Land of misty mountains and totem poles, of cedar rainforests and bygone brothels, the city of Ketchikan offers quintessential Alaskan adventure. Salmon crowd the streams, eagles soar the skies and black bears roam the old growth forests. Bring a camera and a taste for adventure. Ketchikan is why we cruise Alaska.
Misty Fjords National Monument
The highlight of any trip to this region is Misty Fjords National Monument. At nearly 2.3 million acres, it’s the largest wilderness area in Alaska’s national forests. More than 17,000 years ago, the entire monument would have been covered in ice. Over the years, as the ice moved or melted away, it transformed the landscape into deep fjords with sheer cliffs that rise thousands of feet above the water. Explore Misty Fjords by plane or boat and most tours include an easy hike through the surrounding rainforest. All the Alaskan wildlife is represented here: bear, moose, wolves, otters, seals, killer whales and much more.
Totem Heritage Center
Ketchikan is a land of totem poles, and there are numerous nearby opportunities to experience these intriguing works of art. Since 1938, the Totem Bight State Historic Site has been salvaging and restoring totem poles abandoned in the surrounding forests by indigenous tribes intent on leaving their old way of life behind. Today the site boasts fourteen world-class totem poles and a recreated indigenous clan house. Visitors discover the mythology behind the totem poles stacked with figures representing eagles, bears, wolves, ravens, beavers and killer whales. The nearby Totem Heritage Center holds the world’s largest collection of unrestored totem poles, some more than 100 years old. Displays also include baskets and masks and intriguing 19th century photographs of the old villages where totems originated. Potlatch Totem Park presents a fully recreated Native Alaskan village, and the opportunity to see totem pole artists in action, carving works of art from cedar logs. See the 42-foot pole honoring Raven, the deity who released the sun into the world.
Ketchikan’s Creek Street
Ketchikan’s Creek Street is a historic boardwalk perched on pilings along the banks of Ketchikan Creek. In the 1920s, this former red light district once supported more than 20 houses of ill repute. Today it’s suited for a stroll to shopping and restaurants. Hike the adjoining Married Man’s Trail, the onetime backdoor escape route through the woods for married men not wanting to be caught frequenting the brothels. During Prohibition, all the houses had hidden trap doors in the floors into which alcohol was smuggled from boats under the boardwalk. Visit Dolly’s House, what served as a working brothel until 1954, and was home of the most famous madam on the boardwalk. It’s the only former brothel that remains today.
Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
When adventure calls again, the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is 40 acres of old growth spruce, hemlock and cedar trees. The half mile trail through the forest offers raised platforms from which it’s common to see bears pulling salmon from the stream below. On site is also the Alaska Raptor Center. See eagles, hawks, owls and more being nursed back to health after injuries.
Ketchikan will surely play a starring role in stories of your trip for the folks back home.