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    What to see in Ketchikan: the city of Misty Fiords

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    It is one of the most important cities of theAlaska and salmon capital of the world, but the million tourists who land here every year are not only attracted by the taste of the prized fish. Ketchikan is the first stop of the cruises that from the United States go up the coast towards Alaska and is above all the starting point for excursions in the suggestive areas Misty Fiords.


    • How to reach us
    • Climate and temperatures
    • Attractions in the city
      • Salmon fishing
    • I Misty Fiords
    • Where sleeping in Ketchikan

    How to reach us

    Ketchikan is located onisola Revillagigedo, in the extreme south of the Alaskan territories, very close to the border with the Canadian state of British Columbia. Here are the possible ways to reach the city.

    • Airplane. The quickest way to get to the city is certainly to land at Ketchikan International Airport, served by both Alaska Airways and other airlines that connect it with the main centers of the state, but also with Canada and the United States.
    • Ship. The main way to reach the city is undoubtedly the ship. Most tourists arrive here on a cruise, but there is also the option of getting there on their own thanks to the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
    • Auto. Ferries allow you to embark the car and it is therefore possible to take it with you. There is no need to visit the city, and it would be an unnecessary surcharge on the ferry ticket. However, if you are on the road in Alaska and / or Canada and you have found this system convenient, it is also possible to arrive here with your own car.

    Climate and temperatures

    I have already described in the article on when to go to Alaska the climatic characteristics of the Southeast, which although it is the mildest region, it is also one of the wettest areas in the state. Ketchikan is no exception: with its almost 4000 mm of annual rainfall (divided into almost 230 days), it is one of those cities where it is the probability of having to use an umbrella is really high. The driest period is summer. June, July and August have about two weeks of rain, while in all other months the probability increases. The wettest months are October and November, where every year there are almost 25 rainy days out of 31.

    With regard to temperature, Ketchikan does not have an extreme climate neither in summer nor in winter. In the hottest months, July and August, there are on average 18/19 ° of highs and 10 ° of minimums. In the coldest months, December and January, there is a maximum of 3/4 ° and a minimum of 0 / -2 °. It is therefore a city open throughout the year without having to resort to major precautions.

    Attractions in the city

    To understand the soul of Ketchikan one must start visiting it starting from the port. However, not the docks where the ferries dock, but the Thomas Basin Boat Harbor: the docking of fishing boats, the hub of city life. The whole city develops along the coast, in that thin line left by the mountains on the seashore.

    Not far from the moorings of the boats, the streets of the center are full of artisan workshops where artifacts of the different tribes of natives are produced and sold: Tlingit, Eyak, Haida and Tsimshian. Some local works of art are exhibited in the two galleries of the Star Building (located at 5 Creek Street), others in Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, easily identifiable on the waterfront (50 Main Street). Here, in addition to the works of art, the reconstruction of a piece of rainforest, with running water and the sounds of birds, is striking.

    The most important natural resource for this city along with fish is wood. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show (420 Spruce Mill Way) is a unique show of its kind, linked to the traditions of the woodcutters. The highlight are the lumberjack competitions: cutting wood with saw and ax, rolling logs and climbing on poles are the tests in which the competitors compete.

    Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

    The most famous area of ​​the city it is the riverside, where the wooden buildings reach the water of Ketchikan Creek thanks to the bases built on stilts. Catching a salmon from your doorstep while going upstream is not something you can do in many other cities around the world. It was said that a Creek Street both salmon and fishermen came to reproduce, because in the first half of the twentieth century it housed numerous red light venues. Today it is a very touristy area full of shops and restaurants.

    Along the Ketchikan Creek we also find the Tongass Historical Museum (629 Dock Street), which traces the entire history of the city. Not far away, we can reach the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center (1158 Salmon Road): a salmon and trout hatchery where in summer it is possible to take educational tours on the fish and, alongside, on the birds of prey of the ornithological center. Right on the opposite bank is the Totem Heritage Center (601 Deermount Street), where old abandoned totem poles in indigenous villages are recovered and restored.

    Moving away from the center, 4km south along the South Tongass Highway, there is another place dedicated to these ritual monuments: the Saxman Totem Park, one of the largest collections of totem poles in the world. The simple visit is free, but you can join a guided tour that also includes a traditional dance show and entry to a tribal house.

    Continuing south for another 9-10km along the coastal road you reach another point of interest: theAlaska Rainforest Sanctuary. In about 2 hours, you can take a tour of this section of rainforest, full of animals. It is easy to spot eagles and seals, baribal bears and the inevitable salmon. There is also an artisan workshop and a historic sawmill, but a particular thing are the 7 zip-lines that allow you to harness and visit part of the sanctuary from the top of the trees.

    Following the coastal road to the north, however, 16km separate the city from the Totem Bight State Historical Park: here the totem poles are only 14, alongside the reproduction of a clan house, but it is worth it for the beautiful setting in the forest by the sea.

    • Tour of the city and Totem Bight State Park
    • Jeep and canoe tour around Ketchikan
    • City tour and admission to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

    Salmon fishing

    All of Alaska is famous for salmon, but if Ketchikan is defined world capital there is a reason. This area was already a favorite for fishing by native peoples, but it was in 1880 that the abundance of salmon led to the idea of ​​founding a settlement on this island. The town grew thanks to fishing and processing of fine fish. Although the main income today comes from tourism, salmon remains in second place for the local economy.

    You don't need to get hired by a local company to catch some of the world's most sought after salmon: sport fishing it is a popular activity that any visitor can take part in. Halibut, trout, snapper and cod flank salmon as fishermen's prey in rivers, along the coasts or off the city.

    • Fishermen's tour along the Inside Passage
    • Salmon fishing tour

    I Misty Fiords

    One of the main reasons why so many tourists stop in Ketchikan are them: i Misty Fiords. As I mentioned, this area is really very rainy and if we combine a humid climate with the conformation of the territory, characterized by high rocks overlooking the sea, we easily understand why these fjords have been called 'Nebbiosi'. It is difficult to visit them with the bright sun, but fear not: what makes them unique is the layered fog that makes the naked rock appear almost ghostly.

    There are numerous alternatives to visit the Misty Fiords, also because we are talking about an area of ​​almost one million hectares, where the rainforest is still largely in the wild. If you can afford it, one of the most suggestive ways is undoubtedly getting on a little one seaplane and fly over this scenic intertwining of rivers, mountains and forests, with only the eagles moving beside you.

    Misty Fiords airplane tour

    A much lower mode is the kayak. In Ketchikan kayaks are rented and it is possible to join guided tours on these single-seater canoes, which allow you to follow the coast and explore even the smallest ravines. Obviously, kayaking allows you to move only around the city, without reaching the suggestive fjords that are several kilometers away, but it is an excellent solution for those who want to spot sea lions, seals and maybe some whales up close.

    The most popular alternative is instead the boat. Setting sail from Ketchikan the water tours head towards the Behm Canal: a large natural canal 160km long and 3 to 6km wide, on whose shores eagles nest. Some islands dot the channel, including Rudyerd Island, famous for having welcomed a fur fox farm in the 72s. Among the most photographed points is the New Eddyston Rock: a 6m tapered rock rising out of the water, the remnant of a XNUMX million year old volcanic conduit.

    The various fjords branch off from the canal: one of the most famous is that of Rudyerd Bay, from whose cliffs numerous waterfalls plunge into the sea. The most famous cliff is that of Punchbowl Cove: a 914m vertical wall that only the most skilled climbers can climb. In summer, the mouth of Nooya Creek, at the end of the fjord, is a great place to spot bears, seals and other animals flocking to feast on salmon.

    Where sleeping in Ketchikan

    Despite being a small town, Ketchikan's tourist vocation has given rise to a large number of hotels and you won't have a hard time finding accommodation that suits you. I recommend some more particular places.

    Cape Fox Lodge
    Inn At Creek Street
    The Landing Hotel
    • Cape Fox Lodge. It is the most elegant hotel in the city and is easily recognizable thanks to the facade decorated with six totems. Even in the lobby there are artifacts of the natives that make it a small museum.
    • Inn At Creek Street. It is the ideal solution for those who want to be in a comfortable environment, but also have some autonomy. In fact, many rooms are equipped with a kitchenette, to be able to prepare a few meals independently, without necessarily having to rely on restaurants.
    • Landing Hotel. Located right in front of the ferry terminals, it is one of the best hotels in the city. Currently managed by the Best Western chain, it is famous for its welcoming staff and its comfortable common areas.

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