Alaska Adventures: Ketchikan and Whale Watching


After a 1 & 1/2 days at sea, we arrived at our first stop: Ketchikan. Ketchikan calls itself “Alaska’s First City” – not because it’s the first city established in Alaska, but because it’s the first stop for many cruise ships along the Inside Passage.  This is a quant town with a population of 14,000, so on a day like ours where there are three ships in port, the population can double.  We were greeted with weather that was overcast, but nice and cool with no rain.  For the two of us who have experienced a hot summer in Colorado, this was a welcome change.  This was the view that greeted us from Jim & Pam’s balcony window:


Like many of these port cities, a significant part of Ketchikan’s history includes their Red Light District.  In this case, it was Creek Street, a boardwalk passage by the river that contained many brothels.  What is surprising is that the district wasn’t shut down until 1954, and according to the signs along the street, many of the Madame’s lived in those houses until the 90’s.  Many of those houses are now shops and museums.



Further up the boardwalk was the Salmon Ladder.  As the “Welcome” sign reads, Ketchikan is considered the Salmon capital of the world.  One of the coolest attractions is this ladder, which the salmon swim upward to lay their eggs before they die.  It was incredible watching these salmon fight their way up these rapids.  We staked out on the observation deck, with my finger on the camera, trying to capture the moment when the salmon would jump in the air.  Giving up, I decided to take a video to show off the rapids the salmon were trying to climb, when I was rewarded – keep you eyes peeled the last few seconds of this video.

Further up from this rapid, we saw the calmer waters where the salmon were either resting, spawning or dying. The cluster of dark in this photo before was a large group of salmon.


At the top of the hill was the Totem Heritage Center, which houses various totem poles from the 19th century, retrieved from Indian villages.  As you may know, Totem Poles were used to convey stories or share family history. We were awe-struck with the level of craftsmanship used to carve these poles.



They also had other artifacts from the Tsmishians as well, including these intricate masks.  We found the one with hair to be a little scary.


Also as we were walking around town, we found supposedly the best pizza in town… at a Mexican restaurant??  We didn’t stop for lunch, but instead headed back to the ship.


We departed Ketchikan in the mid-afternoon and made our way up to Juneau.  We had an early dinner that night so that we could get on the observation deck to go through Snow Pass, an area known to have waters favorable for whale-watching.  We were in luck and did encounter a few whale sightings, but only was able to catch quick glimpses of their fins while they came up for air.  The reason we didn’t see tail sightings is because the whales are essentially walking to their next destination, so they only have a need to briefly come up for air.  Those big tail sightings occur when they need to come up for a large breath, usually when they are going to feed or rushing to get something.  I’m still glad we got to see what we saw.


The scenery was still breathtaking. In the second picture below you can see just how calm the water was by these islands.



We spent the rest of the evening down in the Wheelhouse bar, a lounge with live music, taking in the breathtaking scenery from the warmth of indoors.


Next Up: Glacier-watching and Juneau!