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Port of Ketchikan, Alaska's first city along the Inside cruise passage is located on Revillagigedo Island, is part of the Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska, at the southern border with Canada. Originally a fishing village and a supply centerfor miners during the gold rush of the 1890s. Several canneries were built and a boardwalk like town was developed. Now known for its totem poles, Ketchikan's Indian name, Kach Khanna, means "spread wings of prostrate eagle." Cruise ships dock close to the town center. Ketchikan is famous during the summer for its salmon spawning season. From the boardwalk outside, you can watch thousands of pink king salmon, swim their way upstream. The smart ones climb the fish ladders conveniently provided by the U.S. Wildlife Service.
If Skagway thrives on its gold rush past, and Juneau flourishes as being the state capital, rough-around-the-edges Ketchikan prospers for its salmon. Fishing, along with tourism (after all, there are four to six cruises in port each day during the season), keeps the “salmon capital of the world” afloat. You don’t have to go far to see the famous fish swimming upstream to spawn either: Just look under the Creek Street boardwalk.
Though much larger than Skagway, Ketchikan is a walkable town. You’ll notice many of the city’s streets are actually steep wooden staircases leading to homes built into the slopes. On flatter stretches, towering totem poles dot small parks across town, reminders of the area’s rich native heritage.
Ketchikan is an ancient city that is both fascinating and enjoyable. Even though there are some American restaurants and stores, (and it is part of the States, of course), it is certainly not your typical American town. If Anchorage is at one end of the Alaskan spectrum, you will definitely find Ketchikan at the other end. This small city contains more totem poles than anywhere in the world, and is set at the base of Deer Mountain. Back in the 1930s, Ketchikan was fondly known as the salmon-canning capital of the world. While this may no longer be true, the salmon fishing remains outstanding. Just before the beginning of the 20th century, a series of gold discoveries brought vast numbers of immigrants to the area. This created two important industries that strengthened the economy in Ketchikan: commercial fishing and lumber. The region prospered for a while, but suffered an economic depression after the gold dried up, and the immigrants were left with no more than when they came. Many of them left and went to other parts of Alaska where they could find work.
The city is quite compact and you can see most of it on foot. There are numerous stores that offer unique arts and crafts, jewelry, and other specialty items that are made by hand in Ketchikan. There are great trails for hiking and exploring, and a wide array of outdoor sports and activities is offered as well. A few restaurants will fill you up with hearty, quality food, but your options are definitely limited. While the nightlife and eating facilities are not bustling, it doesn't really matter, because Ketchikan is charming enough that its visitors don't need to be wined and dined. Ketchikan's charm is complemented by Mother Nature, who relies on the intrinsic beauty of the region to captivate tourists.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock in downtown Ketchikan at the terminus of Mission Street, near the Tongass Narrows. From here you are within walking distance to the center of the city.It is quite possible to simply walk off your ship and start shopping as soon as you hit the dock (depending on where your ship is located along the waterfront)
Ketchikan is Alaska's fourth largest city in terms of population, therefore, you will have no problem finding adequate transportation during your stay. The local taxi services, Yellow Taxi (907/225-5555) and Sourdough Cab (907/225-2400) will take you from the ferry docks to any destination of your choice.
The free downtown Salmon Run Bus shuttle runs May through September, and operates on a 20-minute loop from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily serving all of the downtown area, cruise ship berths and several attractions including the Totem Heritage Center. Look for the bus with brightly painted fish. The circuit begins at Berth 4.
There's a taxi stand in downtown Ketchikan. The drop charge is $3.70, and then the charge is $3.50 for each mile traveled.
If you would like to rent an automobile, contact Alaska Car Rental (800/662-0007) for more information. Expect to pay around $50 a day for a rental car. If you prefer to use your own power to navigate Ketchikan, you can rent a bike from The Pedalers (907/225-0440) located at Spruce Mill Way.
Everything -- information kiosks, cafes, shops, museums, tour operators and restaurants, -- is a short walk from the cruise ships. The visitors/tour center is located at Berth II (131 Front Street). ATMs are available throughout the downtown area, and although the post office is more than two miles away, Frontier Shipping and Copyworks in the Plaza Shopping Center can be reached by the free downtown shuttle for those needing to send mail. A tunnel divides "Old Town" Ketchikan (where the majority of the attractions are) to "New Town," where several additional restaurants and bars can be found.
Totem Bight Historical Park
Ten miles north of town, Totem Bight is not an original village site, but rather a re-creation of one in a beautiful natural setting. A short walk through the forest with the smell of cedar and sea breezes brings you to the steps of the Raven Tribal House. Totem poles, carved from soft and durable cedar, were never meant to last forever, but Totem Bight State Historical Park was founded in the 1930s as part of a major restoration effort by the federal government to save, collect, and preserve some of these old poles. Tours are self-guided.
Southeast Regional Office of the State Division of Parks; 907/465-4563
Saxman Native Village This unique park's 24 totem poles each tell a different story.
Saxman Totem Park
Saxman is a small Indian village located three miles South of Ketchikan. The population is approximately 400 people. The village was settled by Tlingit Indians in 1894 by natives from Cape Fox and Tongass Island.
In the center of this Tlingit village is the clan house and a very grand avenue of totem poles leading up the hill to the park. They say the totem poles here, which were moved from Pennock, Tongass, and Village Islands and from old Cape Fox Village at Kirk Point, represent the world's largest collection. The U.S. Forest Service directed a restoration project of the old totems beginning in 1939. Cape Fox Tours (907/225-4846) offers 2-hour guided tours of the poles, the artists' carving shed, and the Beaver Clan House, where they will entertain you with songs and dances. 3 miles south of Ketchikan on the South Tongass Highway; 907/225-6166
Misty Fjords National Monument
Twenty-two miles west of Ketchikan by air, Misty Fjords is a jewel set within the Tongass National Forest. Carved by glaciers during the last great ice age more than 10,000 years ago, Misty Fjords, as its name suggests, is a series of deep-water fjords left by receding glaciers, tall granite cliffs, and almost perpetual swirling mist. In Punchbowl Cove, one of the more popular destinations, sheer granite walls rise to a height of more than 3,000 feet. (Some have called it the Yosemite of the North.) There are many ways you can explore the monument-by plane, boat, kayak, and foot. Southeast Alaska Visitor Center, 50 Main St; 907/228-6214
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is located at 50 Main St. (907/228-6220) and is a lovely museum full of wonderful exhibits and great hands-on displays. This is more than just a visitor's center; it is an experience full of wit and wonder, housed in a smartly constructed building with state-of-the-art facilities and technology-based presentations. There is a multimedia display called Mystical Southeast Alaska that is informative and enjoyable. In addition, there is a trip planning room that highlights the best ways to go about your visit to Ketchikan and beyond.
The Totem Bight State National Park can be found at 9883 N. Tongass Hwy. (907/247-8574) and is an educational and entertaining attraction full of sights of Alaskan heritage. In 1938, the U.S. Forest Service began a program of salvaging and reconstructing historic cedar totem poles created by area natives and dating back to the 1800s, monuments designed to illustrate the history of Ketchikan. Unfortunately, some still stand in a somewhat dilapidated form. Along with the carved main house and totem poles, there is a fishing camp located at Totem Bight Park.
The Celebration of the Sea begins around the first of May and lasts for ten days. It is a terrific cultural event that features a wide array of music and art exhibitions, as well as community activities, and it precedes the King Salmon Derby. This fifty year old event is held annually and was created to determine the king fisherman for that particular year. Celebration of the Sea is a wonderful festival, and if you happen to be in Ketchikan during this time, be sure to attend this event.
Built on the banks of Ketchikan Creek, historic Creek Street is a great boardwalk featuring wonderful art galleries, gift shops, and photo-ops. Creek Street is home to Dolly's House, the infamous brothel that was that stood at the center of Ketchikan's red light district during the gold-rush days of the 19th century. Now it is a fascinating museum that takes you back to the wild gold rush days of yesteryear.
Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center (907/228-5278) is located at 1158 Salmon Rd., and provides a wonderful glimpse into the preservation of the Alaskan Salmon. This is a great tourist spot for the whole family, and guided tours of the hatchery can be arranged as well.
Enjoy museum hopping around town. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center (50 Main Street; 907-228-6220; open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during summer; $5 adults, free for kids) has an interactive rain forest gallery and a terrific gift shop. Also, check out the Totem Heritage Center (601 Deermount Street; 907-225-5900; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m; $5 adults, free for kids) and the Tongass Historical Museum (629 Dock Street; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $3 adults, free for kids).
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show: The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show celebrates Ketchikan's logging heyday. Watch pros compete at log rolling, ax throwing and pole climbing. The bleacher seats, thankfully, are covered and heated. The sometimes corny show lasts about an hour, leaving plenty of time for shopping -- the port's shore activity of choice. (420 Spruce Mill Way; 907-225-9050; shows run as many as five times a day from 8 a.m. to 5:15p.m.; $35 for adults, $17.50 for children)
Totem Poles: Outside of Ketchikan, three must-see totem pole locations are Totem Bight State Historical Park (10 miles north), Potlatch Park (near Totem Bight) and Saxman Native Village (two miles south). At Potlatch and Saxman, you can watch carvers at work during the guided tour.
Creek Street: The most interesting area -- both for historic value and good shopping -- is Creek Street. Not a street at all, this boardwalk winds along Ketchikan Creek and was once the locale for all the area's brothels. Now, it's home to artsy galleries like Soho Coho (5 Creek Street; 907-225-5954), which sells fish-themed artwork and a variety of higher-end crafts, from gorgeous velvet scarves to watercolors to soaps. Nearby, you'll see the Alaska Eagle Art Gallery (5 Creek Street No. 3; 907-225-8365), where Pendleton blankets with Indian themes are a standout, as are silver pendants and bronze sculptures. In front of Creek Street (105 Stedman Street; 907-225-7690) is Parnassus, an interesting bookstore with a great selection of Alaska-oriented tomes. Try Sam McGee's A Taste of Alaska (18 Creek Street; 907-225-7267) for regionally made items like honey, barbecue sauce, soaps, lotions and ulu knives.
Cape Fox Lodge
Catch a great view of Ketchikan and beyond from the Cape Fox Lodge; you can access this hilltop resort from a funicular that operates on Creek Street. (Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; $4 roundtrip)
Tongass National Forest
Watch black bears catch and eat their fill of salmon at Neets Bay in Tongass National Forest. Sign up onboard your ship for this floatplane and bear-watching thrill (late July through September).
Deer Mountain
 Serious hikers will enjoy the three-mile trail on Deer Mountain that begins in Ketchikan (Fair and Deermount Streets). Remember that this is still bear country, so hiking in pairs or groups is advised. Another good practice is to sing and make noise as you walk to avoid startling bears.
Misty Fjords National Monument
Go sea kayaking, deep-sea fishing and tour Misty Fjords National Monument wilderness area by air (operators have booths at the tourism center at the pier). Flights are extremely weather dependent, so have a backup plan.
Boat and Cycle Tours
ke a part-bike part-boat tour with Alaska Sea Cycle Tours (907-821-2728), a great family-friendly activity. The tour combines wildlife spotting, exercise and an Alaskan picnic.
Sea Kayaking and Fishing
There are numerous coves, channels, and inlets around Ketchikan that make it the ideal destination for spectacular sea kayaking excursions. The waters are protected and the marine life is abundant. The best company to contact to set up an adventure is Southeast Exposure, which is located at 37 Potter Rd. (907/225-8829). Here you can rent kayaks and hire a tour guide as well. The fishing around Ketchikan is outstanding, and by contacting the Department of Fish and Game (907/465-4190) you can obtain a license and plenty of useful information regarding fishing in the area.
For Everyone:  Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park – Most ships offer plenty of tours that include a visit to see these totem poles, but we prefer to skip the buses and pedal along the scenic 2.5-mile waterfront path. Rent bikes from Southeast Exposure and, before you leave, buy a booklet explaining the totems.
For Couples:  Neets Bay – One of the few “sure thing” bear -ighting opportunities is a tour to this remote spot in gorgeous Tongass National Forest, home to the region’s largest concentration of black bears. After a scenic seaplane ride to the sight (hold hands if you’re afraid of small aircraft!), you get the ideal photo op from the safety of a viewing platform.
For Families:  Alaska Canopy Adventures – While Mom and Dad focus on trying to spot bald eagles from the platforms, kids can work up the courage to zipline high above the rainforest canopy on cables suspended between the towering cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees. The thrilling Eagle Creek course comprises eight lines and three suspension bridges, while the easier Bear Creek course caters to families with younger kids.
For the Adventurous:  Salmon fishing – Hitch a ride with Captain Jerry from AAA Sportfishing, and he’ll pick you up at the docks and take you out on a commercial vessel to fish for salmon. Within half an hour, your line will be in the water, and whatever you catch — which is usually quite a lot — can be processed and shipped home for you, for an additional fee.
Eating Out
Cold water seafood, large game, berries of all kinds, and basics like sour dough bread are all popular foods in Alaska. During your visit to Ketchikan, salmon and halibut entrees are a must, and the chowder is marvelous! You'll likely find some basic -but tasty and filling- breakfasts as well. While in Alaska, if you're a beer fan, take some (enjoyable) time sampling some of those local brews!
Popular Restaurants in Ketchikan:
The Alaska Fish House even has a great address: #3 Salmon Landing! This restaurant serves up all things fish, from tacos to burgers to grilled delights including wild salmon and halibut. Chowders average around 8 USD, and main courses are from 11 to 23 USD. Boasting a menu of fresh caught fresh, this is quite a reasonable option! You can contact them at 907-247-4055, or visit http://www.alaskafishhouse.com/restauranthotline.html.
Anabelle's Famous Keg & Chowder House is a great place for lunch and dinner, especially if you're in the mood for fresh seafood, chowder, and a very tempting dessert menu. The service is great, and it IS always nice to have linen napkins as part of the table setting! Anabelle's also boasts a full bar. While the wait staff is attired in black vests and white shirts, casual attire for you is just fine! This restaurant accepts major credit cards, and is located at 326 Front Street. You can call them at 907-225-6009.
The Pioneer Cafe does a fine job of offering you good food at decent prices, which is always nice to know when you're looking for a home style breakfast or lunch. Ten ounce "Alaska Burgers," blueberry pancakes, and reindeer steaks and sausages are examples of menu items which typically range from 10 to 15 USD. The Pioneer Cafe is located at 619 Mission St., and you can contact them at 907-225-3337.
In the heart of downtown, the Arctic Spirit Gallery (310 Mission Street; 907-228-2277) and Scanlon Gallery (318 Mission Street; 907247-4730) feature interesting native Indian arts, from ivory carvings to cedar bark baskets and masks.
Blue Heron Gallery and Gifts (123 Stedman St., Ste. B, 907/225-1982) carries a great selection of arts and crafts handmade in Alaska. The jewelry is fabulous, as is the stained glasswork. Ketchicandies (907-225-0900) is a little store full of candies and treats unique to Ketchikan. All of the delicious candies and chocolates are made here in town, and they are delightful. Ketchicandies is located at 315 Mission St. in the heart of the city.

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