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Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska Visitor Guide

Ketchikan is a charming coastal town located in southeastern Alaska, renowned for its rich Native Alaskan culture, beautiful scenery, and abundant outdoor activities. This guide will cover Ketchikan’s latitude and longitude, directions from Anchorage, things to do, history, famous people, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.

Latitude and Longitude: Ketchikan is situated at approximately 55.3422° N latitude and 131.6461° W longitude.

Getting to Ketchikan from Anchorage

Ketchikan is not accessible by road from Anchorage or any other city, as it is located on Revillagigedo Island. The most common ways to reach Ketchikan from Anchorage are by air or by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system.

By Air

Several airlines operate daily flights between Anchorage and Ketchikan International Airport (KTN). The flight time is approximately 1.5 hours. Upon arrival at KTN, you can take a short ferry ride across the Tongass Narrows to reach downtown Ketchikan.

By Alaska Marine Highway Ferry

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system provides service between various coastal communities in Alaska, including Ketchikan. The ferry trip from Anchorage to Ketchikan is a scenic and leisurely way to travel, taking around 48 hours. The ferry terminal in Ketchikan is located near downtown, making it convenient to access local attractions and accommodations.

Things to Do

Ketchikan offers a wide range of activities and attractions to suit all interests.

Creek Street

Stroll along Creek Street, a historic boardwalk lined with colorful shops, galleries, and restaurants. The area was once Ketchikan’s red-light district and is now a popular spot for shopping, dining, and learning about the town’s history.

Totem Heritage Center

Visit the Totem Heritage Center, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of original 19th-century totem poles. The center also offers exhibits on traditional Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures and hosts various workshops and classes on Native Alaskan art forms.

Misty Fjords National Monument

Explore the stunning wilderness of Misty Fjords National Monument, a vast area of soaring cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and pristine lakes. Accessible by floatplane or boat, the monument offers opportunities for hiking, kayaking, wildlife viewing, and photography.

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

Attend the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, a lively display of logging skills and feats of strength performed by professional lumberjacks. The show is both entertaining and educational, providing insights into Alaska’s timber industry history.

Saxman Native Village

Visit Saxman Native Village to witness traditional Native Alaskan totem pole carving and learn about the Tlingit culture. Guided tours of the village include a visit to the Beaver Clan House, where you can watch Tlingit dance performances and participate in traditional ceremonies.

Detailed History

Ketchikan’s history dates back thousands of years, with the Tlingit people being the area’s first inhabitants. The town’s name originates from the Tlingit word “Kitschk-hin,” which means “thundering wings of an eagle.” The first European to explore the area was Captain James Cook in 1778, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that non-Native settlers began to arrive.

The discovery of gold in the region and the establishment of salmon canneries spurred Ketchikan’s growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The town quickly became a major supply center for miners and fishermen, and its economy diversified to include timber, pulp mills, and tourism.

Today, Ketchikan is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” and is a popular destination for cruise ships, providing visitors with a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure.

Expanded History

Ketchikan’s history is deeply rooted in its Native Alaskan heritage, particularly the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures. These indigenous peoples have inhabited the area for thousands of years, relying on the abundant resources of the land and sea for their subsistence.

The Tlingit people, in particular, are known for their impressive totem poles, which serve as important symbols of their history, social structure, and spiritual beliefs. Totem poles were traditionally carved from the trunks of massive cedar trees and can be found throughout the Ketchikan area, including at the Totem Heritage Center and Saxman Native Village.

In the early 20th century, Ketchikan’s economy was driven by its timber and pulp mills, which provided employment for many residents. However, with the decline of these industries in recent decades, the town has shifted its focus toward tourism, capitalizing on its rich cultural heritage, stunning natural setting, and abundance of outdoor activities.

Famous People from Ketchikan

Famous People from Ketchikan

Some notable individuals who were born in, lived in, or have ties to Ketchikan include:

– Nathan Jackson: A renowned Tlingit artist and master carver, Nathan Jackson is known for his intricate totem poles, masks, and sculptures. His work has been displayed in various museums and cultural centers, and he has contributed to many public art projects in Ketchikan and throughout Alaska.

– Diane Benson: Diane Benson is a poet, playwright, and actress who has performed in numerous stage productions and films. She was also the Democratic nominee for Alaska’s lone seat in the US House of Representatives in 2006 and 2008.

– Roy Jones Jr.: Former professional boxer Roy Jones Jr., one of the most celebrated fighters in boxing history, lived in Ketchikan for a brief period during his childhood. He is a six-time world champion in four weight classes and was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 1990s by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

– Ray Troll: An artist and illustrator famous for his humorous and imaginative depictions of fish and marine life, Ray Troll’s work has been featured in numerous books, magazines, and exhibitions. He owns and operates the Soho Coho Art Gallery on Creek Street in Ketchikan.

RV and Camping Information

While there are no RV parks or campgrounds within Ketchikan city limits, several options are available in the surrounding area:

– Settlers Cove State Recreation Site: Located about 18 miles north of Ketchikan on North Tongass Highway, Settlers Cove offers 14 campsites, picnic areas, and a sandy beach. The campground is open seasonally and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

– Signal Creek Campground: Situated within the Tongass National Forest, Signal Creek Campground is approximately 25 miles north of Ketchikan. The campground features 28 campsites, potable water, and vault toilets. Reservations are recommended during the peak summer months.

Keep in mind that Ketchikan’s remote location and limited road access mean that RV rental options may be scarce, and you may need to bring your RV with you on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry.

Annual Festivals and Events

Ketchikan hosts a variety of annual events and festivals that showcase the town’s unique culture and history:

– Blueberry Arts Festival: Held in August, this three-day event celebrates Ketchikan’s artistic community and features live music, art exhibits, food vendors, and a fun run. The festival’s signature event is the Blueberry Beard and Mustache Contest.

– Alaska Hummingbird Festival: Taking place in April, the Alaska Hummingbird Festival celebrates the arrival of migratory hummingbirds to the area. The festival includes art exhibits, birdwatching walks, and educational presentations on hummingbird ecology and conservation.

– Ketchikan King Salmon Derby: This annual fishing tournament, held in May and June, attracts anglers from all over to compete for the largest king salmon. The event includes cash prizes, a community fish fry, and an awards ceremony.

– Ketchikan Rainforest Festival: The Ketchikan Rainforest Festival, held in September, is a celebration of the Tongass National Forest and its unique ecosystem. The festival features guided hikes, art workshops, and educational presentations on rainforest ecology and conservation.

In summary, Ketchikan, Alaska, is a vibrant coastal town with a rich cultural heritage, breathtaking scenery, and a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to explore. From its historic downtown area and world-class totem pole collection to its abundant opportunities for outdoor adventure, Ketchikan offers a truly unforgettable Alaskan experience.