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Cruise Diary: Touring Ketchikan, Alaska

Journalist Pat Woods sailed on Oosterdam’s seven-day Alaska Explorer cruise and chronicled her journey for us.

The southernmost town of the Inside Passage, Ketchikan, is neatly laid out on a narrow strip at the base of the 3,100-foot Deer Mountain. The first inhabitants were Tlingit tribes who established a fishing camp on Ketchikan Creek. Their early artwork and woodcarving permeate the culture today.

With four ships berths in the heart of town, Ketchikan rolls out the welcome mat for cruise visitors.

Ketchikan welcomes cruise guests.

Ketchikan welcomes cruise guests.

Just steps away from the pier in the visitor center, find free walking tour maps, restrooms and a bevy of local vendors offering fishing trips, zip-line tours, helicopter adventures and amphibious tours.

Creek Street is a relic of Ketchikan’s rugged past built on stilts over the Ketchikan Creek. The once-thriving red-light district has morphed into specialty shops, boutiques and art galleries.

Rob and I did a walking tour with Dragon London of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. Our first stop was the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, a great site for local art and culture.

Salmon drying rack at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.

Salmon drying rack at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.

London said the best time to see wildlife is between July 15 and August 15 when salmon are spawning. Streams filled with salmon attract hungry bears and eagles. “Bears target female salmon filled with eggs, and eagles eat what the bears leave behind.”

London led us to a funicular (entrance on Creek Street) that goes up to Cape Fox Lodge which has a restaurant and lobby with great views. Walk through the lobby to see the Council of the Clan, a circle of six totems which were carved by Lee Wallace.

Council of the Clan totems.

Council of the Clan totems.

While the downtown is easily walkable, a free shuttle bus operates between ship berths and attractions.

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