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Ketchikan, Alaska (Kichx̱áan)
Nickname(s): Salmon Capital of the World, Rain Capital of Alaska, Alaska's First City

Location in Alaska

Coordinates: 55°21′00″N 131°40′24″W / 55.35000°N 131.67333°W / 55.35000; -131.67333Coordinates: 55°21′00″N 131°40′24″W / 55.35000°N 131.67333°W / 55.35000; -131.67333

Country United States
State Alaska
Borough Ketchikan Gateway
 • Mayor Lew Williams III[2]
 • Governing body City Council
 • Total 5.9 sq mi (15.3 km2)
 • Land 4.4 sq mi (11.3 km2)
 • Water 1.5 sq mi (4.0 km2)
Elevation 0 ft (0 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 8,050
 • Density 1,850/sq mi (714.1/km2)
Time zone AKST (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP codes 99901, 99950[4]
Area code 907
FIPS code
GNIS feature ID ,

Ketchikan (/ˈkɛɨkæn/, KETCH-ih-kan)[5] is a city[3][6] in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States, the southeasternmost city in Alaska. With a population at the 2010 census of 8,050 within the city limits,[3] it is the fifth-most populous city in the state.

Ketchikan's economy is based upon tourism and fishing, and the city is known as the "Salmon Capital of the World." The Misty Fiords National Monument is one of the area's major attractions. For most of the latter half of the 20th century, a large portion of Ketchikan's economy and life centered around the Ketchikan Pulp Company pulp mill in nearby Ward Cove. The mill closed in 1997 in the wake of the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990, which reduced timber harvest targets on the Tongass National Forest.[7]

Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town. "Ketchikan" comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin, the meaning of which is unclear. It may mean "the river belonging to Kitschk"; other accounts claim it means "Thundering Wings of an Eagle".[8] In modern Tlingit this name is rendered as Kichx̱áan.[9]

Ketchikan uses two ZIP codes, 99901, and 99950, which is the largest number used as a ZIP code.[4][10][11] Ketchikan has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at the two parks are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps, while the Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles.


Gravina Island lies on the distant side of the Narrows.

Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island, 90 miles (140 km) north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and 235 miles (378 km) south of Juneau, Alaska. It is surrounded by the lands of the Tongass National Forest, which is headquartered in the Federal Building downtown.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.9 square miles (15.3 km2). 4.4 square miles (11.3 km2) of it is land and 1.5 square miles (4.0 km2) of it (29.14%) is water.[12]

The ½-mile (800 m) wide channel called the Tongass Narrows separates Ketchikan from Gravina Island, where Ketchikan International Airport is located. In August 2005 the 2005 Highway Bill provided for $223M to build the Gravina Island Bridge (nicknamed "the Bridge to Nowhere" by its critics) between Ketchikan and Gravina Island. The bridge would have connected the island of Ketchikan to Gravina Island where the airport is located, so that one can drive to the airport rather than taking the ferry across the waters. In September 2007, after national and international ridicule over the expense of this project, the Alaska government ultimately chose not to build the bridge, and will spend the appropriated funds elsewhere.

Deer Mountain, a 3,001 feet (915 m) peak, rises immediately east of the city's downtown area.


Ketchikan has a climate greatly modified and moderated by its maritime location, featuring an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) which is likened to Scotland or Northern Ireland though with much more rain. Winters are cool but far milder than its latitude alone may suggest: January has a 24-hour average of 33.6 °F (0.9 °C). Summers are mild, as August’s high averages 64.4 °F (18.0 °C). Another feature of the area’s climate is the high amount of rainfall, with an equivalent average of 153 inches (3,900 mm) per year, falling more heavily in autumn and winter. The climate is so moderated that even Tallahassee, Florida has recorded an all-time record minimum - −2 °F (−19 °C) in February 1899 - lower than that of Ketchikan, although Tallahassee averages around 22 °F (12 °C) warmer over the year.

The record high temperature in Ketchikan was 89 °F (32 °C) on June 20, 1958, and August 14, 1977. The record low temperature was −1 °F (−18 °C) on December 15, 1964, and January 5, 1965. The wettest year was 1949 with 202.55 inches (5,145 mm) and the driest year was 1995 with 88.45 inches (2,247 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 42.69 inches (1,084 mm) during October 1974 and the most rainfall in 24 hours was 8.71 inches (221 mm) on October 11, 1977. The most snowfall in one month was 45.1 inches (115 cm) in January 1971.

Climate data for Ketchikan, Alaska
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 62
Average high °F (°C) 38.4
Average low °F (°C) 28.8
Record low °F (°C) −1
Precipitation inches (mm) 13.88
Snowfall inches (cm) 13.3
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch) 20 18 20 19 17 16 15 16 19 24 23 22 229
Source: [13]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20118,1190.9%

As of 2010, there were 8,050 people, 3,259 households, and 1,885 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,829.5 per square mile (714.1/km²). It is the most densely populated city in Alaska. There were 3,731 housing units at an average density of 848.0 per square mile (330.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.7% White, 16.7% Native American (8.3% Tlingit-Haida, 1.9% Tsimshian), 10.8% Asian (9.4% Filipino), 10.0% from two or more races, 0.8% Black or African American, 0.3% Pacific Islander, and 0.7% some other race. 4.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino (2.6% Mexican) of any race.[15][16][17]

There were 3,259 households. 30.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.6% were headed by married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.2% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.0% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41, and the average family size was 3.07.[15]

The population is spread out with 23.9% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 29.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.7 years. For every 100 females there were 103.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.5 males.[18]

For the period 2007-11, the estimated median annual income for a household in the city was $49,313, and the median income for a family was $68,431. The per capita income for the city was $27,107. About 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line.[19] 90.0% spoke English, 5.98% Tagalog, 1.81% Spanish, and 0.7% Tsimshian as their first language.[20]


Ketchikan is home to the radio stations KTKN, KGTW, KFMJ, and KRBD.

Ketchikan also houses the publishing offices of the Ketchikan Daily News. The region has local television programming provided by Ketchikan Public Utilities CommVision, which boasts 12 local channels of constantly updating entertainment, borough assembly, city council, school board, and planning commission meetings, Southeast Alaska programming, Ketchikan High School sports and events, local history, gardening and scenes, and a calendar of upcoming local events; local television signals are also translations of Seattle and Anchorage stations.

Several movies have been shot in Ketchikan, including The Silver Horde, Spawn of the North, Timber Tramps and Cry Vengeance, plus episodes of the television programs The Love Boat and Baywatch.[21] The National Geographic Channel series Alaska Wing Men in the episode "Fatal Crash"[22] follows a National Transportation Safety Board investigator's site visit of a July 2010 bush pilot fatal crash near Ketchikan.[23]

Government and infrastructure

The City of Ketchikan operates under a council-manager form of government.

The Alaska Marine Highway System has its headquarters in Ketchikan.[24]

Ketchikan has long loomed heavy in Alaska's political landscape, though increasing population in Southcentral Alaska has led to a diminishment of its influence since the 1980s. Following a round of redistricting, the convening of the 28th Alaska State Legislature in January 2013 marked the first time in the state's history that no residents of Ketchikan or the surrounding area serve as members of the Alaska Legislature. Ketchikan is currently represented in the Alaska Senate by Bert Stedman, who lives in Sitka, and in the Alaska House of Representatives by Peggy Wilson, who lives in Wrangell. Wilson defeated Ketchikan-based incumbent Kyle Johansen in the 2012 election, when both were placed in the same district.

Over the decades, Ketchikan has produced a number of political figures of note to Alaska in general. In territorial days, Norman Ray "Doc" Walker, a Canadian-born pharmacist practicing in Ketchikan, was arguably the first career member of the Alaska Legislature. Walker served in the territorial Senate for 16 years before losing reelection in 1948 following a feud with territorial governor Ernest Gruening. During the first governorship of Walter Hickel in the 1960s, two members of his cabinet (Frank Murkowski and Robert W. Ward) held strong ties to Ketchikan. Following Hickel's resignation, Ward ascended to the office of secretary of state when Keith H. Miller became governor. Ketchikan native Walter L. Kubley, deputy commissioner of commerce under Hickel, became commissioner of the department under Miller. Another Ketchikan native, Terry Gardiner, was notable as the youngest person elected to the Alaska House of Representatives (at age 22), as well as the youngest person elected Speaker of the House (at age 28).


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Downtown Ketchikan, with seasonal storefronts along Front Street shown in the foreground. Cruise ship tourism drives a large part of the local economy from May to September each year.


Ketchikan Pulp Company (KPC), a subsidiary of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., was headquartered just outside Ketchikan's city limits on the shores of Ward Cove. The company's pulp mill opened in the cove in 1954. A 1995 joint EPA and FBI investigation of the company revealed it had dumped contaminated wastewater and sludge in the waters around Ward Cove, leaving them classified as "impaired" by the EPA. KPC plead guilty to the charges and agreed to pay a $3 million fine.[25]

In 1996, following the Clinton Administration's refusal to reinstate the original terms of KPC's timber contract, Louisiana-Pacific Corp. announced it would be shutting down the timber mill, and did so in March 1997.[26]


The Ketchikan Shipyard consists of two dry-docks (10,000 ton and 2,500 ton) owned and operated by Alaska Ship & Drydock (a subsidiary of Vigor Industrial), successfully launched the M/V Susitna in April 2010. A prototype ferry craft for use by Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Susitna is the result of planning by Admiral Jay M. Cohen, former chief of the Office of Naval Research, and former Navy captain Lew Madden, then working as a project manager for Lockheed Martin.

Dubbed E-Craft (for Expeditionary use), the Susitna will serve as the engineering and feasibility platform for a Navy vessel of approximately double the size to assist troops in landing at undeveloped beaches around the world.[27]


Ketchikan serves as both an air and marine transportation hub for southern Southeast Alaska.

The Ketchikan International Airport serves as both a gateway for Alaska Airlines jet service to and from Seattle, Juneau and Anchorage, and as a bush carrier and charter aircraft hub for destinations such as Hyder, Metlakatla and Prince of Wales Island communities.

Ketchikan receives service to two separate ferry lines. Ketchikan sits on the Alaska Marine Highway's Inside Passage route and sees a large number of ships northbound (to the rest of Alaska) and southbound (to Prince Rupert, British Columbia — where a six hour connection can be made to the BC Ferries system — and Bellingham, Washington). Ketchikan also sees regular day service from the Alaska Marine Highway vessel M/V Lituya, a day boat that shuttles between Ketchikan and Metlakatla, its homeport.

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority serves Ketchikan daily (and, in the summer, twice daily) with the dayboat M/V Prince of Wales from its homeport in Hollis on Prince of Wales Island. Ketchikan often serves as a connection between the Prince of Wales and mainline Alaska Marine Highway vessels that run to the rest of Southeast Alaska.


Colleges and universities

The former Ketchikan Community College became the Ketchikan campus of the University of Alaska Southeast during the late 1980s restructuring of the University of Alaska System. The campus is located on the uphill side of Ketchikan's West End neighborhood and consists of two buildings, the Paul Building and the Ziegler Building. Both are named for prominent Ketchikan residents of the early and mid 20th century, William Lewis Paul and Adolph Holton Ziegler, respectively.

Public education

Sister cities

Ketchikan's former sister city of Kanayama, Japan, in Gifu Prefecture, was incorporated along with four other cities into the larger city of Gero on March 1, 2004. An educational exchange program has been active between the two towns since 1986. Every year, Ketchikan and Kanayama exchange one teacher each to instruct middle-school level language classes in their respective tongues. In addition, Kanayama sends a group of students to Ketchikan during the spring, and students from Ketchikan travel to Kanayama the following summer. Ketchikan students travel across Japan, with the majority of their time spent in Kanayama with home-stay families, attending classes and touring the town.[28]

Notable people

See also


External links

  • Ketchikan Visitor's Bureau
  • DMOZ
  • Catching a Can in Ketchikan, A History of the Canned Salmon Capital of the World, by Dave Kiffer

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