Ketchikan is typically the first port of call for most northbound Alaskan cruises.
The only other way to get into town is to fly in via commercial airline or float plane.
We only had a few hours in port, so we had to be sure to make the most of it!
Our first stop was Creek Street, a collection of shops and restaurants located on a historic boardwalk along the banks of the fast-moving Ketchikan Creek.
Fish, Fish, and More Fish
On the opposite end of the creek is where you will find some active salmon (from late-June to mid-September).
Walk down the boardwalk in Ketchikan Alaska known as Married Man’s Way until you come to what’s known as the Salmon Ladder.
Here the salmon congregate in calmer pockets of the creek to gather their strength after a failed attempt to get upstream.
Then, when they’re ready, they’ll muster up all of their energy to jump up the rushing creek and continue upstream for spawning.
Don’t just look down in the creeks for wildlife… we saw this beauty high up in the trees behind Creek Street.
This town really caters to its visitors. There is a free shuttle bus that operates May through September, making 20-minute loops from the cruise ship docks to Totem Heritage Center and back.
Totem Poles in Ketchikan Alaska
We visited the Totem Heritage Center since we weren’t going to have time to visit the Totem Bight State Historical Park (a 1-hour round-trip bus ride from downtown).
Here we learned all about the history, tradition, and process behind totem pole carving.
Ketchikan, Alaska is known for being the salmon capital of the world!
It’s also famous for its Native American Totem Poles.
Located near the entrance to Creek Street is the Chief Johnson totem pole, carved from a single western red cedar log. This 55-foot pole is actually a replica and depicts the legend of Fog Woman and the creation of Salmon. The fabled Kadjuk bird towers at the top of the pole. The original carving, which can be found inside the Totem Heritage Center, was raised in 1901 where it stood until 1982.
The Totem Heritage Center is located a short (free) shuttle ride from downtown. (Shuttle operates May through September only). If you decide to walk from downtown, it will take you approximately 15-20 minutes to get to the center.
I hadn’t read up much on the heritage center prior to our visit, so I was slightly disappointed when we arrived to find out it was an indoor museum. I guess I was expecting more of an outdoor display. (We were hoping to make it out to Totem Blight State Historical Park which has a wonderful outdoor showcase, but unfortunately didn’t have time for the 1-hour round-trip bus ride to get out there.)
Admission was only $5 to get in to the heritage center, so we figured we’d check it out.
Here we learned about the history, tradition, and process behind totem pole carving.
The museum not only contains original totem poles rescued from abandoned villages…
…but also artifacts, masks, tools, & more!
Since Ketchikan has the largest collection of Native American totem poles in the world, this is certainly the place to visit if seeing these carved pieces of history is on your list!
Behind the center, you will again see Ketchikan Creek. If you’re feeling up for a stroll, you can follow the creek from heritage center to get back downtown.
Downtown Ketchikan Alaska is a great place to pick up souvenirs and sample locally-caught salmon!
Along the waterfront is a statue called The Rock. This monument honors the lives of those citizens who formed the population of the city in the early years.
(Chief Johnson, The Logger, The Fisherman, The Miner, The Aviator, A Native Elder Woman, and an Elegant Lady.)
On our way back to the ship, we stopped by the Sourdough Bar for a pint of Alaskan brew! (Sam’s Beer Tip: “Alaskan Amber is far and away the best of the brewer’s offerings that I tried. Tastes will vary, but you can’t go wrong with this one if you’re unsure where to start. Not too bitter but just hoppy enough to satisfy without drying the palette.”)
These stunning stained glass displays line the boardwalk leading back to the ship.
Leaving Ketchikan Alaska was one of my favorite sail-aways on our cruise!
Fortunately, the weather was perfect. We had stunning views of the mainland as we sailed away.
We even saw a whale waving its tail at us as we headed toward our next destination. It was a nice farewell to our time in Ketchikan Alaska. (We saw TONS when we went whale watching in Juneau!)
Check out a quick video of our day in port below!