Sixteen spectacular glaciers flow from surrounding mountains into the waters of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Departing from Bartlett Cove or Juneau, enjoy a day trip, overnight cruise, flightseeing or sea kayaking expedition of the area.
Shaped by the staggering force of massive glaciers millions of years ago, Alaska’s Inside Passage boasts wildlife-filled fjords and lush island scenery — habitat for bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and whales. Its mountains are carpeted with majestic forests. Inside Passage Alaska is home to Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians whose history is reflected in towering totem poles. Russian settlers left a legacy of onion-domed churches gleaming with icons.
Glacier Bay Area: Cities & Towns
Glacier Bay Area: Parks
In Sitka, the Russian capital of Alaska from 1808 to 1867, the New Archangel Dancers keep the Russian spirit alive. St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Russian Bishop‘s House are also reminders of the Russian presence. Visitors can view Alaska Native artifacts at Sheldon Jackson Museum, totem poles and a cultural center at Sitka National Historical Park, as well as an up-close view of eagles and other birds at the Alaska Raptor Center.
Northern Region: Cities & Towns
- Elfin Cove
- Hoonah/Icy Strait Point
- SitkaSitka is the only Inside Passage community that fronts the Pacific Ocean, hugging Baranof Island’s west shore in the shadow of the impressive Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano with a graceful cone reminiscent of Japan’s Mount Fuji.
Located on Sitka Sound, the city of about 9,000 residents is marked by the picturesque remnants of its Russian heritage, including the onion-shaped domes and gold colored crosses of the beloved Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The city and borough limits include most of Baranof Island, where the city of Sitka is located, along with south Chichagof Island and many other small, forested islands along the coast.
Although first inhabited by Native Tlingit Indians, Sitka is recognized as the heart of the Russian influence in Alaska. The Russians arrived by 1741 and in 1804 attacked a Tlingit fort. The region’s most famous battle eventually led to the creation of Sitka National Historical Park. Originally established as New Archangel, Sitka became the capital of Russian American in 1808. When Russia sold Alaska to the United States on October 18, 1867, the transfer ceremony took place on Sitka’s Castle Hill.
- Tenakee Springs
Northern Region: Parks
- Admiralty Island National Monument
- Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
- Haines Area State Parks
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge
- Point Bridget State Park
- Sitka Area State Parks
- Sitka National Historical Park
- Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary
- Wickersham State Historic Site
Ketchikan serves as Alaska’s southern most port of call for the majority of Inside Passage cruises. Visitors can tour the Tongass Historical Museum, which offers exhibits of traditional native culture, a history of the fishing industry and an example of a timber camp bunkhouse. A major center for sport fishing, opportunities abound for fishing from shore or aboard one of many charter boats. Visit the world’s largest collection of totem poles in Saxman and Totem Bight State Park, just outside of town. Or glimpse Ketchikan’s frontier days at “Dolly’s House,” a former brothel located downtown.
Southern Region: Cities & Towns
- Ketchikan Immerse into nature and art with the totems, skillfully carved by Native artists of Southeast AlaskaTen miles north of Ketchikan is Totem Bight State Historical Park, an 11-acre park that is packed with restored and re-carved totems as well as a colorful community house. Just as impressive as the totems are the park’s lush rainforest setting and the rocky coastline along Tongass Narrows.
When Alaska’s indigenous people migrated to non-Native communities to seek work in the early 1900s, the villages and totem poles they left behind were soon overgrown by forests and eroded by weather. In 1938, the U.S. Forest Service began a program designed to salvage and restore these large cedar monuments by hiring skilled carvers from among elder Tlingit and Haida Indians who in turn passed on the art of carving totems to younger artisans.
The project grew into the construction of a model Native village, and by World War II the community house was complete and 15 poles were erected. The name of the site was then changed to Totem Bight. When Alaska received statehood in 1959, the title to the land passed from the federal government to the State of Alaska. In 1970 the state park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
- Ketchikan is truly the totem capital of the world, and if you want to see the most standing totems in one location, a visit to Saxman Village’s Totem Park is in order. The 25 totems here are authentic replicas of original poles that were left in abandoned villages as Native Alaskans moved into more populated cities.The art of totem pole carving was a luxury that experienced its heyday in the mid-1700s to the late 1800s. The fur trade had provided the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples a newfound sense of wealth – and time to focus on the artistry of the totem. These poles were symbols of cultural and economic wealth that told glorious, comprehensive stories about the people and legends of the land. (There was so much symbolism and information represented on each pole, it was like the Google of that era!)In the late 1800s, Tlingits from the old villages of Cape Fox and Tongass searched out the Saxman site as a place where they could build a school and a church. The site (just one square mile) was incorporated in 1929 and has a population of just over 400 today, mostly Native Alaskans.
Thousands of people visit Saxman each year to take in the phenomena of the totem – the artistic craftsmanship – and the hair-raising sense of being in the presence of something historic and meaningful.
You can tour the open-air park on your own for a $5 fee, or take an organized guided tour and learn more about each pole’s story. When you get there, check out the gift shop, which usually offers tickets for Native dancing exhibitions and entrance to the on-site clan house for an additional fee. Finally, be sure to peek in on the Native carvers in the carving shed, who work on commissioned totem projects using traditional tools and techniques.
A free downtown shuttle or city bus will get you to Saxman, which is about two miles south of Ketchikan. Or you can enjoy a well-protected walk along the waterfront while watching fishing boats and float planes coming and going.
- Prince of Wales Island
Southern Region: Parks
- Misty Fiords National Monument
- Blue glacial lakes, tall waterfalls, and snowcapped peaks surround visitors to “the Mistys” The spectacular Misty Fiords National Monument, lying just 22 miles east of Ketchikan, is a natural mosaic of sea cliffs, steep fjords and rock walls jutting 3000ft straight out of the ocean. Taking its name from the almost constant precipitation characteristic of the area, the monument is covered with thick rainforests that grow on nearly vertical slopes from sea level to mountaintops. Dramatic waterfalls plunge into the salt water through narrow clefts or course over great rounded granite shoulders fed by lakes and streams that absorb the rainfall of more than 150 inches annually.Extending 2.3 million acres across Tongass National Forest, Misty Fiords is the largest wilderness in Alaska’s national forests and the second largest in the nation. The major waterway cutting through the monument, Behm Canal, is more than 100 miles long and extraordinary among natural canals for its length and depth. The long canal separates Revillagigedo Island from the mainland and provides passage to Walker Cove, Rudyerd Bay and Punchbowl Cove – the preserve’s most picturesque areas.
- Tongass National Forest
- Totem Bight State Historical Park