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Sitka - Alaska

A Piece of Old Russia in Alaska

Alaska Hotels | Practical Information | Things to See & Do

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.

Practical Information

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, and Ketchikan.

Local Transit: Sitka Tours operates a shuttle bus from the ferry terminal, as well as local tours, 888-801-9649.

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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 season.

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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