Inside Passage Feature


Ketchikan's Totem Pole Parks

For the most part, the totem poles in Ketchikan's two biggest totem pole parks are replicas of those brought in from outlying villages as part of a federal project during the late 1930s.

Totem Bight State Historical Park. About a quarter of the Ketchikan bus tours include this park that contains many totem poles and has a hand-hewn Native clan house. Totem Bight sits on a scenic spit of land facing the waters of Tongass Narrows. Master Native carvers crafted the first replica poles here as part of a U.S. Forest Services program that began in the late 1930s. The tools the carvers used were handmade in the Native style, and modern paints were used to re-create colors originally made using natural substances from clamshells to lichen. The clan house, open daily in summer, was built to resemble a type that might have held several related families. Note the raven painting on the front: each eye contains a small face. Try to save time for a stop at nearby Potlatch Totem Park as well. N. Tongass Hwy., about 10 miles north of town, Ketchikan, AK, 99901. 907/247–8574. Free. Dawn–dusk.

Saxman Totem Park. A 2½-mile paved walking path–bike trail parallels the road from Ketchikan to Saxman Native Village, named for a missionary who helped Native Alaskans settle here before 1900. A totem park dominates the center of Saxman, with poles representing human and animal-inspired figures, including bears, ravens, whales, and eagles. There is a $5 charge to enter. Saxman's Beaver Clan tribal house is said to be the largest in Alaska. Carvers create totem poles and totemic art objects in the adjacent carver's shed. You can get to the park on foot or by taxi, bicycle, or city bus. You can visit the totem park on your own, but to visit the tribal house and theater you must take a tour. If on a cruise, you can book a tour through the shore excursion office; otherwise, contact the park via email: S. Tongass Hwy., 2 miles south of town, Ketchikan, AK, 99901. 907/225–4421.

Updated: 2014-01-22

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