If arriving by ferry, Ketchikan is likely to be a visitor’s first view of the travel wonders of Alaska. Supposedly the wettest town in Alaska, the harbour is packed to the gills with boats visually highlighting the rich fishing traditions of this historic Alaskan city. Ketchikan is woven along its shoreline with nothing more than a couple of blocks from the water as the land rises sharply out of the ocean.

Packed with people if the cruise ships are in, the highlight of the town is Creek Street (top photo), a boardwalk and string of houses built over Ketchikan Creek. Seemingly patrolled by a lone sea-lion, Creek Street originally served as the red-light district bringing entertainment and relief to the men who spent many weeks away at sea. The most infamous, Dolly’s House continues today as a museum to the world’s oldest profession, while most others have turned into tourist shops selling items as bizarre as Australian opals.

At the top end of Creek Street is a fish ladder to help salmon climb past the tiny falls and return to their point of birth. The Married Men’s Trail is a rough path through the forest that allowed discrete entry to the red-light district, the single men being able to walk straight along the walkway. A funicular tram off Creek Street saves a sharp walk up the hill and offers a great view across Ketchikan Harbour.

Salmon abound in the harbour as witnessed by the local Indian population pulling in a couple while I simply stood and watched for a few minutes. While visitors need licences to fish, the local Indian population are entitled to catch enough salmon to feed their family.

Apart from a liberal sprinkling of totem poles throughout the town (helping to preserve a dying Indian art), the most interesting location is the Hatchery and Eagle Centre. The centre shows the process of breeding salmon (a couple of different varieties) for the markets while a couple of injured bald eagles, unable to fly, spend their years in the relative comfort of an enclosure with care, food and shelter. For many Americans, this is their first chance to see their national emblem in real life.

With time, a visit to the mesmerising and appropriately-named Misty Fjord National Monument with narrow fjords and sheer towering rock faces with plunging waterfalls. It is only accessible via boat or float-plane.

Ketchikan is far more pleasant without the floods of tourists disgorged from huge cruise ships so spend a night and enjoy this sample of Alaskan life.

Other Alaskan Posts
Bear Heaven (Anan Creek)
Feeding Frenzy (Anan Creek)
Misty Fjords – Bears, Crabs and Eagles on the African Queen
Receding River of Ice (Juneau)
Hey, Good Looking (Brown Bear)



11 Responses to The Salmon Capital of the World (Ketchikan, USA)

  • Anil says:

    I've never been but I think Alaska almost deserves to be treated like an entirely separate country (in terms of travel).

    I can see spending weeks there to explore and have heard nothing but great things about it from people who've been.

    Along those lines I remember the first time I saw a bald eagle (in West Virginia I believe) and it was a remarkable sight. For an animal whose image is everywhere in the US, they aren't always easy to spot unless you get well away from the cities.

  • BarbaraW says:

    I've never been to Alaska but would love to go. The architecture of Ketchikan looks so picturesque and the scenery awesome. On a side note, I looked out my father's window two days ago and saw two giant birds sitting on the frozen river, picking at a carcass. I looked through the binoculars and to my astonishment saw they were bald eagles! Never knew there were any in Illinois. What majestic birds. And I can only imagine what it would be like to see them against the backdrop of stunning Alaska.

  • Cecil Lee says:

    Really? I didn't know Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world! Alaska is somewhere rather unfamiliar to me and I knew all about it only through your travel blog here and hopefully, more from Alaska would come. Thanks Mark!

  • Christian says:

    i knew by fact that new zealand is the capital for the trouts, i have been there and got some very big one that i never see before in my life, but alaska always fascinate me, i would love casting for salmon (never manage to get one while on my few trips to scotland so i might be luckier over here) and just explore the wilderness of this country which seems just amazing

  • Donna Hull says:

    I agree that Ketchikan is a zoo when large cruise ships come into port. One way to avoid the crowds is to book the float plane tour over Mist Fjords. My husband and I loved it. The plane lands on the water in the fjord so that you can listen to the silence.

  • Mark H says:

    @anil: I think of it as a separate country, travel-wise and it is one of my favourite places to have visited. Bald eagles seem to be everywhere in Alaska.

    @BarbaraW: Alaskan scenery is so special and on such a huge scale.

    @cecil: That may be a self-promoting title but there is no shortage of salmon and crabs in Ketchikan cafes.

  • Mark H says:

    @christian: You sound a keen fisherman. I'm not a fisherman but caught a couple of fish in Alaska for dinner one night inlcuding an amazing halibut (giant flat fish) – though I'm told that mine was only a small version of what they can grow to.

    @donna: Misty Fjords is a great escape. The cruise ships seem a bit overdone, disgorging thousands of folks at a time, but I guess there are enough people to support such huge numbers of visitors.

  • Alaskan bird says:

    This summer while in Alaska I planned a pretty exciting rafting trip for myself and my boyfriend. We had done some research on Alaska waters, and are both avid rafters from the “lower 48” (which is what Alaskan’s refer to as the continential United States). We decided to go for a slow moving river, primarly class 1-2 as we were unaware of the enviroment we would be rafting in.

  • Mark H says:

    @alaskan bird: I've never rafted in Alaska but I suspect some of the rivers would really run after the spring thaw.

  • Crusie says:

    The flight of the Willow Grouse resembles that of the Red Grouse of Scotland, being regular, swift, and on occasion protracted to a very great distance. They have no whirring sound of their wings, even when put up by sudden surprise. Whenever we found a pair without young, they were extremely shy, and would fly from one hill to another often at a great distance.

  • Mark H says:

    @cruise: The great birds of flight are impressive to watch. So perfectly built for flying and hence so effortless.

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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