Welcome to Ketchikan

Ketchikan is located on the island of Revillagigedo in Southeast Alaska and is known as “Alaska’s First City” because it is the southern gateway of the Inside Passage, and therefore the first stop for many when traveling north.

The town of Kichx̱áan (Ketchikan) resides on the ancestral lands of the Taant’a Kwáan and Saanya Kwáan Tlingit.

About 14,000 year-round residents call Ketchikan home, and we are grateful to be a part of this community.

View of Ketchikan from bow of Zodiac boat

Ketchikan’s history goes back ages. For millennia, humans have used the mouth of Ketchikan Creek as their base of summer operations, mostly as a Tlingit fishing camp. Each summer, they would make a canoe journey from their winter villages to harvest, dry, and smoke the pink, coho, chum, and king salmon returning to their natal streams. In relatively recent history, these salmon runs attracted the attention of commercial canning interests, and a man named Mike Martin. In 1885, he purchased 160 acres at the mouth of the creek to start a saltery. This attracted other businesses and settlers who established a year-round presence on the creek. In 1900, Ketchikan was incorporated as a city, with Martin as its first mayor.

Like much of the United States, Ketchikan boomed in the 1920s, quickly growing into one of the largest cities in Alaska. The rapidly expanding economy brought miners, loggers, and fishermen who spent the earnings of their labor on Creek Street. This was Ketchikan’s infamous red light district that lined the banks of the creek with bordellos, gambling, and dance halls. Illegal liquor, brought in by enterprising rum runners through trap doors at high tide, flowed freely in the creekside establishments. Acting as monuments to Ketchikan’s colorful history, these historic buildings on pilings are now colorful shops and homes standing brightly painted against the emerald, forested hillside. From Thomas Basin, the harbor at the mouth of the creek, the town spreads narrowly along the shoreline, with fish processing, float plane operators, cruise ship docks, and other commercial interests dominating the waterfront while residential homes cling to the steep mountainside above them.

Ketchikan is our base of operations, not only because it is our home, but it is also a fantastic place to explore the natural wonders of Southeast Alaska. Nestled in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, and right next door to Misty Fjords National Monument, we are surrounded by incredible beauty and solitude. Forested islands and secret passageways connected by deep waters create the ultimate landscape to explore by small expedition craft. Black sand beaches, and colorful tide pools are exposed twice daily during tidal swings, while forests of kelp line the rocky shores. Incredible wildlife and peaceful wilderness experiences are found minutes from town. This is where we live, this is where we adventure.

Check out our Local’s Guide to Ketchikan for travel tips & recommendations

Learn more about our town from the Ketchikan Story Project

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