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!”
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, which links most residences and businesses in and around the small-boat harbor, which is the heart of town.
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.
Pelican is also uniquely well situated for sea kayaking. There are approximately 40 miles of protected inside waters near town for relaxed and scenic paddling. A popular destination for kayakers is White Sulphur Hot Springs, located about 20 nautical miles from Pelican. Pelican is also adjacent to the West-Chichagof Yakobi Island Wilderness Area, which features four public-use cabins available for rent from the Tongass National Forest. There are several fishing lodges located in Pelican and in the settlements of Phonograph Cove and Sunnyside.
During the summer months, Alaska Marine Highway ferries sail to Pelican twice a month from Juneau, which can make a fun daytrip. The cruise through Icy Strait is scenic, with a very good possibility of seeing humpback whales, and two hours in port offers plenty of time to walk the length of town. Salmon Way consists of a mile-long boardwalk built on pilings over tidelands and is a photographer's delight. There are only two miles of rough gravel roads beyond that.