Take a naturalist-guided walk through a Ketchikan rainforest sanctuary and wildlife preserve.
The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a 40-acre private preserve of temperate rainforest bordering the Tongass National Forest. Take a guided nature walk exploring the wildlife and ecology of the preserve. Visit a historic sawmill, explore a totem park, and view a featured raptor at the Alaska Raptor Center Ketchikan exhibit.
Here’s how your rainforest exploration will surprise and delight you.
You’ll start out with a scenic eight-mile coastal drive to rustic Herring Cove and the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a temperate rainforest, nestled into the Tongass National Forest. When you arrive, a naturalist guide will be on hand to take you on a 0.75 mile guided rainforest exploration along an improved trail amongst stands of hemlock, spruce and cedar trees. The forest floor is covered with mosses, wild flowers and a variety of berries. Your guide will lead you to a protected open estuary where you follow Herring Creek along an elevated wooden boardwalk overlooking grassy wetlands.
During the seasonal spawning season, bears and seals feed on salmon in Herring Creek. Bald eagles and other birds wait for scraps in the estuary. Sitka black tail deer, mink and marten also frequent the area. Weather, tides, and seasonal ecosystem changes result in varying levels and type of wildlife activity.
Everything here is alive with color and cultural history.
After your trail walk your opportunity to learn about the natural history, wildlife and cultural traditions in the region continues. You’ll be guided through the historic Herring Bay Lumber Company sawmill, seeing saws and machinery that powered this mill. Keep your camera ready as you see a bald eagle at the Alaska Raptor Center exhibit. Explore the first Tsimshian totem pole park in the country with its impressive 40-foot totem and 13 poles carved by the same artist. Before your return to town visit the General Store and pick up a souvenir of your uniquely Alaskan experience.
Please Note: This tour operates in all weather conditions.
Need to Know
Comfortable walking shoes, layered clothing and waterproof jacket are recommended
Shopping opportunities are available at the General Store
This experience includes walking for short distances over relatively level terrain, possibly with a few steps or slight inclines. Participants should be able to move into and out of buses or vans.
There Be Bears Nearby
Arriving in Ketchikan on an NCL cruise, I booked this trip separately. It exceeded expectations, even in the rain. Read on for details.
A short drive from the embarkation point, we met our guides (Lauren and Rena, who were perfect in their roles) who escorted us to the walking path after a short orientation. It was cool and raining which were apparently the ideal conditions for bears to be out fishing; and they were. We saw our first bear within 2 minutes, followed by what was probably a mom-bear and cub and a mom-bear and two cubs. They fished, prowled the stream swatted at fish, climbed trees and did their bear thing.
We walked the path for about 90 minutes, in the rain, engrossed by unbelievably active and close bears nearby.
Special shout-out to the guides, Lauren and Rena; upbeat, informative and worked as a team to spot the bears.
Anan Creek Bear Viewing Tour our of Ketchikan – Excellent Flight, Outstanding Guide
Last year, Taquan (pilot Dave and guide Mark Phillips) did an excellent job at getting us to Anan Creek. However, due to our ship's limited time in port last year, along with poor tidal conditions, we were not able to actually get to the trail head and take our tour. This year, we again booked our Anan Creek tour with Taquan and we were not disappointed. From the bus drive to their terminal, to their check-in and flight briefing process, to the flight itself, and to the tour guide - Taquan offers a safe, informative and exciting tour.
The check in and safety briefing process was thorough, yet efficient (quick). We met with our pilot, Eric, immediately after the safety briefing, and he walked us down the pier to our plane. Eric got us situated on the plane, and then our tour guide arrived. To our pleasant surprise, our guide from last year - Mark Phillips - was again our guide this year! Within a few minutes we were skimming across the water and taking off from Ketchikan. Eric provided some commentary on various landmarks while we were en route to Anan Creek, and Eric's 45 minute flight from Ketchikan to Anan Creek was smooth and comfortable. At one point as we got near Anan Creek, we encountered a rain squall, and Mark and Eric communicated and made some adjustments which ultimately allowed us to safely land at the Anan Creek landing site.
For any tourists taking a float plane to Anan Creek, it is important to be aware that at low tide there can be significant logistics regarding where/how you get to the Anan Creek trailhead. When we arrived at Anan Creek, it was low tide - and Eric brought the plane to a small dock that was far enough off shore to avoid grounding the plane. Taquan had arranged a small boat to transport us from the dock to the shore, and that worked out very well.
If you remember any tip from this review, it is this: if you want to avoid the potential hassles and delays of low-tide arrivals at Anan Creek by float plane, make sure ahead of time that your pilot knows to putter into the entrance of the creek where the water is deep enough (even at low tide) for any float plane to drop off passengers just below the ranger briefing station. It is not worth your time, or the risk of grounding, to make land anywhere near the docks or the hut.
Let me say here that our guide, Mark Phillips, was awesome. Mark was friendly, knowledgeable, and he has the experience of having flown out to Anan Creek multiple times in the past. Mark was able to provide direct in-flight guidance to our pilot when weather conditions got a bit hairy. And Mark takes safety seriously: we were in bear country, and after we made land then Mark unpacked and holstered a weapon and bear spray - which made us feel safe on our hike.
After we got on land, and after Mark made the preparations for our hike to the bear viewing area, we met with the ranger at the base of the trail and listened to a briefing. We then set out on the approximately two-thirds of a mile hike up to the bear viewing area. As we got underway, Mark guided us in the proper way to group ourselves in case we encountered a bear on the trail. And Mark also provided expert commentary on plants and wildlife that we encountered on the hike. When we arrived at the bear viewing area, Mark helped us get signed up quickly so that we could get a slot in the bear viewing blind, and Mark continued to provide awesome commentary about different bears and occurrences that we saw when we were up at the viewing platform. I can't say enough great things about Mark; we highly recommend him if you can get him for your tour.
Taquan runs a great airline, they employ an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff (including expert guides), and our safety was their priority from start to finish. Taquan ultimately provided us with a fantastic and memorable tour, and we highly recommend them for anyone looking to take a flight/float plane tour out of Ketchikan.
Great Seaplane Ride with Bear Visit to Anan Creek
Incredible seaplane ride with a great pilot (very informative). The highlight was going to Anan Creek and seeing the bears feed on salmon. They are literally 2-3 ft away (you are on a deck overlooking them).
My kids (ages 22-28) wanted to see bears on our trip and we saw at least 10 of them. It was early in the season, so bears were not guaranteed. We hoped to see brown and black bears, but only saw black ones (and no cubs) but still well worth the trip. We booked on our own way ahead of the cruise as there are only so many permits issued a day in the area (6 on our day, and 2 were already taken). The seaplane ride takes about 30 min each way and is beautiful. Then you get out with a guide and do a short hike (15-20 min) to the ranger station at Anan Creek--need to be able to walk a mile over rocky terrain. You are there approx 2 hours seeing all the bears up close (approx 30 are there at a time when we went from other AK cities). It was really a once in a lifetime experience. Highly recommend!