If arriving by ferry, Ketchikan is likely to be a visitor’s first view of the travel wonders of Alaska. Supposedly the wettest town in Alaska, the harbour is packed to the gills with boats visually highlighting the rich fishing traditions of this historic Alaskan city. Ketchikan is woven along its shoreline with nothing more than a couple of blocks from the water as the land rises sharply out of the ocean.
Packed with people if the cruise ships are in, the highlight of the town is Creek Street (top photo), a boardwalk and string of houses built over Ketchikan Creek. Seemingly patrolled by a lone sea-lion, Creek Street originally served as the red-light district bringing entertainment and relief to the men who spent many weeks away at sea. The most infamous, Dolly’s House continues today as a museum to the world’s oldest profession, while most others have turned into tourist shops selling items as bizarre as Australian opals.
At the top end of Creek Street is a fish ladder to help salmon climb past the tiny falls and return to their point of birth. The Married Men’s Trail is a rough path through the forest that allowed discrete entry to the red-light district, the single men being able to walk straight along the walkway. A funicular tram off Creek Street saves a sharp walk up the hill and offers a great view across Ketchikan Harbour.
Salmon abound in the harbour as witnessed by the local Indian population pulling in a couple while I simply stood and watched for a few minutes. While visitors need licences to fish, the local Indian population are entitled to catch enough salmon to feed their family.
Apart from a liberal sprinkling of totem poles throughout the town (helping to preserve a dying Indian art), the most interesting location is the Hatchery and Eagle Centre. The centre shows the process of breeding salmon (a couple of different varieties) for the markets while a couple of injured bald eagles, unable to fly, spend their years in the relative comfort of an enclosure with care, food and shelter. For many Americans, this is their first chance to see their national emblem in real life.
With time, a visit to the mesmerising and appropriately-named Misty Fjord National Monument with narrow fjords and sheer towering rock faces with plunging waterfalls. It is only accessible via boat or float-plane.
Ketchikan is far more pleasant without the floods of tourists disgorged from huge cruise ships so spend a night and enjoy this sample of Alaskan life.
Other Alaskan Posts
Bear Heaven (Anan Creek)
Feeding Frenzy (Anan Creek)
Misty Fjords - Bears, Crabs and Eagles on the African Queen
Receding River of Ice (Juneau)
Hey, Good Looking (Brown Bear)