It all started here. Once glaciers left southeast Alaska 15,000 years ago, Ketchikan Creek became a salmon spawning stream. Tlingit natives set up summer fish camps here because it had salmon. Europeans settled here because they could trade with Tlingits. Miners settled here because they had a trading post. Still a thriving salmon habitat, Ketchikan Creek saw its largest run of pinks in 2013, reinforcing the importance it continues to play in the life of the city.
It’s a short walk from downtown to Ketchikan Creek Falls and the salmon ladder there is an absolutely classic Alaskan experience. Thousands of fish work persistently to get up the creek, in an amazing sight that makes you wonder if you could walk across the water on their backs. At the height of the run, Ketchikan Creek is literally black with salmon. You can stand at the brink of the waterfall and watch overwhelming numbers of salmon climb vertically up. It’s mesmerizing and a little intimidating too when you think, “What is it that drives them?”
You can ponder this and other thoughts about Ketchikan’s long story as you walk through the historic Ketchikan Creek community, up the creek and to the falls. From mid-July to mid-September you’ll likely get to witness an impressive salmon show the likes of which has been drawing people here for generation after generation.
Best Viewing Spots
Creek Street Footbridge
Ketchikan’s historic district begs for a walking tour. A great place to start is at the Creek Street Footbridge just inland from the intersection of Mission and Dock streets. It features a view of the falls.