On the northwest side of Kupreanof Island, amid vistas of blue-gray seas and dense forested lands, the buildings of Kake reflect a reality of economic hard times. Some are weathered by time, others shuttered by sagging industry and a falling population.
But spend some time with the people of this community and you will recognize the richness of their relationship to nature, to each other and their collective heritage. Their lives resonate with the millennia of Tlingit traditions and the power of stories, songs and dances handed down through generations.
70% of the people here are of Tlingit heritage, and they largely maintain their subsistence lifestyle, surviving through hunting, fishing and gathering plants and berries. Visitors to Kake who stay long enough find a sense of peace and generosity of spirit here. Connect with the land and the people and you will leave refreshed and invigorated by a truly authentic Alaska experience.
Connecting with the land
Rent a car and explore old logging roads, which lead to fishing holes, waterfalls, tidal grasslands and long beaches. Watch bear fishing in Gunnuk Creek, hear eagles fighting over their next meal (salmon is always on the menu), and see humpbacks breaching in Keku Strait. Rent a forest service cabin in a remote area, where the only sound is the tide coming in and the grasses waving in the breeze. Pick some berries, wade into Cathedral Falls Creek to get closer to prime fishing spots for salmon and trout, and draw some artwork in the mud flats, only to see it disappear in the tide.
Connecting with the people
Visit Kake’s totem, by many accounts the largest made from a single tree, and learn the stories it tells. See the restoration work being done to the cannery, once a thriving hub that employed workers from many different countries. Join in a game of basketball at the Community Hall, try subsistence foods if you’re invited to a potluck, and jump right into any community celebrations that happen to be going on. The Dog Salmon Festival is biggest event of the year, when the community celebrates with good food and lots of laughter. Bask in the strong sense of family and community here, as well as a deep and abiding respect for community elders.
Kake is accessible by boat or airplane. Alaska Seaplanes operates three scheduled round-trip flights daily between Juneau and Kake in the summer and one in the winter. The flight takes about 50 minutes. Harris Air also flies into Kake from Sitka.
Kake has a runway, so you can arrive on a wheeled plane instead of a float. This ensures fewer weather delays and makes it a destination you can get to reliably. The Alaska Marine Highway System also offers an 8-hour ferry ride between Juneau and Kake a few times a week year-round.