and wilderness area of the Tongass National Forest. This national mosaic, carved by glaciers, has an abundance of sea cliffs, steep fjords, rain forests and rock walls with dramatic waterfalls. It is located 22 miles east of Ketchikan.

The annual rainfall is 150 inches, giving rise to the “Misty” name. The best way to reach this area is by seaplane or tour boat. Many visitors arrange to be dropped off and picked up so they can explore the area with kayaks, even beginner kayakers. Wildlife is abundant and the scenery picturesque!

There is lots of hiking in this area that should not be missed.  You can hire a guide and spend the day exploring the park and seeing the beautiful scenery and wildlife around Ketchikan.

Tongass Historical Museum

Tongass Historical Museum, located in downtown Ketchikan, is a great place to learn the stories of how the area has changed over the years and adapted to its environment. See how the economy was influenced by mining, logging, fishing, and tourism.

The First People is a permanent exhibit that displays artifacts and art of the Native tribes. In addition, the museum hosts three or four rotating exhibits that highlight Native Alaskan history and local Ketchikan history.

Creek Street

Creek Street is one of the most popular places to see with things to do in Ketchikan. Creek Street’s history is, shall we say, somewhat “colorful”; Creek Street is a former “Red Light District” as well as the place to go for a little Canadian whiskey during prohibition.

Today, it is a quaint boardwalk perched on pilings along the Ketchikan Creek. You can visit Dolly’s House, a brothel turned museum, watch salmon spawning, and shop at some of the most unique shops along the way.

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary offers three ways to experience the Alaskan wilderness. You can take a walking tour, a zipline adventure, or an off-road adventure.

A highlight of this experience includes sighting the black bear. Experienced and knowledgeable guides will help make this a memorable experience.

Hiking Trails

Ketchikan offers numerous hiking trails for hikers of all experiences; you can take a short, easy hike, or you can take one of the longer, more challenging hikes. Choose the one that fits your timeline and physical abilities. Whichever you choose, you will be rewarded with stunning scenery and picturesque moments.

Still more things to do in Ketchikan

  • Crazy Wolf Studio specializes in Northwest Coast Native art, including masks, drums, silk prints and carved glass. Located in downtown Ketchikan, it has an interesting collection of local art.

  • Deer Mountain Hatchery is one of the oldest of its kind in Alaska. You can learn about the life cycle of salmon. Thousands are released into area lakes, rivers, and streams.

  • Revillagigedo Island is home to Ketchikan, the Salmon Capital of the World.

  • Salmon Ladder Vista is where thousands of fish work to get up the Ketchikan Creek. You can stand at the brink of the waterfall and watch as a large number of fish climb vertically.

  • Whale Park is a small park located in Ketchikan, is loaded with information about the history of the area. It is located on the site of a Native 19th century fish camp, complete with totem pole.

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