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Ketchikan Story Project

Every town has a story. Some are just more interesting than others.
Ketchikan, Alaska’s story includes chapters on old time prospectors who ventured to Alaska to find their fortunes, burly handloggers who helped build the town by cutting timber with (practically) their bare hands, swashbuckling bush pilots who flew supplies and people to remote locales, and other intrepid pioneers who came to Alaska to start a new life, save the lost, minister to the weary, and/or misbehave. If you want to get to know a true frontier town, start by watching The Ketchikan Story Project's latest installments here. Or visit ketchikanstories.com to see the rest of the story.

  1. Ketchikan Fish Art

    As you can imagine, the artists residing in a coastal fishing town are often inspired by … fish. Local “fin artist” Ray Troll shows us some of Ketchikan’s fish-inspired art, starting with a commissioned painting he made featuring all five salmon species.

  2. A Diver's Life

    Fishermen cast hooks and nets, crabbers and shrimpers set pots … but what about the sea creatures who don’t bite, swim or crawl? How are they harvested? Well, basically, someone’s got to go down there and get them. We spent a few hours with commercial diver Tom Carruth aboard the F/V Sable and had him tell us about life as a commercial diver and how he goes about harvesting geoduck, sea urchins and sea cucumbers.

  3. Ketchikan: A True Frontier (full length)

    Located on the southernmost tip of Alaska’s famed Inside Passage, Ketchikan attracted a pastiche of pioneers (loggers, miners, missionaries, bush pilots, bootleggers, and others) who started coming in the early part of the 20th century to find their fortunes, start a new life, save the lost, minister to the weary, live off the land, and/or misbehave.

    Told by old-timers, local historians, and relatives of the town’s founders, Ketchikan: A True Frontier not only chronicles the past (incredibly captured in stunning photographs), but showcases a town that had the foresight to preserve its history. Many of the town’s first buildings have been faithfully restored ... and the stories they tell paint a compelling narrative of the early Alaskan frontier.

  4. Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots

    Nominated for three Emmys, Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots chronicles the history of aviation in Southeast Alaska, from the pioneer bush pilots integral to developing the area to today’s bush pilots who keep commerce humming and communities connected. Through all the industry booms—mining, fishing, logging, tourism—Ketchikan’s storied bush pilots have been a lifeline, serving as scouts, air taxi drivers, medivacs, and the Pony Express all rolled into one. Without them, Ketchikan’s remote neighboring communities would remain distant and sea-locked.

    Often called “swashbucklers of the sky,” Ketchikan’s bush pilots are equal parts skilled and safety-conscious, a necessity in SE Alaska, where the weather can pick and roll on a penny. Told by pilots, dispatchers, aviation mechanics, this film is a window into the area’s past and present. Filled with celestial cinematography, the film showcases Ketchikan’s picturesque backyard, a stunning reminder for those who’ve been lucky enough to see it in person and a bucket list prompt for those who haven’t.

  5. Ketchikan: The Timber Years

    Ketchikan, Alaska, is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, arguably one of the most beautiful jewels in the U.S. Forest Service’s crown. With 17M acres spanning the entire Alaskan panhandle, the Tongass is full of wildlife, waterfalls, salmon streams, and timber. Lots and lots of timber.

    The timber industry in Ketchikan started out small, with hand loggers and gyppos (i.e., independent small-scale logging outfits) cutting trees for houses, early mining operations, fish boxes, boardwalks, and the very pilings on which the seaside town stands. Once the pulp mill was built to process the larger percentage of logs unsuitable for the sawmill, the U.S. government awarded a 50-year timber contract … and the boom was on.

    Ketchikan: The Timber Years tells the story of Southern Southeast Alaska’s logging boom. Told by old-timers, forest rangers, bush pilots, loggers and other salty characters, the film gives a glimpse into a very wild and unique time in Ketchikan’s history, when real men wore suspenders and kids had to wear lifejackets to school.

  6. On the Waterfront: Ketchikan's Bush Pilots

    Stretching the full length of this seaside town, Ketchikan’s waterfront is the nerve center of SE Alaska, where fishing vessels, bush planes, skiffs and cruise ships all throw a line to the land.