We left Glacier Bay and after cruising all night, woke up early the next day in Sitka, a small, rainy, town with a large size and history. Though the town has only 9,000 residents it also happens to be the largest city in the United States by area, at 4,811 square miles, encompassing the entire Baranoff Island and surrounding sea. (It turns out the second largest US city by area is Juneau. Everything is bigger in Alaska I guess, even the definition of a city.)
The downtown harbor is too small for cruise ships, so we docked 5 miles from the center and took the provided bus to town.
Sitka is not technically on the Inside Passage as it faces the Pacific Ocean. This means the sailing gets a bit rougher. It also means it lacks the crowds and sameness of other cruise ship destinations. We stopped at a local coffee shop and enjoyed our drinks and pastries slowly. Then with umbrellas in hand we took the boardwalk along the waterfront and watched the eagles overhead and on the nearby beach.
A few blocks away we arrived at Sitka National Historical Park. It was here the Tlingit people clashed with the Russian fur traders destroying their first outpost in 1802. But the Russians returned in 1804 and drove the Tlingits out at the Battle of Sitka. Sitka was reestablished on the site of the Tlingit village, Shee Aitka, and eventually became the busiest port on the entire west coast of all the Americas. But by 1867 the resources of the fur trade had drastically diminished as sea otters were practically exterminated, and the Russians sold Alaska to the United States for 2 cents an acre.
The park includes a trail through the rainforest where many native totem poles stand guard.
As we stopped to admire them, a very talkative raven spoke urgently to us from a nearby tree and I began to understand its prominence in Tlingit culture.
After leaving the Park we wandered through town and picked up some mementos including some flavored salt, processed from the sea.
Then it was back to the ship to cruise to our final stop in Alaska: Ketchikan.
Shame about the rain, but it looks like a great place to visit.
I didn’t like the sound of the ‘sailing getting a bit rougher’. My biggest fear!
Best wishes, Pete.
Fortunately we were prepared for the rain. And we survived the rough sailing and are ready to do it again!
Thanks for sharing the pictures and the history of Sitka – America’s largest city!
You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it!
My knowledge of US history being roughly the size of a postage stamp, I hadn’t realised that Alaska had belonged to the Russians. Interesting observation about the raven, too. They are intelligent birds, too, so I would think it quite likely that some kind of mutual understanding developed between them and the Indians.
Another world. And, somehow, the mist and fog adds to that sense.
You can still feel the Russian presence in Sitka. The Russian Bishop’s house in town (preserved as part of the Historical Park) dates from 1842. And I’d never heard a raven ‘talk’ like that before. It certainly felt like he was addressing us and he was directly next to a Totem Pole. Interesting indeed. thanks for your comment. 🙂