Ketchikan is a small community (only 8,400 in the city, and 13,800 in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough total) in extreme southeast Alaska, on an island surrounded by other islands within the Tongass National Forest. The major industries here are fishing and tourism. Ketchikan is accessible only via boat or plane, and it rains — a lot. The challenges of living on an island in the middle of a temperate rainforest may be the reason the community here is so supportive and tolerant. People here are close to one another, but not closed off. The friendliness of the people give Ketchikan’s summer visitors a great experience whether they arrive for the day by cruise ship, or for a week of fishing. When tourist season ends, the community comes together for music and dramatic performances, artistic exhibitions, and celebrations throughout the winter. We care for community members in need, and for one another.
Stories About Ketchikan
I recently moved to Ketchikan, arriving here by ferry on the morning of January 1, 2017. Nothing was open. I called the hotel I planned to stay in that evening. The manager said he would meet me at the New York Cafe. I knocked on the door, and the owner, Rafi, let me in, got me a cup of coffee, and made me feel welcome. He invited me to come back later, as they were serving free Hoppin’ John for the new year. On a day when I felt very alone, Rafi and the staff at the New York Cafe made me feel welcome.
I work at the public library, and the staff are amazingly kind to residents and visitors. Occasionally, visitors lose track of time and need to get back to their cruise ship — fast. There is always a staff member willing to drive them to the dock. One day, we discovered a homeless resident camped out in front of the library’s mechanical room door. We tried to talk him into leaving, but he refused and became agitated. We called the police, and the officers talked with him for a half hour, speaking respectfully to him and giving him the space he needed to pack up and move with his dignity intact.