Welcome to Ketchikan

June 24, 2014 No Comments

Cruise ships dock in downtown Ketchikan, just steps away from the main attractions and shops. Before heading into town, head to your ship’s upper deck for a fantastic photo op. From the bustling waterway in the Tongass Narrows, forested slopes dotted with colorful buildings rise to snow-dusted peaks in the distance. When you get onto the pier, you’ll encounter Ketchikan’s famous “Liquid Sunshine Gauge”—a constantly climbing tally of the year’s rainfall. Ketchikan gets about 13.5 feet of liquid sunshine annually, so be sure to bring your waterproof gear ashore.

A waterfront promenade follows the shoreline from the cruise piers to Thomas Basin Boat Harbor, where a breakwater viewing platform provides an extraordinary look of Deer Mountain, the harbor, and downtown. Along the way, markers provide historical context, while whale-tail and halibut benches invite visitors to find a moment of respite while taking in the maritime scenery.

Stop by the Visitors Center at Berth 2 to pick up a copy of Ketchikan’s Historic Walking Tour map, which covers over 30 sites chronicling the community’s evolution. The self-guided walking tour takes about two and a half hours to complete, or there are a number of guided tours of downtown and beyond structured to help you make the most your time in port.

Throughout Ketchikan, totem poles abound. The region’s earliest visitors, Tlingit Natives, are said to have set up summer fishing camps along the shores of the creek that runs through the center of town, and the name Ketchikan likely derived from the Native word for the waterway. After the commercial fishing industry discovered the salmon-rich creek in the late 19th century, the City of Ketchikan was formally incorporated in 1900. The annual salmon runs continue today, as all five species of wild Pacific salmon return to the creeks and streams near Ketchikan 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. Once home to legal bordellos, Creek Street is now populated by colorful souvenir shops, museums, galleries, and restaurants. 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 an unbroken panorama of the town and Tongass Narrows below.

A growing number of public art displays has transformed downtown into a bit of an open-air gallery, which is complemented by the city’s collection of community flower gardens and the abundance of totem poles. In the galleries and shops that line the streets, you will find an eclectic mix of exquisite paintings, weavings, hand-painted drums, photographs, jewelry, and carvings that illustrate the town’s Native culture and creative spirit.

Ketchikan is also an excellent place to pick up some smoked salmon, seafood, even locally roasted coffee. The Port Shopping Map, delivered to staterooms the night before your port visit, details places to find authentic mementos and Alaskan treasures. Be sure to stop by Ketchicandies—a local institution—and indulge in handcrafted chocolates and sweets such as fudge, truffles, and the unbeatable chocolate-covered Oreos.


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Discover Ketchikan’s local flavors at the historic George Inlet Lodge. Upon your arrival you’ll board a seven-mile cruise and enjoy a menu of Dungeness crab.

Alaska’s culture, wildlife, and history comes to life on a three-hour bus and boat tour to Tongass National Forest, Totem Bight State Historical Park, and Guard Island Lighthouse.

Fly between majestic snowcapped mountains, cascading waterfalls and, endless miles of lush forest at Misty Fjords National Monument.

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