Ketchikan – Totemp poles, bald eagles & salmon (USA)

Categories: Travel reports, North America, USA, Alaska

After the start of our cruise in Vancouver and a quiet sea day through the Inside Passage without any sea, we arrived today in the small town of Ketchikan – the first stop of our cruise with Princess Cruises along the coast of Alaska.


Things to know about Ketchikan – “Alaska’s 1st City”

The history of the present-day city of Ketchikan in Alaska began in 1883, when a salmon processing factory was built here. The salmon were welded here in cans, which ketchikan nicknamed “Salmon Capital of the World“. Over the years, mining and the extraction and processing of timber have been added to the fishing industry.

In Alaska, by the way, there are five different salmon species:king salmon, silver salmon (coho salmon), humpback salmon (pink salmon), keta salmon (chum salmon) and red salmon (sockeye salmon). Salmon have a rather unusual life cycle and are anadrome. This means that they spawn in the fresh water of the many thousands of rivers and lakes in Alaska and then the juvenilefish migrate into the open sea. Here they grow up and roam the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. The mature salmon then return to the river of their birth to spawn and then die. And so the cycle begins anew.

Ketchikan is also known as Alaska’s 1st City. This slogan does not come – as you might think at first glance – because it was the first city of Alaska, but because Ketchikan is the first city to arrive when you take the “Inside Passage” north. The name of the town is named after the River Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the middle of the city. The chance of rain is extremely high with an average rainfall of 4,100 millimetres per year.

It is interesting that Ketchikan still has no road connection to the mainland! The municipality can only be reached by plane or by boat or ferry. Tongass Avenue, which runs directly through the town, ends 28 kilometers north of Ketchikan at the Settlers Cove State Recreation Area and to the east about 20 kilometers further on beaver Fall Creek.

Today, the more than 8,000 inhabitants of Ketchikan live mainly from fishing and tourism. The port is now the second largest cruise port in Alaska and is served by up to 500 cruise ships each year. On some days, for example, up to 6 ships lie on the long quays of the small town.

The port info of Princess Cruises about Ketchikan

Pier: Berth 4
Arrival: 11 a.m.
Departure: 5 p.m.
Port Info: Download

Every evening you will find on his cabin the harbour information for the coming destination. The flyer gives a very nice overview of the place and inspires with tips for exploring the region. Here you can download the detailed port info of Princess Cruises from Ketchikan as a .pdf version.

Port Info, Ketchikan, Princess Cruises, Travelreport, Alaska

The port info of Princess Cruises of Ketchikan

Our private tour with Ketchikan Tours

Ketchikan Cruin MacGriogairWe have been researching for a long time how we can best explore Ketchikan and the surrounding area. Everything that is in the city can be reached on foot on your own. But many sights are just outside and unfortunately there are no public buses here. That’s why we decided on a private tour and quickly landed at Cruin MacGriogair from Ketchikan Tours. Cruin, also known as The Con, is actually from Scotland, but has lived here in Ketchikan for many years. We discussed by e-mail what things we would like to see and arranged a tour for 4 hours.

Searching for bears at Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

We were picked up by Cérn directly at the port after docking our ship. The first stop of our tour was the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary – a 40-acre private reserve 14 kilometers east of Ketchikan on the South Tongass Highway. This facility offers guided tours to discover the wildlife and rich variety of plants and flowers in the region. In addition, herring Cove offers the opportunity to see bears by the river during the salmon season.

However, we did not go into the Rainforest Sanctuary, but parked in a small parking lot on the other side of the river. The view of the riverside area is the same in the end – with the advantage that you don’t have to pay an entrance fee of 89 USD! Unfortunately we had no luck this morning and there was no bear on the river. What a pity!

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, Ketchikan, Travelreport, USA

The grounds of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

For this we could see a beautiful bald eagle on the way – the proud symbol and heraldic animal of the USA. And in another tree was a young (still brown) bald eagle, who drew attention with its sounds. A little further on the Tongass Highway there is a nice little waterfall,which we visited briefly.

A walk through the Settlers Cove State Recreation Area

Danch went for us to the northern end of Tongass Avenue, about 28 kilometers north of Ketchikan. Here is the Settlers Cove State Recreation Area, a recreation area for hiking, picnics and kayaking. There are a number of different-length hiking trails throughout the park. We walked along the “Lunch Creek Trail”, which leads through lush green rainforest, over the “Lunch Creek Bridge” to the beach of the Clover Passage.

Lunch Creek was full of salmon fighting their way upstream from the sea. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see any bears here either, although that would have been the perfect place.

The Totem Bight State Historical Park

Our next stop was the Totem Bight State Historical Park – a historic site where you can admire 15 ornately carved totem poles and a traditional chiefhouse.

A totem pole is a monumental sculpture carved from a large tree trunk and then painted. Totem poles were mainly common among the Indians of the American northwest coast and were erected for various reasons. They commemorate the deceased, tell the story of a family, or represent the position of a family within the community. Due to the weathering of the wood, totem poles – if they are not protected separately – rarely become older than 100 years.

Since “Labor Day” was celebrated in the USA today, you did not have to pay for admission to the park (otherwise 5 USD per person). But the park is not very big either and you have passed through here relatively quickly. Along a circular path we looked at the 15 totem poles and the chiefs’ house and then drove back to Ketchikan. The historic site has been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1970.

The historic Creek Street district

The last stop of our tour today was Creek Street – a historic promenade that stands on stilts along the banks of Ketchikan Creek in Ketchikan. Creek Street was long infamous as the city’s red light district at the beginning of the 20th century. It originated in a 1903 city ordinance that banned brothels from the city center to the Indian Town area. Over the years, numerous houses supported by wooden piles have been built on this difficult riverside site. Famous among them are the star, which was one of the largest brothels, and Dolly’s House, which is now a museum. Creek Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

More impressions of Ketchikan

From Creek Street we walked back towards the harbour. It is just over 700 metres away and can be reached in 10 minutes. In the city centre you will find many small shops, souvenir shops, restaurants, monuments and the famous sign with the two slogans of Ketchikan.

Prepaid SIM card for the USA

Normally, we always use the free Wi-Fi networks at the airport, in Starbucks stores, at McDonald’s or in hotels. Somewhere there is somehow always a network 🙂

But in Alaska, of course, it’s a little more difficult. Therefore, as with our last road trip through California, we decided to get a prepaid SIM card for our time in the USA on Amazon. With 50 GB of traffic for 10 days, it cost 27.99 euros on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. After receiving the card by post, you must activate it online in advance and indicate when the SIM card should be valid. This is very simple and in hindsight it was a great investment, because so we were always mobile reachable and could always look at our pre-create Google MyMaps katen, check emails or write Whatsapp. This makes things really easier 🙂

So if you are looking for a good prepaid card, you will find many good offers here on Amazon.

All travelogues from our Alaska Cruise

Our cruise on the Royal Princess took us for a week along the coast from Vancouver north to Whittier (Anchorage). On this great cruise adventure around the northernmost state of the USA we visited the cities of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. We also took a scenic cruise in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord with breathtaking views of Alaska's glaciers.
Alaska Cruise Princess Cruises
Day 1: Visa – Entry to Canada (eTA Application) & to the USA (ESTA Application)
Day 1: Vancouver – Tourist Attractions, Things to Do & Photo spots (Canada)
Day 1: Royal Princess – Our ship for the Alaska Cruise
Day 2: Day at Sea
Day 3: Ketchikan – Totemp poles, bald eagles & salmon (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – Things to do in the capital of Alaska (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – Orcas and humpback whales at Whale Watching (USA)
Day 4: Juneau – A trip to mendenhall Glacier (USA)
Day 5: Skagway – A walk through the old gold mining town (USA)
Day 5: Skagway – Musher’s Camp & Dog Sled Adventure (USA)
Day 5: Haines – Bears and bald eagles on the Chilkoot River (USA)
Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park – A Scenic Cruise in Alaska (USA)
Day 7: College Fjord – A Scenic Cruise & Arrival in Whittier (USA)
Day 8: Anchorage – Seward Highway & Alaska Wildlife Center (USA)