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An Explorer's Guide to Ketchikan, Alaska

Totem Poles at Totem Bight State Historical Park - Ketchikan, Alaska
Population: 8,037 (2021)
Latitude 55.20, Longitude -131.38

    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 name "Ketchikan" is believed to come from the Tlingit word "Kitschk-Hin", which means "thundering wings of an Eagle".

    The fact that Ketchikan is the first Alaska port of call for northbound cruise ships and State ferries is proclaimed on the city's much-photographed downtown sign as "Welcome to Alaska's First City".

    Ketchikan has no road access to the rest of the continent, so is serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, and has an airport across Tongass Narrows from the community, on Gravina Island. The single paved runway at the Ketchikan International Airport, 11/29, is 7,500 x 150 feet in size. In 2011, the airport had 15,959 aircraft operations, mostly air taxis, with Alaska Airlines to Seattle being the primary scheduled jet route.

    Ketchikan lies in a maritime climate zone noted for its warm winters, cool summers, and heavy precipitation. Summer temperatures range from 51 to 65 °F; winter temperatures range from 29 to 39 °F. Ketchikan averages 162 inches (13.5 feet) of precipitation annually, with 32 inches of snowfall. The historic weather averages may help you decide when to visit.

    State and local governments are the largest employers, with 26% of Ketchikan Borough's workers. Trade, Transportation and Utilities are in close second position at 25%, with Leisure and Hospitality, including tourism, in a distant 4th place at 11.5%.

    Cruise ships bring most of Ketchikan's visitors, and there are 4 cruise ship docks located downtown. In 2014, 920,000 guests plus crew members are expected to arrive by that method, between April 28 and September 27. Some of the most popular visitor activities are:

  • Ketchikan is home to more totem poles than anywhere else in the world (over 80), including some of the oldest ones still in existence. You can see the majority of them scattered throughout town, or at sites such as Totem Bight State Historical Park, the Totem Heritage Center, Potlatch Totem Park or Saxman Totem Park.

  • Ketchikan claims to be the "Salmon Capital of the World", and an abundance of king salmon, silver salmon and halibut (as well as 3 other salmon species, Arctic grayling, steelhead, red snapper, lingcod, Dolly Varden, and rainbow or cutthroat trout!) attest to that claim's validity. Almost 30 fishing charter operators can help you fish for whatever you prefer.

  • Misty Fiords National Monument, 2.3 million acres of spectacular wilderness, lies 22 air miles east of Ketchikan, and is a popular destination by float plane or boat.

  • Wildlife viewing can be excellent, with flying black bear viewing tours to the Neets Bay Salmon Hatchery giving you the best odds.
    The links below will give you a great deal more information about the Ketchikan area and its attractions. In particular, our photo album is captioned to give you information about the site (or sight) being shared, and the Visitors Bureau Web site will give you tour operators' contact information as well as lots more.

Ketchikan Links

Ketchikan Photo Gallery

Ketchikan Visitors Bureau

2024 Cruise Ship Calendar

Ketchikan Fishing Calendar

The History of Ketchikan

Photojournals: A Day in Ketchikan
  - May - arrived on Celebrity's Infinity
  - early June - arrived on the Celebrity Millennium
  - early June - arrived on the Coral Princess
  - mid June - arrived on the Coral Princess
  - late June - arrived on the Coral Princess
  - July - arrived on Holland America's Amsterdam

Clicking on the aerial view of Ketchikan below will open an interactive map at Google Maps, in a new window.