Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Hours in Ketchikan, AK

On Day 6 of our Alaska Cruise, the Westerdam docked in Ketchikan early in the morning for a brief 5 hour stop.  With so many possible things to see and do it was difficult to decide how to spend the short amount of time we had available.  Some of the attractions like a Tour of  the city and Totem Bight Park and the Ketchikan Duck Tour sounded interesting, but in our previous ports of call we had filled our days with tours, so we decided to spend our time in Ketchikan relaxed, flexible and at our own pace.

The "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign near the intersection of Mission Street and Front Street
The ship was docked on Front Street near the intersection of Mission Street in a very convenient location for walking around town. The first thing we saw was the the iconic "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign right across the street from the pier.  We wandered along the waterfront a short distance and stopped at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau for a map.  We then proceeded south on Front Street and which became Main Street and decided to stop and watch the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.





We had a great time at the show and afterwards we headed east to Stedman Street.  As we walked along we enjoyed the sunny weather and watched the fishing boats coming and going out of the marina.

Fishing boats at the docks in Ketchikan

We turned right onto Stedman Street where we watched several people fishing from the bridge and the rocks below.


Stedman Bridge, Ketchikan AK


Looking down into the water as we crossed the Stedman Bridge, we could see numerous fish milling around in the clear water at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek.  No wonder so many people were fishing and some were successfully catching fish, too!

Salmon below the Stedman Bridge in Ketchikan, AK



After crossing the bridge we arrived at the entrance to Creek Street.

Creek Street Ketchikan Alaska


 This plaque at the street entrance says it all:  "Where Fish and Fishermen Go Up the Creek to Spawn".  Of course, it wasn't only fishermen who spent time on Creek Street.  There were lumberjacks, miners, sailors and men with other occupations, too.

Sign at Creek Street in Ketchikan, AK
Like most ports and frontier towns, Ketchikan had a large number of men coming into town seeking a drink, some fun and female companionship.  The city was incorporated in 1900 and in 1903 the city passed an ordinance prohibiting prostitution within the city center, so all of the "working girls" in Ketchikan relocated to Creek Street creating a red light district just outside the city's "no prostitution" boundary.   Probably the most famous madam of Creek Street was Dolly Arthur.  Her home is just a short distance past the street entrance.


Dolly's House Ketchikan, AK
Dolly was actually named Thelma Copeland when she was born in Idaho in 1888.  She left home when she was 13 and eventually made her way to Ketchikan.  She opened her business as a "sporting woman" in her home at 24 Creek Street in 1919.  Prostitution was legal on Creek Street until 1954 so that was the year that Dolly retired.  She died in 1975 and her home has been turned into a museum. I must confess that although I would have liked to, we did not go in for a look.  There was a large crowd waiting in line and that wasn't how we wanted to spend our limited time.  We also had our 12 year old granddaughter along and I wasn't sure how G-rated this attraction would be.

Creek Street in Ketchikan
Creek Street is not so much a street as a narrow winding boardwalk around buildings perched on pilings over the creek.  Alcohol prohibition laws went into effect in the Alaska Territory in 1918, which only served to keep Creek Street the sinful entertainment hub of Ketchikan.  The location made it easy for bootleggers to sneak their boats from the harbor, up the creek and under the buildings to secretly deliver their cargo to the bordellos, speakeasies and gambling rooms above.  In case of a raid by local law enforcement, customers could escape up the hill into the forest via what was called "Married Man's Trail"

Creek Street boardwalk
What was once a seedy and disreputable neighborhood has been preserved and was designated as a National Historic District in 2014. 

Antiques and collectibles for sale on Creek Street
We wandered into many of the old buildings that are now art galleries and shops filled with local art, crafts, antiques and unique souvenirs like Alaska gold nuggets.



Annie's Place
Scattered between the shop entrances. several signs are displayed with information about some of the buildings and the women who once lived there.  We enjoy looking at antiques so we ended up spending quite a bit of time exploring the shops on Creek Street. We checked the time and noticed that we had less than 2 hours of time left before the ship's scheduled departure time, so we opted to start making our way back toward the ship.  If we had more time I would have liked to hike up Married Man's Trail to check out the views along the way and Cape Fox Lodge at the top.  As we made our way through the town, there were many more temptations awaiting us.

Ketchi Candies
The aroma of chocolate was too much for my husband to resist so we stopped to buy some fudge at Ketchi Candies.  Delicious!

Salmon for sale in Kethikan, AK

And since we were in the "Salmon Capital of the World" how could we not stop to purchase some Alaskan salmon to take home?

Mission Street, Ketchikan Alaska
Since the ship was in sight and only a couple of blocks away, we did a little more window shopping on our way back to the dock.

The Rock, by Dave Rubin
 Before boarding the Westerdam, we stopped to admire a bronze sculpture on the dock. "The Rock", created by Dave Rubin, honors Ketchikan's past with seven statues, each representing significant people in the city's history.  The figures include local Tlingit leader, Chief Johnson, a fisherman, a logger, a pilot, a native Alaskan woman, a miner and a woman carrying a suitcase dressed in the style of the 1890s (perhaps some of the madams?).

A view from Ketchikan, AK
After boarding, it wasn't long before the Westerdam departed the dock heading south to our next destination on our Alaska Cruise, Victoria, BC.

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