Ketchikan is often the first city visited in Alaska by Cruise Ship. It is a bustling community backed by forested hills and surrounded by a waterway busy with float planes, fishing boats, ferries and cruise ships. The little town of almost 14,000 is built right over the water in many places. Commercial fishing enterprises, growing tourism and the Misty Fjords National Monument to the east make Ketchikan a great place to visit.

Misty Fjords National Monument is a pristine masterpiece featuring some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery. Seventeen thousand years ago the area was covered in ice. Massive glacier action carved out its present landscape of long saltwater fjords and 3,000 foot cliffs.
One of the best ways to explore Ketchikan is on foot. Start at the busy City Dock with a stop at the Visitor Bureau to pick up a Ketchikan Walking Tour Map, so you won’t miss anything.

Ketchikan has the distinction of having the world’s largest collection of totem poles.

Ketchikan Visitors Bureau 50 Front Street, downtown on the cruise ship dock. Open May-Sept daily. 907-225-6166 or 800-770-3300

In 1883, a man named Snow built a salmon saltery where Ketchikan now stands. Two years later, businessmen from Portland, Oregon, hired Mike Martin to investigate possibilities of building a salmon cannery on the banks of Ketchikan Creek. Martin and the cannery’s manager, George Clark, formed a partnership and opened a saltery and a general store. Two years later, with the fishing trade flourishing, Ketchikan was definitely in business and by 1900, with a population of approximately 800, the town was officially incorporated.

With mining activities beginning in the area, Ketchikan became an important trading community, with an estimated two-thirds of miners’ wages reportedly ending up in the bars and bordellos of Creek Street.

Despite a mining decline, the fishing industry and timber operations began to grow with establishment of the Ketchikan Spruce Mills early in the century.
In 1954, Ketchikan Pulp Mill was completed at nearby Ward Cove, assuring jobs not only in town, but in the surrounding woods as well. Today, that industry is in trouble worldwide but the ever-resilient Alaskans are focusing on another mainstay, tourism.

Alaska Travel Tips

Sign up for our 4-part email series to discover critical information for planning your ultimate Alaska vacation!

Think You Know Alaska?

Take the quiz and find out...