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Visiting the Harbour at Ketchikan, Alaska: A Seaplane Base Vital for Communications to Isolated Communities

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Flag of Alaska

Flag of Alaska

Taquan Air seaplanes at Ketchikan Harbor Seaplane Base

Taquan Air seaplanes at Ketchikan Harbor Seaplane Base

At a city well defined by water

While known for its cruise ship berths and for its salmon fishing fleet, the harbour at Ketchikan, Alaska also hosts a significant seaplane base.

The seaplane base at Ketchikan functions as an important facility to maintain communications with isolated communities in this most sparsely populated and extensive state, many of which lie at the water's edge.

The most frequent destination by seaplane from Ketchikan has been the Alaskan community of Metlakatla, which is actually situated further south of the city. This popular route has in recent years been served from Ketchikan by a number of airlines.

Indeed, the top ten destinations served by seaplane from Ketchikan are all in Alaska (1). Another nearby airport, which is land based, is Ketchikan International Airport, serving out of state and international destinations as well as ones in Alaska; this facility is linked to Ketchikan by a seven minute ferry trip across Tongass Narrows.

A well favoured aircraft type at Ketchikan seaplane base is the de Havilland Canada Beaver DCH-2, well tried for transporting relatively small numbers of passengers and cargo between waterborne destinations (2).

The facility is privately owned by Promech Air, based at Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan, which also maintains airline services from the base (3).

At times also, seaplane tours are available to the spectacular Misty Fords National Monument (see 'Also worth seeing', below).

The most recent Wikipedia records showed that 51 aircraft to be based at the facility.

December 5, 2020


(1) See also:

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(2) This aircraft type is notably operated by Taquan Air, among the types in its fleet. The DHC-2 is particularly suited for flights to isolated communities in Canada's vast north, where small settlements are sustained by chartered services to waterborne landings on northern Canada's huge numbers of lakes. In many ways, physical conditions in Alaska resemble those in northern Canada.

(3) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Also worth seeing

In Ketchikan itself, the spired St. John's Church also exhibits Gothic features; visitors to the city often frequent the many gift stores specializing in Native Alaskan and other artwork; the city is well known for its totem poles; located in the Tongass National Forest, the Deer Mountain National Recreation Trail leads to the landmark for which it is named, which, at 915 metres / 3,001.97 feet overlooks the city.

Misty Fiords National Monument (distance: 64 kilometres / 40 miles), governed by the US Forest Service, consists of 9,246 km2 / 2,294,343 acres of often near vertical glacial valleys, some of which rise to 600 to 900 metres / 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level and descend to 300 metres / 1000 feet below it; boat and seaplane tours [NB: Please check the FAA status of these seaplane tours] are organized from Ketchikan.


Alaska Airlines and Delta Connection fly to Ketchikan International Airport, (distance — travel via ferry — from Downtown Ketchikan: 2 kilometres / 1.43 miles) from Seattle/Tacoma, WA, with wide North American connections; Princess Cruises and other cruise companies offer services to Ketichikan, often on a seasonal basis; some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

Map location of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States

Map location of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States

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Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2020:

Alaska is a state I have yet to visit. I can surely understand how those seaplanes are a vital means of transportation.

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