Ketchikan

KETCHIKAN IN ONE DAY

 

Photo by Tom Burgess

Ketchikan First City of Alaska

Photo by Tom Burgess

You have arrived!  You are in Ketchikan, the very first stop of your Alaskan cruise..  Adventure awaits at the foot of the gang plank.  What shall you do with just one day?

Ketchikan is known by many titles, “rain capital of the world,” because it averages over 12 feet of rain per year; “Salmon Capital of the World” because of its legendary salmon packing industry;  Totem capital of the World” with more totem poles than any other city,  and even “First City of Alaska”, so named because it was and frequently still is the first port of call on your Alaska cruise. Call it whatever you like, but I feel certain you will be charmed by this highly walkable, compact and historical city.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Shuttle Bus Photo by Ann Burgess

One of Ketchikan’s virtues is the proximity of the cruise docks to the city to, almost every ship will be parked within an easy walk of the downtown area.  Feeling lazy or experiencing one of Ketchikan’s frequent downpours?  Take the free shuttle bus, it follows a loop past the cruise ship docks, through the downtown area to the Totem Heritage park, past notorious Creek Street and then onto “the shopping center,” complete with a McDonalds and Safeway.  Stay on the bus to return to your ship.  I recommend doing the entire loop staying on for a second lap to decide where you would like to stop and stay a while (busses arrive approximately every 20 minutes). The shuttle will give you an excellent overview of the city.

Totem Heritage Center

Hop off the bus at the Totem Heritage Center.  The Totem Heritage Center serves as a cultural center for the artistic traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. You will find displays of totem carving, basketry weaving and regalia making.  The center is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, admission is $6, $5 for elders.  This small cultural center is an excellent introduction to the meanings and legends of the totem pole.

Are you anxious to see totem poles and learn about the native Tlingit (pronounced: Klink it) culture?  You can take a local bus to the southern end of Ketchikan to Saxman village and walk amongst a small grouping of totems.  The admission, at time of writing, was five dollars.  Most shore excursions  to Saxman Village (named for a beloved school teacher) will include a presentation on the Tlingit culture, dances by native performers and visit inside a clan house.

Saxman Village Totem

Totem 8

Photo by Ann Burgess

Or head north to Totem Bight State Park, about an hour ride on the local bus.  This site of “rescued” totem poles was a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s that brought totems from abandoned villages to this location and restored them.  A beautiful location on the water, you can wander along trails with explanations and even walk inside a clan house.  Park rangers are sometimes on site to give information.  If the weather is warm you will need insect repellent the mosquitoes appear in very large squadrons.

Totem in Totem Bight State Park

Just outside the Hertitage Center you can hope back on the bus or walk downhill, take the turn that indicates “The Married Man’s Trail,” to head to Creek Street.

Walk and Shop the Delights of Creek Street

Dolly's House, Creek Steet
Photo by Ann Burgess

Creek Street is the major town attraction.  Once the neighborhood of Ketchikan’s “ladies of the night,” , it  is now home to “Dolly’s House,” a museum of  the furniture and memorabilia of Ketchikan’s most successful madam, a large number of souvenir shops, art galleries and one of the best book stores in Alaska, Parnassus Books.

Are you anxious to see totem poles and learn about the native Tlingit (pronounced: Klink it) culture?  You can take a local bus to the southern end of Ketchikan to Saxman village and walk amongst a small grouping of totems.  The admission, at time of writing, was five dollars.  Most shore excursions  to Saxman Village (named for a beloved school teacher) will include a presentation on the Tlingit culture, dances by native performers and visit inside a clan house.

Saxman Village Totem

Totem 8

Photo by Ann Burgess

Or head north to Totem Bight State Park, about an hour ride on the local bus.  This site of “rescued” totem poles was a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s that brought totems from abandoned villages to this location and restored them.  A beautiful location on the water, you can wander along trails with explanations and even walk inside a clan house.  Park rangers are sometimes on site to give information.  If the weather is warm you will need insect repellent the mosquitoes appear in very large squadrons.

Totem in Totem Bight State Park

DSC00649

Photo by Ann Burgess

Memorable photo locations include the rain gauge on the side of the Visitor Information Center, the view of the water from the foot bridges over Creek street during the salmon run. And the totems at Totem Bight Park.

Ketchikan is known by many titles, “rain capital of the world,” because it averages over 12 feet of rain per year; “Salmon Capital of the World” because of its legendary salmon packing industry;  Totem capital of the World” with more totem poles than any other city,  and even “First City of Alaska”, so named because it was and frequently still is the first  port of call on your Alaska cruise.  Call it whatever you like, but I  feel certain you will be charmed by this highly walkable, compact and historical city.

Rain or shine you will be enchanted by Ketchikan.