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Useful information for excursions in Ketchikan
In the following paragraphs, you will find information about the cruise port, the most beautiful sights and a lot of useful information for shore excursions in Ketchikan.
The most beautiful sights in Ketchikan
In southern Alaska on the west coast of Revillagigedo Island lies Ketchikan, also known as the “salmon capital of the world”. Founded around 1900, today almost 8000 people live here. The tranquil town offers numerous activities. There is something for everyone, whether you are a nature lover or appreciate the art of the Indians. In Ketchikan, for example, you will find the largest collection of totem poles in the world. These wooden works of art tell their very own stories and mythologies. Adrenaline junkies also get their money’s worth in Ketchikan and the surrounding area, for example ziplining between tall cedar trees. Not far from the cruise harbour, you can stroll along the lively Front Street, which is full of souvenir shops, galleries and saloons.
The historic Creek Street in downtown Ketchikan, which was built on stilts above the water along Ketchikan Creek, now houses many small galleries, restaurants and shops. Stroll along the wooden walkway and admire the colourful wooden houses. From 1903 to 1953, this little street was Ketchikans red light district. In the “Dollys House Museum” you can find memories of this time. In late summer, watch the countless salmon in Ketchikan Creek from Creek Street. They are on their way to their spawning grounds and are a unique spectacle for many visitors.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre is a state information centre and is within walking distance of the port. Here the focus is on the land, history and people of the Tongass National Forest. You can learn more about the economy, ecology and culture of Southeast Alaska through interactive presentations and short films. There is also information on the ecosystem of the world’s largest temperate rainforest.
Tongass Historical Museum
In this museum you can discover the vivid history of Alaska’s “First City”. Countless historical photographs and rare exhibits authentically tell the story of Ketchikan at a time when it was a Tlingit Indian fish camp and the centre of gold and copper mining. Furthermore, you will get to know Ketchikan as a centre for transport, wood and canning, which can still be seen in the townscape today. Also an exhibition about the Indian tribes of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cannot be missing. Adults pay about 6 USD, children are free of charge.
Totem Heritage Centre
If you are interested in the history and art of the Indians, the Totem Heritage Centre is also a good place to visit. Here numerous historical totem poles are preserved. The Centre is registered in the “National Register of Historic Places”, as are Creek Street and the neighbouring Stedman Thomas and Downtown districts. These places are recognised nationwide as historical landmarks. The Totem Heritage Centre gives you an insight into the artistic traditions of the Indians.
Saxman Native Village
The Saxman Native Village southeast of Ketchikan is well-known for its collection of American Indian totem poles. The Saxman Village was named after Samuel Saxman and was founded in 1894. The village houses a carving hut, a souvenir shop and a magnificent Klanhaus, which shows a giant beaver on the front of the house. The designed house fronts show the wealth of an Indian family. In addition, the rainforest and an eagle’s nest are in the immediate vicinity, where with a bit of luck you can observe bald eagles in the wild.
Totem Bight State Historical Park
About 10 miles (16 kilometres) northwest of Ketchikan is the Totem Bight State Historical Park. There you can admire several totem poles, all artfully carved from cedar wood. At the beginning of the 20th century, many indigenous people of Alaska left their villages in search of work, leaving the totem poles in the rainforest. So in 1938, the U.S. Forest Service established a project to preserve the totem poles and Native American culture. Little by little, members of the Tlingit and Haida Indians restored the totem poles with their carving skills. This is how the small settlement Totem Bight came into being, where today you can walk on an informative trail through the rainforest to a clan house and to the totem poles.
Flora and fauna
Ketchikan is rich in nature and offers an animal diversity with salmon, black bears, whales, sea lions, otters, deer, about 250 different bird species, wolves and bald eagles. With a little luck you can discover some of these animals during your excursions. The home of these animals is the green temperate rainforest with among others cedars and spruces as well as high mountains, but also lakes and of course the Pacific Ocean, which extends in many fjords to Ketchikan. Especially from July to September you can watch black bears catching salmon in various quiet places near Ketchikan.
Misty Fjords National Monument and Tongass National Forest
Ketchikan is located in the 26,641 square mile (69,000 km²) Tongass National Forest, which is home to some of the world’s most mystical natural areas. These include the nature reserve Misty Fjords National Monument, where you can see granite rocks up to 0,57 foot (915 metres) high in the fjords formed by glaciers. The Misty Fjords National Monument awaits you with numerous waterfalls, ice-blue lakes, glacial valleys and snow-capped peaks, and creates a postcard atmosphere with its incredible nature and beauty. On some rock faces you can also discover old petroglyphs. Within 30 minutes you can reach the wilderness of Misty Fjords by small plane, or alternatively on a longer tour with small boats.
Map of the cruise port in Ketchikan
Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island, which is only separated from Gravina Island and the small Pennock Island by a narrow seaway. The cruise port of Ketchikan with its 4 berths is located close to the city centre. Due to this central location, the city centre can be reached on foot in a few minutes. Alternatively, a free shuttle service from all 4 cruise harbours will take you to the centre of Ketchikan. You can get information about Ketchikan in one of the two visitor centres at the harbour and get a free general map.
Things to know before your trip to Ketchikan
Shipping companies and routes
Ketchikan is one of the most popular cruise ports in Alaska. Among others, the international shipping companies Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruises call at the port of Ketchikan.
Most Alaska cruises depart from Vancouver or Seattle, with the main stops being Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. Some cruise ships also sail on so-called one-way routes to Whittier or Seward. Thus, the starting and ending ports can vary.
Entry and visa
As Ketchikan is in Alaska, British citizens do not need a visa to visit the US, but an electronic authorization is required to be applied online. All UK citizens need an ESTA to travel to the USA.
For more detailed information, we recommend that you obtain information on all valid entry requirements directly from your cruise company and the Federal Foreign Office in good time before your trip.
The national currency of the USA is the US dollar. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the USA and are therefore almost indispensable. You can also use your credit card to easily withdraw cash from an ATM.
Taxi and public transport
If you would like to discover the sights outside of Ketchikan on your own, there are two bus lines (Green Line, Silver Line North and Silver Line South) available all year round. A day ticket is available from as little as US$2. The buses can take you, for example, to Totem Bight State Historical Park or Saxman Park. From May to September, free downtown shuttle buses are also available, departing from the harbour approximately every 15 minutes and stopping at various stations in Ketchikan.
Of course you can also use taxis. However, Ketchikan is a very small town, so taxis are only available in limited numbers. A ride costs about 3 US dollars per mile.
Alaska is known for its cool and rainy climate. However, the almost 200 rainy days per year provide for an impressive green nature. From June to September, the average temperature during the day is 16 degrees and there is relatively little rain. Therefore the main season for cruise ships is from May to September. Some shipping companies already sail to Alaska in April and still into October.
Website port operators and tourism organisations
- Official port site: Port of Ketchikan
- Official website: Visit Ketchikan
- Alaska travel information: Travel Alaska – Ketchikan
Video: Impressions of Ketchikan
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