Ketchikan: The First City of Alaska

Ketchikan is as cultural as it is historical — oh, and beautiful, nestled as it is in the Tongass National Forest.

When you visit Ketchikan, you are not just visiting the “First City of Alaska,” you are also in the “Salmon Capital of the World.”  Be sure to stop near one of Ketchikan’s private salmon canneries to see a salmon ladder and watch salmon spring from the rushing water en route to the spawning grounds (late July through September). In the summer months, salmon gather by the thousands to spawn upstream, and seals and otters are never far away, with eagles perched in the trees above as well!

Speaking of salmon, summer fish camps were set up by the Tlingit Indians along Ketchikan’s shores, which now house the boardwalk on Creek Street. The boardwalk has been named one of the country’s top 10 by USA Today. The Chief Johnson Totem Pole carved by Israel Shotridge stands 55 feet tall at the entrance of Creek Street. A replica of the Chief Johnson Totem Pole, which originally stood from 1901 to 1982 at the center of the community, was raised on October 7, 1989 to reinstate the native people’s claim to the land of their ancestors. The Chief Johnson Totem Pole tells the legend of Fog Woman and the creation of the Salmon.

Totem Pole Day Tour in Ketchikan, Alaska - Shore Excursions Group

The most noteworthy clapboard-sided house on Creek Street is Dolly’s House Museum. Established in 1919, the elegant mint-green house has red trim and an elegance that sets it apart from the others. To give you an idea who lived in Dolly’s House, consider Dolly Arthur’s quote: “By the time I was 18 or 19, I realized I could make a lot more money from the attentions of men than I could waiting on tables.”

During the economic boom of the Gold Rush, there were many women who practiced the “trade” — though not as famous as Ketchikan’s Dolly. As you meander through Dolly’s house, you will visit  rooms decorated in every shade of red, depicting the time she lived and worked there.

You may wish to check out Ketchikan’s Museum and Library, located at 629 Dock Street near Creek Street, on your own. The Museum is a great place to see and learn more about the history, art and culture of Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska. The Museum features permanent and ever-changing temporary exhibits featuring Alaskan memorabilia, a collection of Native Alaskan artifacts and historical photographs.

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