"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call - Ketchikan, Alaska

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Port of Call - Ketchikan, Alaska

It was a sunny morning in Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world. The town is nestled into the mountainside and colorful houses and buildings give a picture postcard feeling to the scene. Alaska is one of those places where the weather can be good one minute and overcast and rainy the next. With the sea and the mountains, clouds can form and appear to be caught by the pine trees that grace the steep hillsides.

Fortunately for us, none of that was happening as we began our walk through the town of Ketchikan. We headed for Creek Street where we knew we would see the Ketchikan Creek where so many salmon swim each year in their quest to find their spawning grounds. As we neared the beginning of the street, we could see the river/creek full of salmon. If you could have walked on their backs, you could have crossed the 20-30 foot width of the creek without ever getting your feet wet.
Further up Creek Street, there is a salmon ladder which if chosen by the salmon is a much easier way up the creek than by jumping the frothy rapids. The ladder is actually a series of chutes that the salmon can swim up through without expending as much energy and risking life and limb against the rocks. Still many were trying the traditional route, jumping up stream. We didn’t see any make it while we were watching.

The salmon are what originally attracted the Tingit people to this area where they established a summer fishing camp. In 1883 a man known as Snow opened the first salmon saltery and as they say, the rest is history.
In the late 19th century, gold and copper were discovered in the surrounding mountains and Ketchikan flourished as a place to replenish supplies. A timber industry was also established in the area and Ketchikan continued to grow to become Alaska’s sixth largest city.

There is an abundance of things to see and do in the area including floatplane tours (we sat and watched them take off and land all afternoon), fishing, kayaking, hiking, the Totem Bight Stat Park where you can glimpse the Tingit and Haida Indian cultures and learn about totem poles, Saxman Native Village-another place to see the Indian culture and art, the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, the Misty Fjords National Monument, the Great American Lumberjack Show, the George Inlet Lodge where you can learn about the salmon, and of course Creek Street. 
One last thing about Creek Street. It was infamous for its thirty or more brothels. Dolly’s House was one of them and is now a museum.  There is supposed to be a sign that indicated that man and salmon both headed in the same direction to spawn but somehow I missed it. Maybe on our next visit I’ll find it.

[Note: One of the things we discovered is that the port of calls in Alaska have all become much more commercialized than we remember. If you don’t get an excursion booked from your ship, there will be plenty of chances on shore.]


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