21 Fun Facts About Ketchikan, Alaska
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21 Fun Facts About Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska

While a city with 8,245 residents would be considered to be small in most places, Ketchikan is the fifth-most populous city in the state of Alaska.
  Ketchikan, Alaska

While the self-proclaimed “Salmon Capital of the World” might be a small in residents and in size at 5.9 square miles, Ketchikan, Alaska attracts nearly a million visitors each year, many of them arriving by cruise ship.

Here are 21 Fun Facts to Know About Ketchikan, Alaska

1. Located 679 miles north of Seattle, Washington, and 90 miles north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Ketchikan is Alaska’s most southeastern city, and first port call on northbound Alaska cruises.

2. Ketchikan is located on the western coast of Revillagigedo Island. The island (called Revilla Island by the locals) is the 12th largest in the in United States, and was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1793.

Ketchikan and Revillagigedo Island are part of the “Inside Passage” coastal route used by cruise ships, freighters, fishing boats and ferries that weaves through the group of islands on the Pacific coast of North America.

3. The city of Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town and is filled with salmon each summer. The summer salmon fishing attracted Cape Fox Tlingit Native Alaskans to the area for centuries.

4. The name “Ketchikan” comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin.

5. Ketchikan’s abundant fish and timber resources attracted non-Natives to the area. In 1885, Mike Martin bought 160 acres from Chief Kyan, which later became the Township of Ketchikan.

6. The first fish cannery opened in 1886 near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek.

7. The Ketchikan Post Office was established in 1892.

8. On August 25, 1900, the town of Ketchikan was officially incorporated with a population of 800.

9. Four more fish canneries were built by 1912. By 1936, seven canneries were in operation, producing 1.5 million cases of salmon annually in Ketchikan.

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo taken by Eugeniy Kalinin.

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska. Photo taken by Eugeniy Kalinin.

10. Residents and visitors still fish along Ketchikan Creek, which was once the red-light district of Ketchikan. The wooden boardwalk was built on pilings over Ketchikan Creek.  Between 1903 and 1953, as many as 30 brothels lined either side of the creek.

11. In the early 1900’s, Ketchikan also became a supply center for logging in southeast Alaska. The need for lumber and packing boxes spawned the Ketchikan Spruce Mills in 1903, which operated for 70 years.

12. A $55 million pulp mill was constructed at Ward Cove near Ketchikan in 1954. Its operation fueled the growth Ketchikan until the mill closed in 1997 after the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990, which reduced timber harvest targets in the national forest.

13. Ketchikan is surrounded by the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest, the largest in the United States. Tongess is managed by the United States Forest Service from headquarters in downtown Ketchikan.

Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska. Photo by Zarxos.

Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska. Photo by Zarxos.

14. The 2.2 million acre Misty Fiords National Monument is known for its long, deep fiords carved by glaciers thousands of years ago.  Located 40 miles from Ketchikan, Misty Fiords (or Fjords) is explored only by boat or float plane.

15. Ketchikan has a moderate rain forest climate with a record high temperature of 89 °F and a record low temperature of negative 1 °F.

16. It rains frequently in Ketchikan. The city averages 153 inches of rain per year, with the wettest months in fall and winter.

17. One of the ZIP codes for Ketchikan, Alaska – 99950 — is the highest numbered ZIP code in the United States.


18. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles. You can see them throughout the city and at Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center which displays 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan.

19. The Alaska Marine Highway System – a ferry service operated by the state of Alaska — has its headquarters in Ketchikan.

20. The half a mile wide Tongass Narrows channel separates Ketchikan from Gravina Island, where Ketchikan International Airport is located. You must take a five-minute ferry ride (with or without car) to get back and forth to the airport.

21. The Gravina Island Bridge, commonly referred to as the “Bridge to Nowhere”, was a proposed $398 million project to replace the ferry that currently connects Ketchikan with its airport on Gravina Island. After the bridge project encountered fierce opposition outside of Alaska as an example of pork barrel spending, the U.S. Congress removed the federal funding earmark for it.

Learn more about Ketchikan with these resources:
Behind the Bridge to Nowhere Ketchikan Alaska as We See It

Misty Memories of Guard Island, Alaska: Ketchikan’s Legacy of a Lighthouse Family

Have you visited Ketchikan, Alaska? Or, perhaps you’ve lived there? What ‘fun fact’ can you add?

Check out these other “Fun Facts” posts on Alaska destinations:

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