Sitka, the fifth largest city in Alaska (population 8,947 – 2005 est.), is situated on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of Southeast Alaska. Sitka is is situated on Baranof Island, nestled between forested mountains and the great Pacific Ocean, on the outer waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Surrounded by island-studded waters and stately spruce forests reaching to the water’s edge, Sitka is considered Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town. All photographs on this site may be licensed as stock photography for business use, or purchased as fine art display pictures for home or office decor.
Sitka’s past is a unique blend of Tlingit culture and Russian history. The area was originally settled by the native Tlingit (Kolosh) Indians and taken over by the Russians under Alexandr Baranov in 1804. The Sitka Lutheran Church, built in 1840, was the first Protestant church on the Pacific Coast. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael was founded in 1848, and St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was consecrated as “The Cathedral of Alaska” in 1900.
Sitka was the site of the ceremony in which the Russian flag was lowered and the United States flag raised after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867 after the sea otter pelt trade died out. The flag lowering and raising event is re-enacted in Sitka every October 18 (Alaska Day). After the original ceremony, the entire U.S. government presence in Alaska until the Klondike Gold Rush consisted of a single customs inspector on the island. Sitka would serve as the capital of the Alaska Territory until 1906, when the seat of government was relocated north to Juneau. The state’s first newspaper, The Sitka Times, was published by Barney O. Ragan on September 19, 1868.
Sitka offers a combination of Native culture, Russian history, and Alaskan wilderness and lies at the heart of the largest temperate rain forest in the world, the Tongass National Forest. Many tourists visiting Alaska make Sitka a top destination on their list. Cruise ships visit the small community but residents have mixed feelings about the influence of industrial tourism on their town and way of life.
Saint Michaels Cathedral
St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox church contains an important collection of Russian Orthodox art & church treasures. Built in 1844-48, it was totally destroyed by fire in January 1966. Many of the icons and religious objects were salvaged and are in the rebuilt structure. The building stands as a hallmark feature in downtown Sitka, and it is still used today for religious practice as well as tourism and education.
Sitka National Historic Park
The Sitka National Historical Park is a 107 acre park which preserves and interprets the site of a Tlingit Indian Fort and the battle fought between the Russians and the Tlingits in 1804. A fine collection of Haida & Tlingit totem poles were moved there from the Louisiana Exposition in St. Louis in 1904, and in April, 1996, a totem carved by a local carver was raised. The museum contains an exhibit of Tlingit and Russian artifacts. There is an active Tlingit arts program where the public can watch and talk to Native Indian carvers. A free, self-guided oceanside trail leads past several totems to the site of the Tlingit fort.
Alaska Raptor Center
A pioneering wildlife project, the Alaska Raptor Center has for years proven that dedicated volunteer effort and innovative veterinary medicine can make a life-or-death difference on Alaska’s raptors (birds of prey). The Center’s goal is to release into the wild all rehabilitated birds, however, a few never recover flight and remain housed at the Center’s outdoor display.
Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tribal Community House
Constructed on a site that once housed the Indian Government School, the Community House offers Native dance performances in full regalia, story telling, cultural events, and a gift shop with authentic Native artwork. Located on Katlian St., next to the tribal house)
Commercial Fishing Industry
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Sitka is the ninth most valuable commercial fisheries port in the nation and fourth in Alaska with $43.3 million dollars passing through its port in 2004. These include Salmon, Herring, Halibut and Groundfish. Sitka is home to a number ofsalmon trollers and is one of the only Southeast communities that does not derive most of its fisheries income from its purse seine fleet. Salmon is the most valuable fishery in Sitka, but halibut and sablefish fall close behind.
Sitka’s troll fishery is known to bring in high quality salmon. In response, the fishing industry in the region has recently begun an effort to support this reputation by educating the consumer about the unique nature of the salmon product , about the people who harvest the salmon, the handling process during harvest and production, and the attributes of the finished product.