Visiting Sitka, Alaska Waterways Gallery

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 Visiting Sitka’s Waterways

Our choice excursion  while visiting Sitka’s waterways was to go on the Wildlife Quest & Fin Island Lodge.  This excursion included a meal inclusive of crab legs, chowder, and other local food items.

Visiting Sitka Waterways – Our Excursion of Choice:

We took the tender from our ship to a nearby pier, where we quickly found our tour guide, who directed us down the dock a bit to the waiting tour boat.  The boat comfortably held 20-25 people with big windows and room to move in and out of the cabin for the best comfort and picture taking.  There were only about 15 of us aboard.  We were excited to get out and see the local islands and sea life found in sound areas surrounding the many islands that dotted the area.

Fin Island LodgeOur first stop was Fin Island Lodge, where we got off to walk about the island and enjoy our meal.  We were disappointed that we stopped to eat before the rest of the excursion as we had just had breakfast and weren’t that hungry.  If we had stopped here last, we would have enjoyed the delicious crab legs, seafood chowder, and other items offered much more.

A light, misty rain fell on the island, so walking around the island was not something any of us cared to do much of before setting off again on the tour boat. So, we returned to the boat and took off to explore the islands and Sitka sound waterways, anxious to see some of the sea life this area was famous for.

Our Captain and resident naturalist constantly explained the history and highlights we were visiting Sitka’s waterways.  The naturalist was a young woman studying the marine life in the area and was very knowledgeable and fun to listen to.

Furry Sea Otters in the Kelp:

It wasn’t long before we were at a large rock formation jutting out of the sound surrounded by Kelp beds.  Here, we saw a raft of sea otters hanging out on the Otter holding pup in the kelp bed - Sitkasurface in the kelp beds.  Several held baby otters on their bellies as they backfloated in the kelp.  The naturalist explained that otters can and do climb on the rocks, but because of past overhunting, they have learned it is safer to stay in the kelp beds where they can easily escape.  The mothers will leave their babies on top of the kelp beds to dive down and find food, often in the form of mollusks.

We continued our tour throughout Sitka Sound and around the beautiful islands.  The lush green mountains were shrouded in clouds, giving them a very eerie appearance.  At times, Mt Edgecumbe, the now dormant volcano, dominated the scenery, with its steep hills dropping down from the mountaintop to the sea, covered in lush evergreen trees that dominate the temperate forests of this part of Tongass National Park.

 Sea Lions Barking at us:

Sitka Sea lions checking us outAs we cruised past Mt. Edgecumbe, we passed several fishing trawlers and more islands.  Here, we were visited by a family of sea lions who popped their heads above the surface to check us out and play in our wake for a bit.  They barked at us a few times as we passed by and took many pictures of them.

Sitka Harbor:

As we returned from visiting the Sitka waterways and headed towards the village, we got a great view of the town as the naturalist talked about the fishing industry in Sitka, showing us the processing plants as we headed down the canals. Several seaplanes provided inter-island transportation to surrounding areas to the villagers, as well as transporting goods where needed.

Unfortunately, we did not see any whales. We had hoped to spot a few Orca as they are sometimes seen in the area, but they had yet to show up for us.

Sitka Water Front with Sea Planes

Back at the port:

We arrived back at the port early in the afternoon and could have taken time to walk around the streets of Sitka.  However, the rain was still falling, and we were a bit chilled by spending the morning on a misty sea, so we decided to head back to our ship.

Sitka – the Paris of the Pacific:

Sitka has a rich mixed culture  built on the rich Rissian fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Today’s Sika’s population of 9,300 makes it Alaska’s fifth largest city and has becomethe center of cultural and artistic center of southeast Alaska.  Sitka’s ancient lands were initally settled by the Tlingit indians who lived peacefully for hundreds of years before the Russions and Americans appeared.

The city displays its mixed culture through the town with its architecture and reminders of its anceintTlingit heratage.

Gary and Mary spent the morning taking a self-guided walking tour around the town.  They were delighted to see influences of both Russian and Tlingit cultures through the town.  There were several buildings with the Russian Onion domes, including several churches.  They said that Sitka was a charming little town similar to some of the towns found along the northeast coast with its quaint older buildings.  However, the lush green towering hills and mountains make this area of the country uniquely different.

Overall, our visit to Sitka was enjoyable.  A little sunshine on the water would have added to the natural beauty of the area, but we got to experience it as it usually is on a daily basis: gray and wet.  Bob and I wished we were able to spend some time in the town of Sitka, but it leaves us something to look forward to if we have the chance to return to this area of the country again.

Sitka was our sixth stop on our eleven day cruise along the inland passageway.  We only have two more stops at Ketchikan, Alaska and Prince Rupert, Canada before returning to Vancouver.

 

Visiting Sitka

 

Sitka, Alaska is a fascinating place with a rich history and unique geography. Situated between Baranof Island and Sitka sound, it is the largest city in the United States by land area. With its stunning natural beauty and intriguing past, Sitka offers a plethora of exciting information to explore.

Geography:

Sitka is located on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage, a scenic waterway that stretches from Washington State to Southeast Alaska. The city is surrounded by mountains, including the dormant volcano Mount Edgecumbe, which adds to the breathtaking landscape. Sitka is also known for its temperate rainforest, which is home to diverse wildlife such as bears, eagles, and whales.

History:

Sitka has a rich Native American heritage, with the Tlingit people being the area’s original inhabitants. In 1799, the Russian-American Company established a trading post in Sitka, making it the capital of Russian America. The city was named New Archangel and served as the center of Russian colonial administration in North America. In 1867, Alaska was purchased by the United States from Russia, and Sitka became the capital of the newly acquired territory.

Interesting Facts:

  1. Sitka is home to the Sitka National Historical Park, which preserves the site of a Tlingit fort and commemorates the Battle of Sitka in 1804. This battle marked the first major conflict between the Tlingit people and Russian colonizers.
  2. The Russian influence can still be seen in Sitka’s architecture. The Russian Bishop’s House, built in 1842, is one of North America’s oldest intact Russian colonial buildings. It is now a museum that showcases the history of Russian America.
  3. Sitka is famous for its annual Alaska Day Festival, held on October 18th, to commemorate the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. The festival features parades, reenactments, and cultural events celebrating Sitka’s diverse heritage.
  4. Sitka is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The city offers a wide range of activities, including hiking, fishing, kayaking, and wildlife watching. Visitors can explore the nearby Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States.
  5. Sitka is also known for its vibrant arts scene. The city is home to numerous galleries, theaters, and music festivals. The Sitka Summer Music Festival, held annually, attracts renowned musicians from around the world.

 

 

Excurions in Sitka, Alaska

There were several excursions offered on both land and sea in Sitka, which included:

  •  Whale watching tours
  • Island Discovery float plane tour
  • Fin Island and Discovering Sitka’s Waterways* Bob & Marilyn
  • Russian & Tlingit Heritage * Gary & Mary
  • Self-guided walking tours
  • Visit to Russian-American Trading Company
  • Nature Hikes
  • Fly Fishing
  • Deep Sea Fishing

If you are heading to this area, consider the weather before heading out on any activity.  Rain coats and umbrellas will usually be recommended.