KETCHIKAN, ALASKA: WORLD'S SALMON CAPITOL
Alaska’s 5th most populous city, Ketchikan, is widely considered to be the world’s “Salmon Capitol”. Located on Revillagigedo Island along Tongass Narrows in the shadow of Deer Mountain, Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town. The waters surrounding the town teem with five types of salmon: king, red, silver, pink, and chum—making it a destination of choice for professional and amateur fishermen worldwide.
A salmon saltery was established in the town in 1883. Just two years later, 160 acres of land were purchased from local Native Americans, and—a year later—the first salmon cannery was built at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek.
By 1900, the fishing trade was thriving, and the town was officially founded. Ketchikan saw further success as a valuable mining supply centre after discovering gold and copper in the region. In the 20th century, the town experienced a flourishing logging industry that continued throughout the 20th century.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Evidence of the city’s pride in its native roots is felt in the cultural influences that seem to colour the entire region. Major attractions boast towering totem poles, celebrating the various tribes indigenous to the area, while shops of every size offer one-of-a-kind, hand-carved items for tourists.
Ketchikan boasts the largest collection of original 19th-century totem poles in the world. Be sure to spend some time at one of the three totem pole parks in the area—each with majestic, multi-coloured Tlingit and Haida totems amid a spectacular, rural setting.
Here are some other sites to add to your list for your time in Ketchikan:
Shopping is conveniently available at sites adjacent to the dock or within walking distance. Steeped in Native American tradition, jewellry and fur shops offer unique paintings, prints, sculptures, and glassware. Galleries sell totem carvings, masks, hand-painted drums, cedar bark baskets, and jade carvings. You can also find locally canned and smoked seafood delicacies for sale.
Stroll back through time along this historic city boardwalk. Today, the colourful houses that remain have been converted to eclectic shops, a restaurant, and a museum. During the summer months, the Creek Street Footbridge offers fantastic views of spawning salmon.
Totem Heritage Center
Established in 1976, this facility houses and displays original, salvaged totem poles from abandoned Tlingit and Haida village sites and other Native Alaskan relics. Offering guided tours and a video about preservation efforts, the center includes totems over 100 years old.
Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center
Overlooking Ketchikan Creek, this famous hatchery boasts salmon by the thousands and includes observation platforms where you can watch natural spawning. Owned by the Ketchikan Indian Corporation, the centre also features illuminating exhibits on native fishing and offers an up-close encounter with two magnificent nesting bald eagles.
Saxman Totem Park
This picturesque park includes approximately 26 beautifully sculpted, multi-coloured totems, a tribal house where authentic dance performances can be enjoyed, a carving centre, a culture hall, and a gift shop. Catch a captivating cultural performance where you can experience the magic of traditional song and storytelling by local Native American clans. This is an engaging way to learn more about their way of life, traditions, and the significance of clan identity.
Totem Bight State Park
Overlooking the captivating Tongass Narrows, this serene state park is located approximately 16 km north of Ketchikan. It is home to both majestic 60-year-old totem poles (restored and re-carved) and a native tribal house.
Misty Fjords National Monument
Escape to this awe-inspiring jewel amidst Alaska's natural wonders. Misty Fjords National Monument is 2.2 million protected acres of Tongass National Forest, located approximately 32 air km from Ketchikan. Only accessible by floatplane or boat, this incomparable natural masterpiece is nature at its most dramatic, boasting towering mountaintops, rushing waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, and lakes that must be seen to be believed.
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