Ketchikan, Alaska Welcome Sign
Ketchikan, AK was formally incorporated in the year 1900. However, entrepreneurial locals have been operating businesses on the river there since 1887, and the Tlingit Indians have called the area home for hundreds of years.
Around 1900, Ketchikan quickly became a port of entry for southern ships to enter the state, its growth fueled by the Yukon Gold Rush of the 1890s, which brought many prospectors north in search of gold. The influx of people flocking to this relatively unpopulated area in a vast wilderness territory led to Ketchikan being nicknamed “The First City.”
Port of Ketchikan, Alaska
Once the rush of prospectors declined, the area’s other natural strengths began to emerge. The Tlingit had fished in Ketchikan Creek for centuries, so it wasn’t long before new settlers began doing the same. Within thirty years or so, Ketchikan had grown to process 1.5 million cases of salmon annually within 13 canneries. The town’s next nickname was aptly earned: “The Salmon Capital of the World.”
By this point, Ketchikan was easily the largest city in Alaska. It was well-positioned to take advantage of the timber industry’s boom that followed the decline of its fishing industry once overfishing led to depleted resources. The town’s pulp mill kept the population employed for the next sixty-plus years, until it finally closed in the 1990s.
Today, though fishing and seafood canning are again prominent contributors to Ketchikan’s success, the majority of the town’s income comes from tourism. Almost a million visitors—in contrast to the town’s current local population, which is under 8000—come to the area every year to see the vast, breathtaking beauty of Alaska and tour the Tongass National Forest and Misty Fjords National Monument. Visitors on an Alaska yacht cruise have the benefit of being able to come and go as they please, avoiding the tourist cruise ships.
The area has many historical sites and buildings to tour during quieter parts of the season. The Tongass Historical Museum is worth a visit, as is the Totem Heritage Center, which displays unique native totem poles from the 1800s. Additionally, recent updates to the waterfront promenade and the restoration of historic properties have made the seaside downtown area a pleasant place for a stroll. As one of the few locations to see the Tlingit Indian Totem Pole unique culture, Ketchikan is indeed a great location in which to stop on a yacht charter in Alaska.
Totem Pole preserved in Totem Bight State Park in Ketchikan, Alaska.