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Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska,
established in 1799 by Alexander Baranof of the Russian
American Company. At one time Sitka had a larger
population than San Francisco or Seattle.
This is a picturesque harbor town, situated on Baranof
Island. Mt. Edgecumbe on Kruzof Island (3,000 feet, 914
meters) hovers over the town.
Sitka is steeped in history from the Russian era, with
sites such as St. Michael's Cathedral and Castle Hill
providing re minders of the town's origins. Also evident
are the rough relations between the Russians and the
Tlingit Natives who fought the Russian invaders to the
teeth on several occasions and wound up isolated from the
town by a stockade. Visit the reconstructed blockhouse of
the stockade which kept the Native people restricted to a
walled area. East of the blockhouse is the Alaska
Pioneers Home. A Russian Orthodox cemetery, with graves
going back to 1848, is at the end of Observatory Street.
Visitor information is available at the Isabel
Miller Museum. in the Centennial Building at 330 Harbor
Drive, beside the Small Boat Harbor. You may also wish to
contact the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau, at P.O.
Box 1226, Sitka AK 99835, or call (907) 747-5940.
The Forest Service office is also located in
the Centennial Building (907) 747-6671, or write to Sitka
Ranger District, 201 Katlian, Suite 109, Sitka AK 99835.
Alaska Ferries arrive and depart from the
Alaska Marine Highway terminal, seven miles from downtown
on Halibut Road, with service to Ketchikan, Juneau and
other Southeast towns, (907) 747-8737 or for general ferry information 800-642-0066.
The airport is located on Japonski Island, with
service by Alaska Airlines (907) 966-2266. The airline
offers scheduled flights to Seattle, Anchorage, Juneau,
Local Transit: Sitka Tours operates a shuttle
bus from the ferry terminal, as well as local tours,
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Things to See & Do
Three museums warrant attention: the Isabel Miller
Museum, in the Centennial Building, contains artifacts
from the early Russian days (747-6455); the Sheldon
Jackson Museum is an excellent museum of Native history
offering collections of masks, baskets, boxes, dog sleds,
and kayaks; the Bishop's House is the restored house of
the Russian bishop, displaying artifacts from the 1800s.
Sitka National Historic Park is located at the
end of Totem St., 907-747-0110 . A Tlingit fort and
restored totem poles accompany audio-visual shows and
craft demonstrations by Native artisans.
The New Archangel Russian Dancers perform regularly in
the Centennial Building during the summer cruise-ship
The Sitka Summer Music Festival is one of
Alaska's most popular festivals, with chamber music
artists coming to Sitka in June from around the world.
The main concerts are held in the Centennial Building.
Ticket reservations are recommended. Contact the Visitor
Infocenter or call 907-747-6774, May-July , or voice 907-277-4852, winter.
Castle Hill, located behind the old post office
building, is the former site of Baranof's castle. The
viewpoint has historical information and offers a fine
view of Mt. Edgecumbe, a snowcapped inactive volcano
which dominates the town.
Walking Trails: the Sitka Forest Service has
good information on more than 40 miles (64 km) of good
local trails. The easiest to reach is the Indian River
Trail, leading to an 80-foot waterfall (5.5 miles). The
Gaven Hill Trail (3 miles) climbs to 2,500 feet and
offers great alpine vistas. Kids will enjoy the Japonski
Island Trail which explores WW2 gun emplacements and
other military sites near the airport. Access is by boat
or by special escort at the airport, (907) 747-6671.
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