Get immersed in nature, art, and history through totems, skillfully carved by Tlingit and Haida artists of Alaska's Inside Passage.
Ten miles north of Ketchikan is Totem Bight State Historical Park, an 11-acre park that is packed with restored and re-carved totems as well as a colorful Clan House. Providing a stunning backdrop to the totems is park's lush rainforest setting and the rocky coastline along Tongass Narrows.
Things to Do
The Clan House is the central attraction at the park, offering an inside look at Alaska Native culture and history. The stunning structure, with its intricate carvings and vibrant artwork, is an example of living quarters that would have been shared by 30 to 50 family members of the same lineage, led by a house chief. Inside the house is one large room with a central fireplace surrounded by a planked platform.
Visitors can then stroll through the rainforest to view the totems and learn the history of the area through these “silent storytellers,” created to pass down stories from generation to generation.
Landscape and Wildlife
Totem Bight State Historical Park is nestled in dense temperate rainforest. The vast majority of Alaska’s coastal temperate rainforests are old growth, consisting primarily of western hemlock, Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaska yellow cedar. Mature coastal temperate rainforests are extraordinarily complex and stable habitats. Wildlife in the area includes brown bears, black bears, wolves, Sitka black tailed deer, humpback whales, orcas, salmon, bald eagles, and harlequin ducks.
When many of Alaska's indigenous peoples left villages to seek work in the early 1900s, the villages and totem poles they left behind were soon overgrown by forests and eroded by weather. In 1938, the U.S. Forest Service began a program designed to salvage these large cedar monuments by hiring skilled Tlingit and Haida carvers to restore or replicate them.
The project grew into the construction of a model Alaska Native village, and by World War II the Clan Hose was complete and 15 poles were restored. The name of the site was then changed to Totem Bight. When Alaska received statehood in 1959, the title to the land passed from the federal government to the State of Alaska. In 1970, the state park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Facilities and Camping
There is no camping at Totem Bight State Historical Park. Visitor facilities include interpretive displays, a bookshop, and a viewing deck overlooking the Tongass Narrows.
Totem Bight is ten miles northwest of Ketchikan along North Tongass Highway. The Blue Line city bus connects downtown Ketchikan to Totem Bight State Historical Park.
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For more information, visit the Totem Bight State Historical Park website.
The most impressive feature of the park is the Clan House. The structure represents a clan house that may have housed 30 to 50 people and is symbolized by carved house posts, designs on the house fronts and stylized painting. Inside the house is one large room with a central fireplace surrounded by a planked platform. The walls and floors were hand-adzed to smooth the surface and remove splinters. The dwelling served as living quarters for several families of a particular lineage.
Outside 14 totems are still erected in the park with each pole representing a story or event. Also at Totem Bight is a parking area, interpretive panels, toilets, a book shop and a viewing deck overlooking the Tongass Narrows.
There are no fees at Totem Bight.
Totem Bight is 10 miles northwest of Ketchikan along North Tongass Highway. For more information contact Ketchikan Ranger Station (907-247-8574) within the park.
Visits the Ketchikan community page for accommodations, tours and activities.