By 1936 there were seven canneries working, producing almost two million cases of salmon a season. The need for lumber fostered the Ketchikan Spruce Mills built in 1903, which operated for over 70 years. The lumber industry collapsed when the Clinton administration moved to reduce timber cutting in Alaska by having the U.S. Forest service cancel contracts for timber in March 1997 on Federal land.
The town gets its name from the Tongass and Tlingit Indians who named their fish camp kitschk-hin, meaning stream with “thundering wings of eagles.” While Skagway attracted gold prospectors, Ketchikan was a treasure trove of abundant fish and timber that attracted American settlers to the area. In 1885, Mike Martin bought 160 acres from Chief Kyan to found the township. The first cannery was built in 1886 near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek and by 1912 four more were in operation.
Where Your Ship Docks
Cruise ships will normally dock at the piers right along the historic areas waterfront. A number of shops and malls nearby have public facilities. There is no terminal and disembarking requires the use of the ships boarding ramp.
Ketchikan is a small town with the central district encompassing only a few dozen blocks. Most trips out of town involve specific nature tours by bus, car, boat or plane. The town is located on one of Alaska’s large coastal islands with most of it covered in large tracts of undeveloped forest.
Ketchikan is an American town and uses the U.S. Dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines are available.
Ketchikan is home to Tongass Historical Museum along with a waterfront cannery exhibit and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. Salmon fishing charters are readily available and you can have your catch flash frozen or smoked and couriered home (a bit pricey but worth the bragging rights). Additional tours include wilderness expeditions, trips to the Misty Fjords and whale watching expeditions.
Shopping offers a number of opportunities with local native crafts being the traditional gifts and souvenirs. Locally smoked and canned salmon should be on everyone’s shopping list featuring reasonable prices and being a great take-home prize.