Ketchikan, Alaska, known as the First City of Alaska, is also known as the Salmon Capital of the World. It is located in Southeast Alaska 234 miles south of Juneau, the Capital City of Alaska, and 680 miles from Seattle. It’s a quick 90 minute flight to Ketchikan from Seattle on Alaska Airlines. There are no other roads to access Ketchikan, except for the Alaska Marine Highway, which provides access to vehicles and people through the protected Inside Passage. The trip is 8 hours from Prince Rupert, BC or 36 hours from Bellingham, WA.
Ketchikan was a timber and fishing town until 1997 when the pulp mill was shut down. Today commercial fishing and the expanding cruise ship industry – along with tourism in general – have become the economic focal point for this the 5th largest city in Alaska. The population has stabilized at about 12,000, more and less as the tourist seasons come and go. Ketchikan is the main hub in southern southeast Alaska for daily dispersing cruise ship travelers from around the globe to local and outlying adventure destinations, who travel north or south to another town in Alaska or Vancouver, BC. Approximately a million cruise ship passengers visit from May through Sept. and mostly head into Ketchikan’s “Gift Shop and Jewelery Central” downtown area that specifically caters to the cruise ship industry. The truly special places and the REAL Alaska are the remote coastal areas away from town and far from the popular cruise ship traffic and crowded fishing grounds servicing cruise ship tourists. These are well outside the range of typical small day charter boats are some of the best fishing hot spots to be found anywhere on the planet!
Alaska Airlines is the only airlines at this time that flies into Ketchikan International Airport from Seattle. No matter where visitors arrive from in the continental U.S. they fly into Seattle and then connect on Alaska Airlines to get to Ketchikan (KTN). There’s a short 7 minute ferry ride from the airport on Gravina Island across Tongass Narrows over to the “town side” of Revilla Island and Ketchikan proper. Once in Ketchikan, it’s just a few minutes to the Plaza Port West Mall, Safeway, Tongass Marine Store, Murray Pacific Fishing Supplies, and downtown, along with the various Hotels and B&B’s. Hotels usually have shuttle service (courtesy van) that will pick up guests staying with them and deliver them to from the airport ferry to hotel at no charge. Most hotel’s courtesy van will also help make shopping in town a little easier from one end to the other.
Ketchikan’s relative isolation makes it a great destination for anyone looking to enjoy a secluded, remote type of vacation adventure away from the crowds of tourists. Misty Fiords National Monument Wilderness Area – created on December 1, 1978 through presidential proclamation by President Jimmy Carter to protect the ecological, cultural, geological, historical, prehistoric, scientific, and wilderness values of the area – begins 25 miles East of Ketchikan and stretches 2 million acres from East Behm Canal all the way to Portland Canal, and the border with British Columbia, Canada. To the north, the wilderness boundary goes just past and includes the estuary areas of The Unuk River. The pristine tranquility and serene atmosphere of the Misty Fjords will appeal to anyone who enjoys the wilderness. The incredible ecological diversity, rainforest climate, and coastal waterways that cut back into the Coastal Range of mountains provides unparalleled opportunities for experiencing remote and wild recreation with a backdrop of hundreds of waterfalls cascading from sheer granite walls into the sea 3000 feet below. The wilderness area receives over 120 inches of rain a year that promotes lush, green forests, and flows through thousands of freshwater creeks, streams, and rivers that wind their way to the bays, fiords, channels, and then to the ocean.
The vibrant green tide flats mark the end of most salmon bearing streams and major river systems, where folks can witness brown and black bear feeding on sedge grasses, roots and tubers in the spring, and during summer and fall, be impressed with the animals’ abilities to hunt down spawning salmon numbering in the millions. From picturesque snow capped peaks where the mountain goats roam, to the rugged coastal shoreline of protected coves, bays, channels and canals, you’ll find wildlife in healthy abundance in the Misty Fiords. The bears of course are everywhere, and more bald eagles than you could imagine soaring overhead and often impressing guests with a fish catching show! Sitka black tail deer forage through the dense old growth forests, followed closely by packs of Alaskan Archipelago Wolves. Birders are in for a treat with realistically often sightings of marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemonts, red throated loons, pacific loons, and scores of other sea and shore birds. The marine mammal shows of Misty Fjords includes the migrating humpback whales, pods of killer whales, and the ever present dall porpoises riding the bow wave of the Saltery C. You’ll also find harbor seals, sea lions, hauled out on rocky outcroppings, sea otters rolling around the kelp beds and river otters gliding purposefully, often playfully, along the waters edges in search of food.
Prince of Wales Island-Southeast Coast, Duke Island, Gravina Island are South and East of Ketchikan. Here visitors can find attractive fisheries along the shorelines with rocky outcroppings, steep dropoffs, productive pinnacles, and large reefs with kelp beds, that produce fantastic fishing opportunities for migrating salmon of all species, along with halibut, ling cod, and rockfish. The areas are popular at certain times during the year with commercial fisherman of all gear groups.. however, early in the season and even those “closed” days for commercial fishing groups, the sportfishing can be outstanding! Several lodges and day charter boats charge a bit extra to cover fuel costs to get out that far and fish these fun “catching” zones. An added bonus are the humpback whales that are commonly sighted bubble net feeding along the coastlines of these areas.
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