Pelican was established as a salmon cannery town back in the late 1930s and it still proudly promotes the slogan it was given back then: “Closest to the fish!”
About Pelican (Tlingit: K'udeis'x̱'e)
Pelican is indeed close to the fish. Located on the northwest coast of Chichagof Island, 90 miles north of Sitka and 100 miles west of Juneau in Alaska’s Inside Passage region, it boasts the closest harbor to the rich Fairweather salmon grounds. The town is also known for its boardwalk, Salmon Way, which links most residences and businesses in and around the small-boat harbor. Salmon Way consists of a picturesque mile-long boardwalk built on pilings over tidelands. There are only two miles of rough gravel roads beyond that.
Things to do
Not surprisingly, silver and king salmon as well as giant halibut are plentiful in the area, and in the summer, plenty of charter boats are available to take visitors out to catch them. The annual king salmon derby, held in early June, is a great opportunity to haul in a giant king and possibly win cash prizes for the effort. The kings often weigh in at 25 to 45 pounds with a few 50 to 70 pounders taken annually. Halibut can weigh in up to 100 pounds or more. Several fishing lodges are located in Pelican that provide accommodations, meals, and fishing charters focusing on both saltwater and freshwater fishing.
Pelican is also uniquely well-situated for sea kayaking. There are approximately 40 miles of protected waters near town for relaxed and scenic paddling in Lisianski Inlet, Lisianski Straits, and Stag Bay. More experienced paddlers head for the outside coastal waters of West-Chichagof Yakobi Island Wilderness Area, which offers miles of coastline dotted with protected bays, estuaries, and channels. Kayaks are available for rent in Pelican.
Pelican charter boat operators can arrange a day tour or overnight adventure to White Sulfur Hot Springs, located 20 miles from Pelican on the outside coast of Chichagof Island. The natural hot springs include an outside pool where you can soak the aches and pains away while listening to the ocean swells break against the shoreline, and an inside pool in a beautiful bath house with views of the Pacific Ocean and nearby islands. Next to the hot springs is a U.S. Forest Service Cabin that can be reserved in advance so you can soak to your heart’s content.
Pelican is also adjacent to the West-Chichagof Yakobi Island Wilderness Area, which features four public-use cabins available for rent through the Tongass National Forest.
One of Pelican’s most interesting attractions is Rose's Bar & Grill, a classic Alaska fisherman's bar. Here you can mingle with trollers, longliners, and visitors. The Lisanski Inlet Café, famous for its seafood menu, is also a great stop.
Alaska Marine Highway ferries sail to Pelican twice a month from Juneau during the summer months. The cruise through Icy Strait is scenic and offers good chances of seeing humpback whales. The ferry spends two hours in port, giving you plenty of time to walk the length of town. Pelican is also accessible via year-round scheduled air service from Juneau.
Explore more of the Inside Passage.