Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

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Sitka, Alaska

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More Alaska cities and towns

On and off the road system, Alaska is dotted with cities, towns and villages that give the state its real character.

Early-riser hooks late Ship Creek derby winner

Robert Hayes kneels in the boat that he won during the Downtown Soup Kitchen's Slam'n Salm'n Derby after he caught a 40.97-pound king salmon June 15, 2008, the derby's final day. The event will bring in about $30,000 to feed the homeless, or about 15 percent of the kitchen's annual budget.

Luck struck around 6:30 a.m. Sunday -- less than nine hours before the end of the 10-day Slam'n Salm'n derby -- when Robert Hayes hooked a 40.97-pound king salmon that made him the winner.

Ice fishing in June?

Two fly-fishing anglers in search of rainbow trout in the Chugach State Park on June 23,2008, discovered that Rabbit Lake is still locked in winter's icy grip. Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials reported the lake was ice free, but it was bad information. Depending on the weather, it could be mid-July before anglers can catch and release the rainbows Fish and Game stocks in Rabbit Lake.

Summer solstice marked the beginning of the warm season last week, but two Anchorage fly-fishermen discovered Monday morning that winter still lingers deep in the Chugach Mountains.

Dipping for red gold

A sunset lights up the Kasilof River while dozens of dipnetters work at catching red salmon July 13, 2008.

The Kasilof beach is cool and calm at 10 a.m. on Monday as Yolanda Thomas emerges from her family-sized tent for a morning of dipnetting on the shore of the Kasilof River.

Caribou slaighter near Point Hope leaves calves stranded

Back on his home turf

Catching every drop

Alaska fishing licenses

Fishing in Alaska's regions

Halibut and more

River rafting in Alaska

Hunting in Alaska

King salmon (chinook)

Hiking and climbing

Kayaking: Wonderful water

Kayaking in Alaska

Camping in Alaska

History lessons

Go bruin viewin'

Camping in comfort

Anchorage is on pace for record bear kills

Wildlife

Scenic

Places

Events

Activities

Metro attractions: Parks, animals and blooms get attention in Anchorage

Guide Advertiser Index

Destination: Denali

Denali Park

Other Southeast gems worth seeing

24/48: Homer

24/48: Seward

What to know about the Denali Highway

Denali: Getting there

Parks and playgrounds in Anchorage

What locals say about Flattop

Anchorage: Don't miss the museum, market, music and parks

No matter the weather, Southeast is beautiful

Soldotna's many riverfront parks give it personality

Majestic Mat-Su: Glaciers, mountains, rivers and history give Valley life

One day out: Short trips away from Anchorage are full of adventure

Kenai Peninsula: Wildlife, fishing, glaciers and fun-filled days

Natural beauty: Kachemak Bay provides a stunning backdrop for Homer

The Great One: Postcard-perfect world and Mount McKinley await

Kodiak: Festivals, museums and lots of fun on the Emerald Isle

Vibrant Valdez: Natural and man-made attractions make community thrive

Highway to history: Road from Paxson to Cantwell is rough but worth the drive

Valdez: A bright spot

Bigger than bears

Cooper Landing: Small town, big fun

Southeast Alaska: Big adventure

Soldotna: A river town

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A quick driving lesson can help visitors

Summer daylight means pleasant temperatures

You're here, learn to speak 'Alaskan'

Welcome: If you live here -- or are just visiting -- you're lucky

Catch the wave, but stay away from the mud flats

A good day of sightseeing at Kenai Fjords National Park

24/48: Fairbanks

Bear-viewing options

What not to ask

Kayak operators

Questions to ask

If you go flightseeing

Get dirty: Off-road bike riding spots

First Friday art walk

Talkeetna time: Life in the small community moves at a different pace

Fun for everyone: Icebergs, wildlife and gold-panning will keep kids smiling

Turnagain Arm: Enjoy the outdoors, history in Girdwood, Portage, Hope

Mountains, glaciers, parkland define the biggest state

If you go roadside fishing

Kenai, Russian rivers are just the beginning for anglers

Fish and bears: Kodiak's bruins get so big because of all the salmon

Angling paradise: Seward has a line on halibut and salmon fishing

Fishing fever: Early-season anglers converge on the lower Kenai Peninsula

Fishing for fun: Kachemak Bay's waters are full of halibut and salmon

Valley waters: Anglers discover outstanding fishing just outside Anchorage

Mat-Su area: Museums, mine, State Fair and animals draw visitors

Gateways to Chugach State Park

Alaska culture: Where and when?

An explosive past

Water wonderland: Whittier is the place for fishing, cruising or kayaking

Seward's surroundings leave visitors gasping for breath

Bear essentials: Planned encounters with fishing grizzlies is a highlight

Copper Valley: History and wilderness join forces at Wrangell-St. Elias

Fairbanks: Enjoy nearly endless daylight, Gold Rush history

Gifts galore: From downtown markets to art galleries, options abound

Celebrations: Music and food are summer festival highlights

Flightseeing helps visitors grasp Alaska's immensity

Golden destination: Hikers and history buffs all enjoy Hatcher Pass

Heaven on wheels: Trails across Anchorage, through wilderness keep cyclists moving

Wilderness wonder: Chugach State Park, city parks full of excitement

A touch of history: Old Town Kenai should be on the itinerary for visitors

Chefs turn the bounty of the sea into something beautiful

Wild water: A trip down an Alaska river will leave rafters cheering

Lake Clark National Park's scenery and remoteness impress

Small but scenic: History, location combine to make Cooper Landing special

Sea kayaks give paddlers a different lifestyle

Denali Park: Ride horses, fly or raft in shadow of Mount McKinley

Cozy cabins: Public-use facilities aren't fancy but they're fun

Valdez: From the Gold Rush to glaciers, Sound community has it all

Eagle River: Hiking, history and festivals keep visitors busy

Anchorage is blessed with plenty of spots to drink or dance

Stepping into history: From the airport to museums, Alaska shows off unique past

Peninsula hamlets: From Hope to Anchor Point, small towns are worth a stop

Fairbanks: Gold Rush history, weather extremes are part of the culture

Lure of history

Hatcher Pass, mine area rich in history, outdoor activities

Embrace the light

Denali: Bus goes only so far

Talkeetna: Mountain majesty

Wrangell-St. Elias: Wilderness wonder

UAF tours

Southeast Alaska: Off-the-roadway fishing at its finest

DENALI: Bus tours, flightseeing and rafting in McKinley's shadow

Cabin Comfort

Kasilof River gets overshadowed by bigger Kenai

Mat-Su magic

In summer, quirky Talkeetna keeps busy with visitors

Southeast has everything one would hope to find in Alaska

Explore Soldotna

Whittier is the place for glacier cruises, fishing, kayaking

'Little Switzerland' an eye-catching glimpse of Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park makes Seward a must-see spot

Wrangell-St. Elias offers millions of acres, few visitors

Art and birding also make the town of Kenai a good catch

Bore tide an exciting sight on Turnagain Arm

Splendid Seward

Homer: Beautiful bay

Cordova: No road, no problem

Hatcher Pass, mine area rich in history, outdoor activities

Mat-Su area

Girdwood is a great starting point for time away from town

Kodiak: Emerald Isle offers up festivals, museums and fun

Eagle River

Turnagain Arm

Denali

Marvelous Mat-Su

Copper River valley

Fairbanks

Alaska: Infinite adventure

Summer light brings pleasant temperatures

Dining delights

Anglers' Shangri-La

Metropolitan Anchorage

EAGLE RIVER: Hiking, history and Highland Games keep visitors busy

DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE: Don't miss the parks, museums, flowers and history

KODIAK: Enjoy the Emerald Isle's festivals, fish and museums

Fabulous fishing

Silver salmon season

Get an early start

In-town wildlife

Alaska Souvenires: Good memories

Metropolitan Anchorage

Downtown Anchorage

Flight seeing: View from above

Hiking heaven

Family-friendly fun

Celebrations

Sounds of Alaska

Off the time clock

Bore tide: Timing is everything to catch unusual wave

Budget some fun

Whittier: Sound springboard

Remember Alaska: Think 'art,' not 'souvenir,' when collecting memories of travels

METRO Anchorage: Give attention to animals, parks, planes and blooms

MAT-SU: State Fair, Alaska animals, mine, museums are highlights

GPS users, golfers, runners and disc golfers enjoy outdoors

Water, wild or calm: Trips range from multiday thrills to a lovely, serene afternoon

VALDEZ: Sound town's highlights include Gold Rush and glaciers

TURNAGAIN ARM: Girdwood, Portage and Hope offer outdoor adventures

KENAI PENINSULA: Parks, wildlife, glaciers and fishing fill up the days

Tired of the same-old trips? Try out these adventures

Current and former mushers offer tours of their kennels

Alaska children share their favorite things to do around here

Flightseeing trips open up Alaska's roadless wonders

FAIRBANKS: Midnight sun, Gold Rush history are Interior highlights

Two-wheel wonders

Kachemak Bay provides a perfect backdrop for Homer

Hatcher Pass is rich in history, outdoor activities

Fairbanks in the summertime is an explosion of activity

Kodiak stays wild

Mount McKinley and wildlife attract visitors to Denali

Alaska's Denali visitor center a showcase of green technologies

Cordova's off-the-road location gives it 'Alaska' feel

The water's fine and so is the view in Cooper Landing

The bear facts

Speak 'Alaskan'

Summer light brings pleasant temperatures

Whether it's mountains or fish, bigger is the way in Alaska

Floater's paradise: 'Belly boats' allow anglers an intimate fishing experience

Hooking a halibut : Experienced charter captains make the search successful

Prime Valley fishing makes the trip worthwhile

Silvers in season

Kenai River attracts anglers from around the world

Salmon and clams add to the fun on Kachemak Bay

From clams to kings

Valley virtues

Riding the sky

Big catch, big cash

Urban encounters: Finding wildlife in town not hard if you know where to go

Fun for free: There's lots to see and do that won't involve your wallet

Hit the trails: Whether hiking or biking, Anchorage has plenty to offer

Catch local musicians and Outside acts at Anchorage hot spots

Dining: Seafood dominates the menu at local restaurants

Do it in a day

Culture: Drumbeat of Native dancers can be highlight of a summer visit

Festivals: Summer festivals focus on fish, music and fun

BIKING: Pedaling paradise

SHOPPING: Savvy souvenirs

HIKING: Hiking heaven

DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE: Parks, museums, flowers and history fascinate

DAY TRIPS: Adventure awaits a short drive outside Anchorage

DINING OUT: A taste of place

FESTIVALS: Music, food and airplanes are summer festival highlights

NIGHTLIFE: Bar basics

DOWNTOWN ANCHORAGE: Parks, museums, flowers and history fascinate

METRO ANCHORAGE: Animals, parks, planes and blooms are worth attention

Mat-Su, Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound, Copper River accommodations

Inside Passage lodging: Juneau, Ketchikan and more

Western Alaska lodging: Kodiak, Nome, Bethel and more

Northern Alaska lodging: Barrow and Kotzebue

Interior lodging and restaurants: Fairbanks, Denali and more

Anchorage-area hotels, B&Bs, hostels, lodges and resorts

Lodging in Alaska

Tourist, be aware

Accessible Alaska

Medical care

Weddings in Alaska

Special-interest travel

Ferry times to Alaska

Flight time to Anchorage

Getting to Alaska

Maps of Alaska

Rental cars in Alaska

Highways: The way to really see Alaska

Getting around in Alaska

Alaska FAQs

Find a less pricey room with a view

Activities on a budget

Cut dining costs

Cut transportation costs for big savings

Beat the high cost of an Alaska vacation

Livengood, Alaska

Anchorage commercial real estate looking up

Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Island city dates to Alaska's earliest days

"Sitka," wrote Alaska mystery author John Straley, "is an island town where people feel crowded by the land and spread out on the sea."

This town of 8,800 people is the only one in the Panhandle islands that faces the Pacific Ocean head-on. Sitka sits on the western side of wild Baranof Island, guarded only by a 3,200-foot sleeping volcano named Mount Edgecumbe.

Whales live year-round near Sitka -- the annual Whale Fest is in early November -- and bald eagles fly overhead.

Straley, a private detective who lives in Sitka, writes poetically about the town's personalities and its weather, both of which are often gray and wet but in the end longingly beautiful. As in 1992's "The Woman Who Married a Bear," he weaves the region's rich history into the text, and there's a lot to be used.

Louis L'Amour wrote "Sitka," a fictional account of the deal in which Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million in 1867. James Michener based himself at Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka while researching his much longer novel, "Alaska."

History of Sitka

A visitor to Sitka National Historical Park gets the whole story: The area was first settled by Tlingit Indians. The Russians, under the banner of the Russian-American Co., arrived in 1799 to collect sea otter pelts. The Tlingits rebelled in 1802, driving the Russians away. Three years later, Alexander Baranof returned with the battleship Neva, launching a bombardment that the Tlingits withstood for a week before retreating into the forest.

The Russians set up the Russian-America Co. headquarters in a fort called New Archangel, which is now known as Sitka (a contraction of the Tlingits' name for the area, Shee Atika). But the sea otter pelt trade died out, and the Russians decided to sell and get out. William Seward, the U.S. secretary of state, helped manage the deal, which was made official at a Sitka flag ceremony in October 1867.

Sitka remained the capital of Alaska Territory until 1906, when the seat of government was moved to Juneau. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian minister, started a school. Fish canning and gold mining contributed to the city's early growth. But the big boom came with World War II, when the Navy built an air base on Japonski Island, where 30,000 personnel were stationed.

After the war, the Bureau of Indian Affairs turned some of the buildings into Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a boarding school for Alaska Natives. The Coast Guard now maintains the air station.

Getting to Sitka

Cruise ships, the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System and several airlines serve Sitka.

Historic buildings

Sitka's past is remembered at the Sitka National Historical Park, St. Michael's Cathedral, the Russian Cemetery, the Tlingit Native Village, Totem Square and the Russian Orthodox Church on Castle Hill, as well as the Isabel Miller and Sheldon Jackson museums.

As Americans arrived, the religious scene changed from Russian to Western European. Saint Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln St., was consecrecrated at "The Cathedral of Alaska" in 1900. The church is on the National Historic Register.

The Sitka Lutheran Church, 224 Lincoln St., was, in 1840, the first Protestant church on the Pacific coast. There are tours.

Another building of note -- Sitka has several -- is the Pioneers Home at Katlian Avenue and Lincoln Street, facing the water. According to Alison K. Hoagland's "Buildings of Alaska," Construction began on the main three-story building began in 1934, no doubt a great relief to the old men who had been housed under the state-supported program in abandoned military buildings. Women's quarters were added in 1956.

In front of the building is the statue "The Prospector," sculpted by Alonzo Victor Lewis in 1949.

The Tlingits' past is remembered daily during the summer by the Naa Kahidi Dancers in the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi community house on Katlian Street. The performances are described as combining elements of drama, hsitory, culture and song. The longhouse-style building has a large screen carved with raven and eagle images.

The Russian heritage is portrayed by the New Archangel Dancers, who interpret folk dances from Russia, Ukraine, George and Belarus. The shows coincide with the arrival of cruise ships.

Accommodations

Sitka has a full range of accommodations, from hotels and bed and breakfasts to a hostel.

There's even the private Rockwell Lighthouse, which visitors can stay in. Dr. Burgess Bauder, the owner and builder, says the design is "pure whimsy: It's what a lighthouse should look like."

The hostel is operated by the United Methodist Church, 303 Kishim Street.

Dining is enhanced by seafood caught locally: salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp. There are more than a dozen restaurants.

Parks

In addition to Sitka National Historical Park, there are seven state parks in the area. Three are on the road system, and four can be reached by air and water.

  • Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site
  • Big Bear/Baby Bear State Marine Park
  • Halibut Point State Recreation Site
  • Magoun Islands State Marine Park
  • Old Sitka State Historic Site
  • Sea Lion Cove State Marine Park
  • Security Bay State Marine Park

Climate

Sitka has a maritime climate, which means it's cool and wet -- in this case an average July high temperature of 61 degrees and an annual precipitation of 96 inches, including 39 inches of snow. The winter's average low temperature is 37 degrees in January.

A light waterproof jacket is handy, and water-resistant shoes are always practical.

Daylight ranges from about 5 hours 30 minutes in the winter to 18 hours 30 minutes in the summer -- when the sun gets through the clouds.

Music festival

Sitka's summers have been brightened for more than 30 years by the annual Sitka Music Festival, held for three weeks each June. It attracts classical performers from North America, Asia and Europe. 907-747-6774.

Wildlife

Many people visit Sitka for wildlife, especially whales and eagles. In November, the town celebrates Whale Fest at the peak of the October-January southern migration of the 40-ton whales, the largest in Southeast Alaska. The festival has lectures by biologists, a concert and marine tours. Sitka has a whale-watching station called Whale Park.

Wildlife tours focus on whales, marine mammals and seabirds. The waters around Sitka are famous for their humpbacks, which sometimes breach and spin before crashing back to the water. St. Lazaria Island, a seabird haven that is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, is home to puffins, petrels and many other birds. Several outfits provide tours.

The town's Alaska Raptor Center treats about 200 injured eagles and other raptors at its 17-acre campus at 1101 Sawmill Creek Road. About 40,000 people visit the center each year, and there is also an outreach program to schoolchildren across the country. Included on the grounds are a bird hospital, resident raptors, and an interpretive trail that pass through old-growth and second-growth forest.

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