6 Ways to Reel in Good Times Visiting Captivating Ketchikan
PHOTO: Creek Street, Ketchikan. (photo by John Roberts)
Ketchikan is the first Alaskan city you'll see when sailing the Inside Passage on a cruise to the region known as the Last Frontier.
Ketchikan is named for the creek that runs through the city, and you can stand on the red trestle Stedman Bridge and watch thousands of salmon fighting their way upstream as they run from early June through October. It's an amazing sight, and anglers fill the bridge and banks to drop in a line around the creek.
I find the island city incredibly charming and scenic — tucked along the water as steep hills quickly rise and surround the town. It's easy to get around, the residents are friendly and you can find all sorts of things to enjoy during your visit, from food to shopping to outdoor adventures. Check out six of the best things to do on a port stop in Ketchikan.
Ketchikan proudly owns the title of "Salmon Capital of the World," and you can experience this heritage by going on a fishing charter to try your hand at catching these fish that are vital to the economy of the region. You can get a flavor by watching the salmon run through the salmon ladders that flow up Creek Street, or stop at a restaurant to order fresh-caught salmon for lunch.
Creek Street and Married Man's Trail
Creek Street is a winding boardwalk built on pilings over the creek, and it evokes the old frontier town era of Ketchikan. This area is home to the town's old Red Light District, and it now features cute shops, totem poles, art studios and a museum, all lining the boardwalk "street" as salmon surge upstream below.
Creek Street is also the access point for Married Man's Trail, a winding staircase trail up to Cape Fox Lodge that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Tongass Narrows waterway and a nice little workout.
Arctic Bar and Burger Queen
After exploring the town as a visitor, you're going to need refreshments. Nothing's better than a burger and a beer, I always say, for getting a real taste of a new destination. Head down to Water Street right on the waterway and grab a seat at the bar or out on the patio to sip a couple pints and order a burger and shake from Burger Queen, located right across the street. Don't worry, they deliver right to your seat at the bar. "That's how the locals do it," I was told right before I dialed up my lunch to go with my cold Alaskan Brewing Co. Icy Bay IPA.
Ketchikan boasts the largest collection of totem poles in Alaska, and you can find several around town. Head to Totem Bight State Historical Park to see 14 Haida and Tlingit totem poles that have been preserved or copied from originals and learn about the history of the poles and traditional carving methods. The poles tell important stories regarding myths and legends of the native peoples.
Outfitters can take you out in the cold waters to explore shallow tidepools and learn about the vibrant marine life on display. You'll squeeze into wetsuits, plunge into 40- to 50-degree waters and spot purple sea stars, massive sea cucumbers, anemones, flowing golden kelp and other creatures and plants particular to the waters. It's nothing like the snorkeling you might have done in the Caribbean, but it's an amazing experience, and you'll love the look on the faces of your friends and family when you tell them what you did in Alaska.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, located adjacent to the cruise ship pier area, is a spectacle to behold. The performers are true athletes wielding axes, chainsaws and other tools of the trade. Watch Alaskan lumberjacks compete against their Canadian counterparts in ax throwing, chopping, tree climbing, log rolling and other events.
More by John Roberts
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