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Fun Facts About Ketchikan, Alaska

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Ketchikan is the fifth-most populous city in Alaska with a population of more than 14,000. Known as the Salmon Capital of the World, Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island, 90 miles (140 km) north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and 235 miles (378 km) south of Juneau. This picturesque city has a total area of 5.9 square miles (15.3 km2). Its local economy is based on tourism and fishing.

The half a mile (800 m) wide Tongass Narrows channel separates Ketchikan from Gravina Island, where Ketchikan International Airport is located. The city is named after Ketchikan Creek. Ketchikan comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin, which means “thundering wings of an eagle.”

Did You Know?

  • At the turn of the century, the Loring Cannery produced more cans of salmon that any other cannery in Alaska. The cannery and related housing had a larger population than Ketchikan.
  • Highschool students use a gravel field to play football. Ouch!
  • Ketchikan receives almost 1,000,000 visitors each year, most arrive by cruise ships.
  • There is a 20 mph speed limit in Ketchikan that all vehicles must obey, including police and fire trucks.
  • Mike Martin purchased 160 acres of land from Chief Kyan in 1885, which later became the Township of Ketchikan.
  • The Cape Fox Tlingits and Tongass used Ketchikan Creek as a fish camp.
  • The Ketchikan Post Office was established in 1892.
  • By 1936 there were seven canneries in operation in Ketchikan.
  • In September after the last cruise ship departs, the buildings in the downtown area are emptied of stock and closed for the winter.
32 Comments Post a comment
  1. WOW ! What a gorgeous place to live!

    April 8, 2013
    • Although Ketchikan is located in a beautiful setting, I would think living there would be difficult. All groceries, hardware, building supplies, gas, etc are brought to the island by ship making it very expensive to live there. A tour guide said a gallon of milk cost $10 and a loaf of bread is $5.

      The guide also said Revillagigedo Island has only two inches of top soil, which makes gardening impossible. Somehow the trees are able to grow and thrive on the island.

      April 8, 2013
      • That is interesting about the soil. It doesn’t surprise me it is so expensive to live there, I seem to pick out the most expensive places to live, I love Hawaii too! But at least the weather is warmer in Hawaii!! lol Ketchikan looks like a nice place to spend on a few months retreat away from it all.

        April 9, 2013
      • It is interesting about the soil, and hard to believe. The tour guide showed us a fallen tree with exposed roots proving there is only two inches of top soil. The island is all rock. Many people use an above ground cistern to catch and store rainwater.

        Hawaii would be a nice place to live.

        The tour guide also told us Tom Cruise was in town. He loves the area and spends quite a bit of time in Alaska. He flies in and meets his yacht in Alaska. We saw one beautiful yacht while there and assumed it was his. Apparently, the locals love him. He’s nice and polite to everyone.

        April 9, 2013
      • That is cool – I was told you either love or hate Alaska, but I have never met anyone who has hated it. One lady I knew used to travel there every year for vacation and the last trip her and her husband bought a home and moved there. We are saving our $$ to visit. We can’t wait.

        April 10, 2013
      • @patrica jordan

        Hi, just wanted to say that your tour guide most likely didnt live in Ketchikan until that season. he or she was only telling you what they had been told. not their fault.
        yah, some food prices are high, but only about a dollar more then down south (aka, anywhere below seattle lol) breads about the same. its cheaper then hawaii and alot more laid back.

        And gardening here is great, thanks to a long growing season and plenty of water. the topsoil is called Muskeg, and is mostly decayed plant matter. its pretty rich. keeping the foot long slugs from eating your plants though…thats a different story.

        If you’re ever back again, come see me for a real local tour. 🙂 have a great day.

        Brandon

        May 6, 2014
      • Hi Brandon,

        Thank you for the offer of a real tour. I will definitely take you up on your kind offer the next time I am in Ketchikan. The guide said he lived in Nevada and worked for years as a tour guide in Ketchikan.

        My posts on Alaska and Ketchikan are among the most visited on my site. Please share any insider knowledge you have of the area. Have a great summer!

        Trish

        May 9, 2014
      • Terri #

        I work in a grocery store in Ketchikan, a gallon of milk is only 3.29 and bread depends on the type but regular bread only costs maybe $2. Not sure where that for guide for his info but really the only big difference in price is produce. Even then it’s not horrible.

        June 4, 2015
      • Misty #

        The tour guide was wrong on all levels. What Terri said is correct, and there are places here that have more than 2 inches of top soil. Many people here have vegi gardens.

        June 5, 2015
      • Thanks Misty, that is good to hear. The tour guide’s claim of two inches sounded odd, but he claimed to know the area well.

        June 6, 2015
    • You will love Alaska. I highly recommend visiting Skagway and taking the train. The train was my favourite tour. I will be publishing photos taken in Skagway in May.

      April 10, 2013
      • I can’t wait to see them. 2 yrs and counting… 😉

        April 13, 2013
  2. Dear Patricia,
    This is such a lovely post on Ketchikan – the name itself gives a fairy tale feeling to it 🙂
    I’m sure its a great getaway for a wonderful holiday!

    I wish I could visit all these wonderful places especially Vancouver, Ketchikan and also the Coast and watch the Whales (Orcas) belly flop and land on the water spraying it as they do so majestically, riding the waves….

    Your beautiful fantastic and so well presented blog, makes me yearn to visit these places at least once in my life time (I hope if not more)
    Thanks for posting them.
    I took your suggestion and have changed the appearance of my blog now. Hope you do like it?

    With all my best wishes.
    Sincere Regards,
    Madhavi Sood

    April 8, 2013
    • Thank you Madhavi, I am glad you enjoyed the fun facts. I hope you have an opportunity to go whale watching. It’s a fantastic way to spend a day on the water in beautiful British Columbia.

      I like the changes you made on your site. It looks great!

      April 8, 2013
  3. Amy #

    1,000,000 visitors each year, wow! That is a popular tourist city.
    Thank you for the beautiful slides, Patricia!

    April 13, 2013
    • Thank you Amy, I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Ketchikan is definitely a popular destination.

      April 13, 2013
  4. Ernie Horn #

    Hello i live in ketchiikan would anyone like some info? 🙂

    June 20, 2013
    • Thanks for your comment Ernie.

      What is it like to live in Ketchikan year-round?

      June 22, 2013
    • Shawna Shotwell #

      I have an opportunity to work in Ketchikan and am doing research on living there. What is it like for children? How is the shopping in the winter months since the stores close up shop?

      September 24, 2013
      • Shawna, thanks for dropping by. I have not lived in Ketchikan and do not have that information. My recommendation is to contact the administrator at http://visit-ketchikan.com. They should have the information you need.

        Have fun! Ketchikan is located in a beautiful setting, and I am certain you will enjoy your time spent on the island.

        September 25, 2013
  5. Anthony Cox #

    I live in Ketchikan and am a tour guide , milk is $6 roughly and bread is $2-3 . The trees grow with the two inches of topsoil by the roots spreading out rather that growing down , they entangle with roots from other trees keeping them up straight when the fall storms arrive . When one tree falls it is likely to bring a friend down with it .

    August 16, 2013
    • Thanks Anthony, I guess the tour guide overstated the prices. It is amazing how the trees thrive with only a couple of inches of soil.

      August 16, 2013
    • I get my milk for 3.5 a gallon, just saying

      May 30, 2017
  6. Shawna Shotwell #

    In terms of living in Ketchikan, does Ketchikan have everything you need; hardware store, dentist, household store (probably no Walmart lol)…are there car dealerships and such?

    September 24, 2013
    • Mark #

      Shawna, there is a Safeway, an IGA, a Walmart, a vast variety of other stores as well. No car dealerships that I am aware of.

      November 21, 2013
      • Harleen Shirley Quinzel #

        Their are 3 local ones

        June 4, 2015
  7. ron medel #

    From a 25-yr Ketchikan resident: Baseball is played on gravel; for football, we have a beautiful new turf field (and track) out south of town. We do not throw a downtown party at cruise season end. Downtown used to have many more year around stores, but building owners apparently make more money leasing to cruise shops. Annual rainfall averages 152 inches per year and the cold, wet, and dark winters truly test the soul. Summers, however, are glorious.

    April 28, 2014
    • Hi Ron, thanks for dropping by. A tour guide told me about a downtown party. I guess he was wrong, perhaps it was his wishful thinking and he’d like a party.

      Ketchikan is a beautiful place, and I highly recommend a visit to Alaska.

      April 29, 2014
  8. Harleen Shirley Quinzel #

    My beautiful home! My grandmother, mother, myself, and my 4 kids have all been born here. When this is the only life we know it doesn’t seem difficult to live here, though we are painfully aware of how cut off we are from the rest of the world (the only way off The Rock is by boat or plane) and how behind we are in terms of technology, social media (I don’t understand how to use Twitter!), fashion, etc.

    June 4, 2015
    • Harleen, you live in a beautiful place. Ketchikan is among my favourites. Being a bit behind in technology can be a blessing.

      June 5, 2015
  9. My husband and his brother went to high school there in the 50s. His dad fished and worked logging and trapping. His mom had a little restaurant there. His bro now lives in Petersburg. My hubby went on to Sitka for 35 yrs. I love to listen to all of his stories. I loved visiting Ketchikan and we have friends there, lots in Sitka. His daughter lives in Anchorage. Most beautiful state I’ve ever seen. Loved the drive through Glenallen.

    June 24, 2016
    • Konarose, your husband and brother-in-law were lucky to live in Alaska. I hope you return often to enjoy the beauty of that great state.

      July 10, 2016

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