Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan is well known as the salmon capital of the world and a paradise for sport fishermen and naturalists alike. During the summer months, our town bustles with visitors from all over the world. While the rustic boardwalk on Creek Street preserves a distinct historic feel, the town hums with new construction to keep up with the ever-expanding wave of tourism. Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, 131 Front St., Ketchikan 99901; Phone (907) 225-6166 or 1-800-770-3300; Fax (907) 225-4250;

Ketchikan has a population of 14,500 and is built along a steep hillside, with sections of the town built right over the water on pilings. An outstanding collection of totem poles make a visit to Ketchikan essential for anyone interested in Native art. Ketchikan's name supposedly comes from the native term "Katch Kanna", which roughly translates: "spread wings of a thundering eagle" and rightly named, for you only need to look along the water line and you're likely to see many bald eagles on waterside perches. Originally a Tlingit Indian fish camp, settlers moved to the area for the mining and fishing. Ketchikan is Alaska’s first city and first port of call on the Alaska Marine Highway’s Inside Passage sailings from Bellingham, WA, and Prince Rupert, BC. Ketchikan is Alaska’s fifth largest city (after Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and Sitka), supporting 5 public grade schools, 4 parochial grade schools, a junior high school, 2 high schools and the University of Alaska Southeast campus.


Ketchikan is located on the western coast of Revillagigedo Island, near the southernmost boundary of Alaska. It is 679 miles north of Seattle and 235 miles south of Juneau. The 2.2 million acre Misty Fiords National Monument lies 22 air miles east of Ketchikan. It is the first Alaska port of call for northbound cruise ships and State ferries. It lies at approximately 55° 20' N Latitude, 131° 38' W Longitude (Sec. 30, T075S, R091E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Ketchikan Recording District. The area encompasses 3 sq. miles of land and 1 sq. miles of water.


Tongass and Cape Fox Tlingits have used Ketchikan Creek as a fish camp which they called "kitschk-hin," meaning creek of the "thundering wings of an eagle." The abundant fish and timber resources attracted non-Natives to Ketchikan. In 1885, Mike Martin bought 160 acres from Chief Kyan, which later became the township. The first cannery opened in 1886 near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek and four more were built by 1912. The Ketchikan Post Office was established in 1892. In the late 1890s, nearby gold and copper discoveries briefly brought activity to Ketchikan as a mining supply center.

By 1936, seven canneries were in operation, producing 1.5 million cases of salmon. The need for lumber for new construction and packing boxes spawned the Ketchikan Spruce Mills in 1903, which operated for over 70 years. Spruce was in high demand during World War II, and Ketchikan became a supply center for area logging. A $55 million pulp mill was constructed at Ward Cove near Ketchikan in 1954. Its operation fueled the growth of the community. The mill's 50-year contract with the U.S. Forest service for timber was canceled, and the pulp mill closed in March 1997.

Things to do

Ketchikan is best known for its Alaskan Indian culture and great salmon fishing. As the 'Salmon Capital of the World' Ketchikan is Alaska’s Sport Fishing Capital. It is a hub of visitor activity along Alaska’s fabled Inside Passage: from here you can access the wonderworld of Prince of Wales Island, the third largest island under the U.S. flag, the majestic Misty Fjords National Monument, or fascinating remote communities with some of the state’s most magnificent scenery.

Start your visit to Ketchikan with a tour of town and the Saxman Totem Park, south of downtown, with 30 totems and a clan house by bus, motorcoach, trolley, or double-decker bus! Guided tours include demonstrations at the Carving Center and performances by the Cape Fox Dancers at the Beaver Tribal House.

Stop by Southeast Alaska Discovery Center for trip planning assistance, information on Alaska public lands, and interpretive exhibits on Native culture and Southeast Alaska history and resources. The Totem Heritage Center houses 33 totem poles and fragments retrieved from deserted Tlingit and Haida Indian villages. This national landmark collection comprises the largest exhibit of original totems in the United States.

More adventure is possible with a guided kayak trip along the waterfront or ride aboard a power boat or catamaran. Visitors agree Ketchikan is undoubtedly one of the most interesting communities in Southeast Alaska.

Totem Bight State Historical Park, 10 miles north of downtown, contains an excellent model of a Tlingit community house and 15 totems in a beautiful wooded setting.

Visit Creek Street, Ketchikan’s former “red-light district,” where Black Mary, Dolly, Frenchie and others plied their trade for over half a century. Restored houses and newer structures house a variety of shops.

For those who enjoy more indoor activities there are many exciting events held annually - the Salmon Derby, the Blueberry Arts Festival, and the Winter Arts Festival just to name a few.