Ketchikan, Alaska claims to be the Salmon Capital of the World and Alaska's first city. It says so right here on the sign. We didn't verify either of these but it was our first city in Alaska. It's a fairly small town with a huge cruise port. The day we were here featured no less than 5 big ships in port.
The town is strung out along the Tongass Narrows with a considerable concentration around the cruise port (imagine that). There is no road connection to the rest of Alaska or Canada so air and sea are the only ways in.
Our first item of business in Ketchikan was to hike the Rainbird trail. For one, this was not a cruise ship offering in any way. It is also an easy opportunity to see the Southeast Alaskan rainforest without leaving town. The trail runs from the UAS-Ketchikan campus to the Ketchikan Public Library. It's an easy walk from the cruise terminals. We took a taxi from downtown to the UAS campus and then hiked from there. The rainforest is awesome. There are also more slugs here than you could ever want to see.
Towards the Library end of the trail there are some wonderful views of the Narrows and the more residential side of Ketchikan. Across the water is Gravina Island which holds the Ketchikan Airport. Sea planes take off and land from all along the waterfront. Despite the relative crowd in town, we saw only about 6 other people on the trail. The trail is difficult hiking. There is not much climb but a lot of wet rocks and complex root systems to cross.
Once we emerged from the Rainbird Trail we walked down towards the fish hatchery from the library. Along the way we saw this juvenile bald eagle catch and eat a fish in the creek. One thing we were impressed by was the playground built underneath the school. Given the amount of rain that falls here, as well as the limited sunlight in the winter it seemed like a great adaptation.
Our next stop was the Totem Heritage Center. Totem poles can be found in a variety of places around Ketchikan. The Heritage Center has some great displays on these, a lot of information on Tlingit and Haida culture and some rather old totems as well. It's not large museum, it can be comprehensively seen in an hour but it is definitely worth the short walk up from the port area.
This is Totem Bight State Park which features a collection of original and recreated Totems. We didn't have time to come out here and visit but we did have this nice view from the ship as we passed up the Narrows.
Creek Street is perhaps the prime attraction within Ketchikan itself. There isn't actually that much to see here but many of the town's shops have clustered around it as well. The 'street' is actually a boardwalk (or series of them) over Ketchikan Creek. In the Gold Rush era, this was the red light district and every other building was apparently a brothel. Now every other building is a souvenir shop in a semi-restored brothel. It's also worth mentioning that the seafood we had in Ketchikan was as fabulous as one might expect (halibut, salmon, crab). If you're visiting on a cruise ship, allocate some time for a meal if possible.