Ketchikan: The Land of Salmons

We arrived Ketchikan at around 5.30 through the sea. While the ship was approaching to the shore slowly, I was wondering what surprises were waiting for us in such a green city. It was in the middle of July but the water was like icy cold. It was spotless and quiet. We were approaching the shore with bird calls.

The first settlement in Ketchikan had been established in 1881 with Tinglit people’s having came. In early years, this place had been using as a hatchery in summer. In 1883, the first white man named Snow had came here and settled in. In 1885, they had thought why people didn’t trade with fish although there were a lot of wish, even more than the population. Then in the same year, three canned food workshops had been opened here.

Local people of Ketchikan call it “Ketchikin”. It means the wind which brings out when the eagle flaps its wings.

While we were watchin Ketchikan from the deck, watercrafts came up amongst high mountains. These crafts are the most common transport in Alaska. Colorful houses on mountainsides are triplexes maximum. Everywhere were full of coniferous trees.

I was surprised when I learned that Ketchikan is the third biggest city of Alaska while I was thinking it as a town.

Ketchikan is located in Tongass rainforests, as well. Its population is only 15,000 people. There is still snow on its hills.

Alaska is the 49th state of USA. 90 years ago in 1867, Russian people had sold these lands for $7,2 billion to the USA(worth $115 bilion today). But the Americans had already earned so much more of that amount by investing on those lands.

Of course, Russians had not sold the whole land for that amount of money. They’d just sold Anchorage and the upper part. Probably, they hadn’t knew about the petrol. But, they sold it to America for reasons related to political power in Czarism period. Canada had the southern-west part before, but they gave the lands to America. Therefore, between 1900 and 1959, this area had been called “ Alaskan autonomous lands”.

We landed off from the ship at about 7. It is only 500 meters from the Ketchikan Port to the city center. First, we were going around with a tour boat named Express Sitka and then a little trip to  canned food factory.

Fishing industry is very important and well-developed here. One of the most important reasons of it is that there has been always movement in the sea because the minerals in it has been always displacing due to the tide. The tide can reach to 3 meters. Therefore, there are two boats on both sides of the houses. They were using two of them in the high tide period, while using the others in the low tide period.

The view was amazing there. When we got there, the sea had been tide up but it was coming again. You could sometimes  see the eagle nests among trees. Binoculars has been delivered to look well.

The most attractive thing is the eagles which were white- headed and black-bodied. We also could sea the colorful starfish on the rocks.

All the houses on the shore are being settled on the poles for not be affected form the tide.

Our ship had approached to the canned food factory which was settled on these poles. We had to walk up from a steep to go in the factory.

On the upper floor, there are fishnets and lots of tools about fishing.

There are 5 special salmon species caught here. They take them out of the fresh water and let them loose in salty water for a while than release back to fresh water, which leads their metabolism to alter and lead to the creation of new species. The most important and expensive one of the salmons is the “King Salmon”. The biggest one caught in this area was 280 kgs.

After learning a little about the fish, our local guide told us about the canning process. To be honest, it was not very intriguing for me.

At the end, we took our bus after 30 minutes of delightful walk through the rainforests, from the exit of the factory.

Our driver was Derek. He was about 25 years old. A Canadian youngster. But speaks Turkish fluently.  Turns out, Derek had gone to Albania with the Mormon Cult to serve as a missionary. He had learned Turkish there. He made explanations in Turkish through out the road for us. It was very impressive.

From there, Derek took us to the area of totems first. Every totem here, represents something different. We bought little bitty things from the souvenir shop and head to road again. And we went to the center of Ketchikan.

In the centrum a “Welcome to the First City of Alaska” sign, and a “Ketchikan, The Salmon City of the World” sign welcomes you.

Ketchikan is the 3rd biggest city now, even if it is the first one.

The most important place in the city center is the Creek Boulevard. This street is really worth seeing. On the side of a narrow river, houses on poles facing each other. All of them are a maximum of 3 floors and fully colorful.

You can go uphill with the rope railway to take beautiful photos, and see the totems. This hill is called Historical Totem Hill.

If you are going to eat in Ketchikan, I would say go directly for the crab.

Handcrafts are very valuable here. The simplest glass mat is around 30-40$.

There is a brothel on this street on N. 25, opened in 1919 and still active. The name is Dolly House. You can take a touristic tour in the brothel for 5$.

Ketchikan took its place in our minds with its spotless streets, houses on poles and its green nature.



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 1942 Sinop Ayancık doğumluyum. Cerrahpaşa Tıp Fakültesi mezunuyum. Mecburi hizmet nedeni ile Hakkari, Yüksekova, Siirt’te görev yaptım.