Sitka National Historical Park

103 Monastery St, Sitka, AK 99835, USA

There’s a strong desire to go quiet at Sitka National Historical Park, the site of an 1804 battle between the Kiks.ádi Tlingit people, who had been there for centuries, and Russian traders who wanted to control the area. A great deal of blood spilled on this soil, and the place demands respect. Wander down the trails lined with spruce, hemlock, and totem poles—each with its own history and story. Watch master carvers keep the Tlingit arts alive with the creation of new totem poles and seaworthy boats. Nearby buildings include the Russian Bishop’s House, where you can see relics of the Russian occupation of the land. Don’t miss the nearby Sheldon Jackson Museum, which houses an astonishing collection of pieces from many Native Alaskan cultures.

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Kayak view

From the kayak, the Sitka harbor was peaceful, serene and full of wildlife.

The Land of the Totems...

Alert Bay is home to the world’s largest totem pole, but Sitka is home to the beautiful Sitka National Park on the outskirt of town, which is famous for the totem poles. I’ve been coming to the park for a couple of years during my downtime from working on a boat with of course my camera in hand. I love this place to be honest. There’s always something beautifully new to capture threw the lens. It beats shopping any day & to be one with nature in this beautiful place. I love that the ocean is so close to the park & you can wander through the forest looking at all of the charming totem poles. Each having a rich history of the culture that it embraces. A lovely find in Sitka indeed.

Touring Giant Totems

Sitka was our first stop in The Last Frontier before venturing out on an Alaskan Dream Cruise of the Inside Passage. We arrived on an early morning flight from Seattle to a cloudless, 80-degree day in late June. The locals were abuzz since the forecast predicted the coming weekend would likely be the only days like this for the entire summer. Eager to capitalize on the conditions, we started with a nice walk from the Sitka National Park station to Totem Park. The mile-long trail loops through the site of a Tlingit Indian Fort and field where they fought against the Russian occupiers in 1804. A collection of Haida and Tlingit totem poles are spread throughout the park, with convenient interpretive audio players available at the entrance. My oldest son was particularly fascinated with the poles, in no small part because he had just completed a school project in which he created his own. And that’s what makes the visit so interesting: the pole’s designs and craftsmanship. Each pole tells a unique story and identifies who lived there – depicted by symbols of eagles, crows, and salmon (all staples of this part of the world, as we would witness throughout our time in AK). We even learned that some poles have specific distinctions, like the “shame pole”, which was planted in front of the residence of someone who committed certain discretions against the tribe. Meant to ridicule, I couldn’t help but warn the kids that they’d have a similar fate if they didn’t behave!

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