Sitka National Historical Park
For many, the highlight of a visit to Sitka is Sitka National Historical Park, at the mouth of Indian River where the Tlingits and Russians fought their final battle in 1804. The Indians kept the invaders at bay for a week, but with their ammunition exhausted and resupply efforts thwarted, they abandoned the fortress and silently withdrew to Peril Strait.
The visitors and Native Alaskan cultural center (907/747-8061, www.nps.gov/sitk, daily 8 a.m.–5 p.m. summer, and Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year, $4) includes an informative small museum on Tlingit culture. In summertime, Native Alaskan craft workers can be seen producing bead blankets, jewelry, and wood carvings in the workshop.
The 10-minute historical video Battle of Sitka is very informative, and rangers offer daily historical walks in the summer.
Quite a few historical totems are housed in one large room, and outside are 15 more totems, most of which were carved for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The totems line a one-mile trail through the lush second-growth spruce forest, with outstanding views of Sitka Sound along the way. You’ll find spawning pink salmon in Indian River (near the 1804 battleground) late in the summer.
Sitka National Historical Park is a peaceful place where mysterious totems in the trees, the strident calls of ravens and eagles, and the lapping of waves combine to enhance the beauty.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition