The first city to welcome you in the Alaskan Inside Passage is Ketchikan. The area has the highest zip code in the entire United States of America, 99950. It also houses a massive collection of standing totem poles, the world’s largest. The name ‘Ketchikan’ was derived from the Tlingit name ‘Kitschk-hin’ which means creek. Salmon fills the town each summer and attracted the Tlingit Natives to build communities in the area which has lasted for centuries.
Ketchikan sits about 90 miles north of Prince Rupert and stretches along the shoreline in the southwest corner of Revillagigedo Island. The area of the city is less than 10 blocks wide and because of the minute space; they've built their airport on a separate island. The city of Ketchikan was founded in 1885 as a cannery area. Salmon was the main industry in the city. Within a span of decades, the $55 million Ketchikan Pulp Mill were built in 1954 at Ward Cove. Now, with the resolution of the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990, it stated it would reduce timber harvest in the national forests. During the 1970's strikes began to emerge in the city and the changes in public policy greatly affected the logging industry. This resulted in the closure of Louisiana-Pacific to close down the sawmill facility in 1983. Soon after in 1997, the company closed down the pulp mill facility. Hundreds of workers lost their high-paying jobs because of the closures.
Now, the city is home to 8,245 residents, a relatively small number of people compare to other cities in the world. However, Ketchikan ranks as the 5th most populated city in Alaska. The city also labeled their area as the “Salmon Capital of the World”. Despite its land area, about 5.0 square miles, it attracts almost a million visitors each year. Cruise ships frequently stop at Ketchikan to let their passengers tour the area.
Here are the top 6 interesting places and fun things to do while in Ketchikan:
1. Totem Heritage Center
The city of Ketchikan oversees the Totem Heritage and it contains the world’s largest collections of Totem poles. Most of these totem poles are from the 19th century and are untouched and unrestored. Authorities recovered the totem poles from the deserted Tlingit settlement areas on Village Island and Tongass Island. Also, some of the poles came from Haida village of Old Kasaan. In 1976, the city founded the Totem Heritage Center to care for and preserve these poles and built a cultural center. The center also displays artifacts and art pieces from Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian villages, they promote the village’s culture to visitors.
2. Totem Bight State Historic Site
Located north of Ketchikan, the Totem Bright State Historical Park has a total land area of 33 acres and considered as a national park in Alaska. The area was a former site of a traditional Native campground called Mud Village and Mud Bright Village. The site also encloses several totem pole collections and a replica of a house for the chieftains. The house contains a wood frame structure and has a low circular like entrance which leads into a square chamber. Ravens often serve as a main facade decor of the wooden houses. A native from Saxman, Charles Brown helped with the carvings on these houses.
3. Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest sits in the southeastern part of Alaska. It is also the largest national forest in the country. The forest spreads across the state with 17 million acres of land and most of it is part of the WWF ecoregion. It is home to thousands of rare and endangered species both flora and fauna. The United States Forest Service supervises the Tongass National Forest, which also includes the islands of Fjords, glaciers and the Alexander Archipelago. The NFS also oversees the Coast Mountain’s peaks, the international border shared with Canada. The massive national park has 9 local ranger district offices which are located in Juneau, Hoonah, Craig, Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Yakutat, Thorne Bay and Wrangell.
4. Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a nature preserve located in Gateway Borough in Ketchikan. The 40-acre of rain forest reserve comprises of spruce, cedar trees, hemlock and hundreds of flowers and different varieties of berries. You can explore the very charming beauty of Alaskan sceneries in this place. You can walk easily on its boardwalk that travels half a mile in Tongass, passing through some of the totem poles, aviary exhibits and the historical sawmill in Alaska.
5. Misty Fjords National Monument
Aside from being a national monument, The Misty Fiords (Fjords) National Monument, of which the US Forest Service has declared it as a wilderness area, now part of the Tongass National Forest. The National monument is situated about 40 miles from east of Ketchikan and along the Inside Passage of the southeastern part of Alaska. It contains a land area of 2,294,343 acres (928,488 ha) including the Tongass National Forest of which the government designated about 151,832 acres (61,444 ha) of wilderness. You can explore the beauty of the Misty Fiords National Monument by boat, by foot, or by air.
6. Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
Back in the days, Alaska was well known as a lumberjack capital and for its historical sawmills. The city now offers shows that feature lumberjack competitions and a little story line for tourists who wants to know more of their rich history. The place is fully equipped with heaters to make the audience more comfortable watching their shows.