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Colorful Ketchikan, Alaska: The Salmon Capital of the World and Alaska's First City

Updated on September 18, 2017
Casey White profile image

A vacation to Alaska prompted me to write an article about one of the most, unique and beautiful places in the state - Ketchikan.

Very Colorful, Indeed!

Ketchikan International Airport is located on Gravina Island, which is a short, five-minute ferry ride to town. Airport shuttle vans meet all flights and will take you to your final destination.
Ketchikan International Airport is located on Gravina Island, which is a short, five-minute ferry ride to town. Airport shuttle vans meet all flights and will take you to your final destination.

A VERY Nice Place to Visit!!

Up until a few days ago, I had never even heard of Ketchikan, Alaska, but now I can't get enough of it. I have put this hub together with some of the most interesting facts about this quaint town, along with some great photographs.

  • If you get to vacation in Alaska, (more specifically Ketchikan) don't miss the Totem Heritage Center where you will see Totem Poles on display that have been retrieved from uninhabited Tlingit and Haida village sites near Ketchikan, according to the information provided by the center. I have included a photo within this article of some of the Totem Poles you will see there. They are very impressive indeed.
  • The Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery is another place you won't want to miss. This is a center whose main purpose is to look at Alaska’s salmon hatchery program, along with the showcase of raptors and other birds that have been rescued and are currently being rehabilitated. The Eagle Center, which was located next to the hatchery has been permanently closed due to a reduction of federal funding. All of the birds were transferred to the raptor center in Sitka, Alaska.
  • The Saxman Native Village, which is located just South of Ketchikan, will introduce you to traditions of the Tlingit culture, and there are two parks for visitors to see who want to know more about the culture of the native people - Potlatch Park and the Totem Bight Historical State Park, where you'll see 14 totem poles.
  • You will learn a great deal about the timber operations in Ketchikan at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary as you walk through the shoreline and rainforest area.
  • And, don't miss the George Inlet Cannery tour where you will learn about the fishing industry of the area and see displays of equipment used in the industry over 70 years ago.


My Facebook friend, Sonya Milligan, allowed me to use this great photo she took at the George Inlet Lodge in Ketchikan, Alaska.
My Facebook friend, Sonya Milligan, allowed me to use this great photo she took at the George Inlet Lodge in Ketchikan, Alaska. | Source

Totem Bight State Park

The Totem Bight State Historical Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.  When natives moved to busier communities to find work, many of the totem poles were left behind and soon overgrown by forests or eroded by weather.
The Totem Bight State Historical Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. When natives moved to busier communities to find work, many of the totem poles were left behind and soon overgrown by forests or eroded by weather.

Revillagigedo Island Named by Captain George Vancouver

Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island (named in 1793 by Captain George Vancouver for Juan Vicente de Güemes, the 2nd Count of Revillagigedo, a Spanish military officer and viceroy of New Spain, Mexico, from 1789 to 1794).

Chief Johnson Totem Pole

The Chief Johnson totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The Chief Johnson totem pole in Ketchikan, Alaska. | Source
Inside the Potlatch Totem Park, where you can visit the carving shed and see the actual totem poles being carved.
Inside the Potlatch Totem Park, where you can visit the carving shed and see the actual totem poles being carved. | Source

Oh, And the Scenery Is Pretty Nice Too!

Check out these scenic beauties:

  • Misty Fiords National Monument - This monument is accessible only by float plane or boat from Ketchikan, but if you are thrilled at the prospect of seeing sea lions, killer whales, porpoises, brown and black bear and mountain goats, all of which are often sighted in this area, the trip will be worth it.
  • Prince of Wales Island - You can probably count on seeing some black bears and grizzlies on this island, and you most certainly will see some majestic bald eagles perched on various places. I don't think you could find a better place for a hunting and fishing vacation than Prince of Wales Island.

The Misty Fjords National Monument and Park

Ketchican Is the Earliest Extant City in Alaska

Ketchikan is the earliest surviving incorporated city in Alaska, because consolidation or unification of other communities in Alaska resulted in the dissolution of those communities' city governments. The entire state of Alaska is a land of many superlatives, including the largest national park, highest peak, longest coastline, biggest state, longest day and night, and many more.

Prince of Wales Island

This black bear was spotted at Balls Lake on the Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. the fourth largest island in the United States.  It is about 45 miles wide and 140 miles long and offers a multitude of wildlife to view.
This black bear was spotted at Balls Lake on the Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. the fourth largest island in the United States. It is about 45 miles wide and 140 miles long and offers a multitude of wildlife to view.

Totem Pole Figures

A "totem" refers to a spirit being, sacred object, or a symbol of a tribe, clan, individual or a family. Native American tradition refers to the fact that everyone individually is connected with nine different animals that will accompany them through life, acting as spiritual guides.

Unbelievable Totem Poles on Display at the Totem Heritage Center

Alaska's native totem poles, the adventure, history, culture, fishing, hiking, skiing, wildlife watching and scenery are all things that make a visit to this area appealing.
Alaska's native totem poles, the adventure, history, culture, fishing, hiking, skiing, wildlife watching and scenery are all things that make a visit to this area appealing.

Ketchikan, Alaska by Air

Colorful Ketchikan, Alaska, is accessible by air or by sea (technically, it's all by sea because even if you fly you still have to ferry across the water) from the continental United States. Alaska Airlines has several flights daily in and out of the area. Ketchikan is just 90 minutes by air from Seattle, Washington.

Lumberjacks Know How to Have Fun!

A log-rolling event (part of the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show) in Ketchikan, Alaska.  This show is located just one block from where the cruise ships dock.
A log-rolling event (part of the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show) in Ketchikan, Alaska. This show is located just one block from where the cruise ships dock. | Source

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Located bout a block from where all of the cruise ships dock, you can attend The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show and witness Alaskan lumberjacks battling it out with Canadian Lumberjacks in various categories, such as log rolling, chopping, sawing, tree climbing and axe throwing. Shows are an hour long and there are several shows daily with times varying. Seats are heated and cushioned, as well as covered, so the weather should not be an issue in deciding whether or not to attend. Seating is general and unassigned.

The show's site is handicap accessible (walkers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters).

Large Ferries to Accomodate Any Vehicle

These three ferries at Ketchikan, Alaska, are docked at the Ketchikan Shipyard for upgrades and repairs.  They are large enough to accomodate all vehicles.
These three ferries at Ketchikan, Alaska, are docked at the Ketchikan Shipyard for upgrades and repairs. They are large enough to accomodate all vehicles. | Source

Getting to Ketchikan by Sea

Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS)

Ferries connect Ketchikan with the lower 48 states (and Canada) to the rest of Alaska’s Inside Passage and are able to accommodate vehicles of any size or shape.

Private Yachts/Boats

If you are lucky enough to own a yacht, Ketchikan has plenty of moorage for you and other private boaters and can provide any marine services you might need while there, including fuel, supplies and repair services. There is also a shipyard capable of hauling out most sizes of vessels, should your travel plans take an unexpected turn.

Cruise Lines/Ferries

This is an alphabetical list of all of the cruise lines/ferries from which you can choose:

  • Alaskan Dream Cruises
  • American Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Disney Cruise Lines
  • Hapag-Lloyd
  • Holland America Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Oceania
  • Princess Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
  • Regent Seven Seas
  • Silver Seas
  • Un-Cruise Adventures.

© 2014 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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    • profile image

      Joanne Burch 6 days ago

      I visited Ketchikan and loved it. You have captured its essence.

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      We have friends that are from Alaska and they are constantly talking about how amazing it was to live there! I would love the chance to see this part of America at some time! Great article! This looks like a beautiful little town!