In the coastal Southeast Alaskan town of Sitka, marine wildlife typically plays out on a big scenic backdrop. At Sitka’s unique Science Center, you’ll find a salmon hatchery and aquarium. Wildlife fans get an up-close look at the marine creatures that make this part of Alaska so special.
A Prestigious Member of the Community
Located within walking distance of downtown Sitka and the cruise ship area, the Sitka Sound Science Center is made up of a few distinct components: a salmon hatchery, an aquarium, research lab and an education outreach that encompasses preschoolers to college students and lifelong learners of all ages. The Sitka Sound Science Center was formed in 2007, when the historic Sheldon Jackson College closed. SSSC’s mission is to increase understanding and awareness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of Alaska through research and education. Today, it not only works with the local schools, a variety of colleges and universities, and conducts collaborative research —but it’s also a fun place for any nature lover.
Most visitors take the main 30-minute tour, which is offered throughout the day during the Summer season. You’ll learn about the Center’s buildings and their historical ties to the now refurbished Sheldon Jackson College—including the Mill Building, where wood working and boat making were taught. Then you’ll explore the Salmon hatchery—which produces 250,000 coho, 3 million pinks and 3 million chum a year—and the Molly O. Ahlgren Aquarium. The aquarium is home to deep-water and intertidal residents that have been collected from the Sitka waters, such as Wanda the Wolf Eel and Pearl the Octopus. Feel sea urchins and anemone in the touch tanks, or check out the juvenile Killer Whale skeleton, one of only five of its kind on display in the world.
During low tides, you’ll have the opportunity to join the Intertidal Tour, in which you accompany a staffer out onto the beach next to the Science Center and use an identification card to track down a dazzling array of invertebrates.
Special Programs for Kids—Plus Don’t-Miss Chowder
Children can also benefit from the programs. The Center’s Junior Naturalist program (included with paid admission) offers school-aged kids ten different self-guided exploration opportunities; for each completed quest, kids get a sticker and, after finishing all five levels, a Junior Naturalist badge. There are a wide variety of activities for kids at the Science Center. Call ahead to find out what is available during your visit.
For those with shopping on their mind, stop in the Center’s gift shop with marine themed souvenirs, stuffed animals, and gifts. And save time for a stop at the Chowder Cart, created by local Ludvig’s Bistro and beloved as the best seafood chowder in town.