Population: Ketchikan city, 8,313; Ketchikan Gateway Borough, 13,856
Ketchikan is located in Southeast Alaska. Located on the southwest coast of Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is 235 miles south of Juneau and 1,027 miles north of Bellingham, WA. Ketchikan and Saxman are the only communities on Revillagigedo Island.
Maps and trip planning help available at Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, located off Front Street at Mission Street adjacent “The Rock” statues and the famous rain gauge. The visitor center is open daily, May through September, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays from October through April. There are two other visitor center locations, one at cruise ship Berth 3 (open when cruise ships are in port in summer) and one at Berth 2 (open in winter). Phone 907-225-6166 or 1-800-770-3300; website: www.visit-ketchikan.com; email: email@example.com;
Elevation: Sea level. Climate: Rainy. Yearly average rainfall is 162 inches and snowfall is 36.9 inches. Average summer temperature is 55 ̊F and average winter temperature is 31 ̊F.
Enjoy the Waterfront Promenade.
This unique walkway provides a pedestrian path along Ketchikan’s busy shoreline, with plenty of photo viewpoints, helpful signage, historical markers, unique benches for sitting to enjoy the view, and colorful art. The completed section of the Waterfront Promenade starts at Tongass Avenue near cruise ship Berth 4, and continues past Casey Moran Harbor, Berth 3, and the Ketchikan Visitor Bureau’s Visitor Annex (with public restrooms) down past “The Rock” statues to the Downtown Visitors Bureau on the concrete docks at Berth 2. The promenade continues past the Salmon Landing market, behind the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, to the Federal Building. Additional platforms extend out into Thomas Basin for scenic views and fishing.
Cape Fox Hill Funicular
Cape Fox Hill Funicular, located at the back of Creek Street, was constructed in 1990. This automated cable car traverses a 70 percent incline, rising 130 vertical feet from Creek Street to the top of Cape Fox Hill and the lobby of the Cape Fox Lodge. The hotel has an extensive collection of Native art and a restaurant. (Cape Fox Lodge is also accessible by road.)
The funicular typically operates daily in summer. It works very much like an elevator: just press the call button to summon the funicular. When the doors open, get inside and push the Up button to go up or the Down button to go down. A modest fee is charged to ride the funicular, but your ticket is good for all day. (The funicular is free if you are dining at Cape Fox Lodge.)
From the top, you may return to Creek Street by following Married Man’s Trail (boardwalk and stairs) back down the hill through the trees. Great views and good photo ops of downtown from this trail.
City Park, located on Park Avenue, is a beautiful park offering a pleasant and convenient rest stop for walking tourists and a popular outdoor area for Ketchikan residents. The park’s small ponds were once used as holding ponds for Ketchikan’s first hatchery. Hiking access to the park via a footbridge from Totem Heritage Center.
Whale Park, conveniently located on Mill Street between the cruise ship docks and Creek Street, is shaped like a whale. A very small park, it is a popular rest stop and has the Chief Kyan Totem Pole (carved by Israel Shotridge) and the historic Knox Brothers Clock.
Totem poles, a major attraction in Ketchikan, are scattered around the city. Major collections are found at the Totem Heritage Center, Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Historical Park (see detailed descriptions this section).
Totem Heritage Center (pictured above), at 601 Deermount St., houses 33 totem poles and fragments retrieved from Tlingit and Haida villages. This national landmark collection comprises the largest exhibit of original totems in the United States. Facilities include a full range of classes, Native Arts Study Program and reference library. Outside the center are 2 poles by Tlingit carver (and National Living Treasure), Nathan Jackson.
Guided tours during summer months. Admission fee charged. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Winter hours (October to April) are 1–5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Phone 907-225-5900.
Saxman Totem Park (pictured above) is located 2.3 miles south of downtown via South Tongass Highway. It has 21 totems and a clan house that may be enjoyed year-round. Independent travelers can see the totems on their own or take a tour—available May through September—to include a short video introducing the culture and history of Saxman, a visit to the Beaver Clan House, where visitors are welcomed by song and dance by the Cape Fox Dance group, a guided tour of the totems and a visit to the Village Carving Center. Phone 907-225-4421 or visit www.capefoxtours.com. If you are arriving in Ketchikan by cruise ship, make tour reservations through the shore excursion office aboard ship.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
Located at 50 Main St., is 1 of 4 Alaska Public Lands Information Centers (APLICs) in the state (the others are located in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Tok). The Discovery Center, like the other APLICs, offers trip planning assistance, information on Alaska public lands, and a well-stocked Alaska Geographic Association bookstore and gift shop. In addition, the Discovery Center has interpretive exhibits on Native traditions, rainforest, ecosystems, wildlife, natural resources and art. Rangers provide scheduled interpretive programs, the 200-seat theater presents 8 multimedia programs, there is a Junior Ranger program, scavenger hunt, Agents of Discovery app, and a rotating art gallery that hosts the Alaska Hummingbird Festival art show.
The Discovery Center is open year-round: daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 1 to September 30 (closed Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day); open Fridays in winter. Admission fee $5, 15 years and under free. Visit www.alaskacenters.gov/ketchikan.cfm or phone 907-228-6220.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.
The 1-hour show features events such as buck sawing, axe throwing, power sawing, springboard chop, logrolling duels, and a 50-foot tree climb. Covered grandstand seating. Located 1 block off cruise ship docks near Salmon Landing Market. Shows performed 3 to 5 times daily, May through September; call or stop by for times. Phone toll-free 1-888-320-9049 or 907-225-9050; visit www.lumberjacksports.com or www.capefoxtours.com.
Totem Bight State Historical Park
Totem Bight State Historical Park, located at Milepost 9.9 North Tongass Highway, contains an excellent model of a Tlingit community house and 14 totems in a beautiful wooded setting. The park began as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project in 1938, when a U.S. Forest Service program aimed at salvaging abandoned totem poles by hiring skilled Native carvers and young, unskilled apprentices to reconstruct or copy the poles. Alaskan architect Linn Forrest designed the model Native village, which was originally called Mud Bight. The name was changed to Totem Bight and title to the land transferred to the state in 1959. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
The community house, or clan house, is representative of those found in early 19th century Indian villages. Totems reflect Haida and Tlingit cultures.
Creek Street (pictured above), a boardwalk street on pilings that spans Ketchikan Creek near the Stedman Street bridge, was once Ketchikan’s “red-light district,” where Black Mary, Dolly, Frenchie and others plied their trade for over half a century until 1954. At one time nearly 20 houses lined the far side of Ketchikan Creek. Today, the remaining old houses have been restored and, along with newer structures, house a variety of shops. Dolly’s House, a former brothel, is open during the summer (admission charged). In late July, watch for salmon in Ketchikan Creek. Besides shopping and seeing the creek, visitors can take a ride on the Cape Fox Hill Funicular.
Tours, tours and more tours. From narrated trolley rides and historical sightseeing cruises to tours by airplane and amphibious boat, Ketchikan has an abundance of tour opportunities, many tailored for the thousands of cruise ship passengers spending the day here. Stop by Ketchikan Visitors Bureau’s tour center, located on the cruise ship docks at 131 Front St., where a couple of dozen vendors are on hand, offering everything from fishing charters to zipline tours.
Misty Fiords National Monument.
Located east of Ketchikan, Misty Fiords National Monument (pictured above) encompasses 2.3 million acres of wilderness and is known for its spectacular scenery. Taking its name from the almost constant precipitation characteristic of the area, Misty Fiords is covered with dense forests of Sitka spruce, western hemlock and cedar, which grow on nearly vertical slopes from sea level to mountain tops. Dramatic waterfalls cascade into glacially carved fjords. The monument is bisected by the 100-mile-long Behm Canal, extraordinary among natural canals for its length and depth. New Eddystone Rock, a 237-foot volcanic plug, rises straight out of Behm Canal and is visible for miles.
The monument is accessible by boat or by floatplane from Ketchikan. Tours of Misty Fiords by floatplane and by boat are available out of Ketchikan. Some cruise ships include Behm Canal and Rudyerd Bay in their itineraries. Rudyerd Bay is also a popular destination for sea kayakers.
For more information on the monument, stop by the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Main Street in Ketchikan, phone 907-228-6220, or the U.S. Forest Service office at 3031 Tongass Ave., phone 907-225-2148; www.fs.usda.gov/tongass.
Arts, entertainment and events.
The Main Street Gallery, at 330 Main St., hosts exhibits year-round and displays a wide variety of mediums from local and national artists, as well as traveling exhibits. The Main Street Gallery is also home to the Ketchikan Area Arts & Humanities Council, a sponsor of such events as the Blueberry Festival and the Alaska Hummingbird Festival. See their events calendar at www.ketchikanarts.org/arts-calendar/event-calendar.html.
First City Players, located in the old Fireside/Elks Building at 335 Main St., offers plays and events year-round; check their schedule. In July, enjoy one of 6 performances of the rollicking Fish Pirate’s Daughter, Ketchikan’s original musical melodrama; includes crab or salmon dinner.
The annual Gigglefeet Dance Festival takes place in early August. Celebrating the joy and diversity of dance, Gigglefeet performances feature choreographers and dancers of many different schools of training, varied ages and cultures.
For more information, contact First City Players box office by phone 907-225-4792; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: https://firstcityplayers.org.
Tongass Historical Museum
The Tongass Historical Museum is located on Dock Street near the entrance to Creek Street, in downtown Ketchikan. Summer season (May 1–Sept. 30) hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Winter (Oct. 1–April 30) hours are 1–5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday). The Raven Stealing the Sun totem stands at the entrance. Salmon viewing platforms nearby. The museum’s exhibits explore the ideas and industries that have shaped Ketchikan and surrounding area. Admission fee $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, kids and military free. For more information, phone 907-225-5600 or visit www.KetchikanMuseums.org.
Hiking trails, for all levels of ability, are accessible by road in the Ketchikan area. Pick up the free Ketchikan Area Trails Guide at the U.S. Forest Service office at Milepost K 2 North Tongass Highway. Several USFS trails are accessible from Revilla Road north of Ketchikan (see Milepost 7 North Tongass Highway). These include Ward Lake Nature Trail, an easy 1.3-mile path around Ward Lake, and the more difficult 2.4-mile Perseverance Lake Trail, which begins just past the entrance to 3 C’s Group Campground on Ward Lake Road.
The Deer Mountain USFS Trail is a strenuous hike that offers rewarding views. The 2.75-mile, 2,600-foot ascent to the summit gives trekkers scenic overlooks at Miles 1 and 2 for ocean and island views. Also access via left fork to Deer Mountain shelter (first-come, first-served, no fee) and 10.5-mile Silvis Lakes traverse.
The Whitman Trail begins at Milepost K 8.4 South Tongass Highway and follows Whitman Creek to Whitman Lake.
Charter a boat, take a cruise tour.
Many vessels operate out of Ketchikan for half-day, all-day or overnight sightseeing or fishing trips and transport to USFS public-use cabins and outlying communities. Cruises are offered to see whales, glaciers, birds and other wildlife. Stop by the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau for help in choosing one; website: www.visit-ketchikan.com.
Go sea kayaking
Circumnavigation of Revillagigedo Island is about a 150-mile trip. The east coast of Revillagigedo Island lies within Misty Fiords National Monument Wilderness. Popular kayaking destinations within the monument include Rudyerd Bay, Punchbowl Cove and Walker Cove. For help, stop by the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Main Street, phone 907-228-6220, or the U.S. Forest Service office at 3031 Tongass Ave., phone 907-225-2148; visit online at www.fs.usda.gov/tongass.
Charter planes operate from the airport and from the waterfront on floats and are available for fly-in fishing, bear viewing, service to lodges and smaller communities and flightseeing, including Misty Fiords.
Annual Ketchikan CHARR Salmon Derby is held in August. For derby dates, rules and derby prize categories, visit online at www.ketchikancharrsalmonderby.com.
Fishing lodges and resorts in the area offer sportfishing for steelhead, salmon, halibut, trout, lingcod and red snapper. Resorts near Ketchikan include Yes Bay Lodge. There are also several fishing lodges on nearby Prince of Wales Island. For details, go to www.visit-ketchikan.com.
Check with the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game at 2030 Sea Level Dr., Ste. 205, or phone 907-225-2859 for details on fishing in the Ketchikan area. Good fishing spots range from Mountain Point, a 5-mile drive from Ketchikan on South Tongass Highway, to streams, lakes, bays, and inlets 50 miles away by boat or by air. Half-day and longer charters and skiff rentals available out of Ketchikan. Species include salmon, halibut, steelhead, Dolly Varden, cutthroat and rainbow trout, arctic grayling, eastern brook trout, lingcod, rockfish, Dungeness crab and shrimp.
There are 3 public campgrounds in the Ketchikan vicinity: Signal Creek and Last Chance, U.S. Forest Service campgrounds at Ward Lake Recreation Area, approximately 10 miles north of downtown; and Settlers Cove State Recreation Site, 18 miles north of the city via North Tongass Highway. Advance reservations can be made for designated sites at the Forest Service campgrounds through the NRRS; phone toll-free 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov.
Lodging & Services
Accommodations at Landing Hotel (907-225-5166; www.landinghotel.com), Cape Fox Lodge (907-225-8001; www.capefoxlodge.com), Gilmore Hotel (907-225-9423), Inn at Creek Street & New York Hotel (907-225-0246; www.creekstreet.com), and Super 8 Motel (1-800-800-8000; www.super8.com).
Shopping downtown and at Plaza Mall on Tongass Avenue (North Tongass Highway). There 2 laundromats with showers, a bookstore on Stedman Street, supermarkets, fast-food outlets, banks, many gift shops and a variety of other shops and services. Many local businesses downtown offer free Wi-Fi. Ketchikan also has a Walmart, 4 miles north of downtown off the Tongass Highway.
Ketchikan Hostel is located downtown in the United Methodist Church at Grant and Main streets. Check-in time is 7–9 a.m. and 6–10 p.m. (if notified in advance they will stay open for late ferry arrivals; phone from terminal as soon as you arrive). Reservations recommended. Phone 907-225-3319 (summer); email email@example.com.
The Ketchikan Library offers free Wi-Fi, restrooms, plug-ins for personal computers, public computers available for 60 minute intervals (with I.D.). Here, mountain views and comfortable chairs offer a comfortable rest stop for travelers. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday. Located at 1110 Copper Ridge Lane. Access the Library at the south end of Berth 4 (along the waterfront promenade). Phone 907-225-3331.
Ketchikan’s 35,000-square-foot Gateway Aquatic Center connects to the existing Recreation Center and offers visitors a place to swim laps, take a sauna and work out, all for a $6 admission fee. The Aquatic Center has an 8-lane main competition pool; 1-meter and 3-meter diving boards; a separate warm-water pool with walk-in entry; 2 slides, including a twisty one called the “Tongass Tornado”; sauna; locker rooms and family changing rooms with showers; fitness and weight room. Located at 601 Schoenbar Road. Phone 907-228-6650 or visit online at www.kgbak.us/200/Aquatics.