Everyone has their own idea when it comes to Alaska, especially if they have never been there. Some think of how it’s always cold and snowy, some think about how it’s dark for half the year and light for the other half. Some think about the ruggedness of the terrain or the northern lights or even the immense amount of wildlife. Alaska is a vast place—663,000 square miles vast, and depending on where you are in the state, all the above holds true. But there is a small area to the southeast that often gets overlooked when thinking about Alaska. One place in particular located within that region, called Ketchikan, is one such place. Although Ketchikan is known for its rich culture and history, its incredible fishing, and countless outdoor activities, there is something else unique to its area: the weather. I know, I know, how can weather be exciting? Well let’s find out.
Let’s first take a look at Ketchikan’s location. Situated in southeast Alaska on an island known as Revillagigedo Island within the inside passage of the Gulf of Alaska, Ketchikan has an oceanic climate. This type of climate generally consists of cool summers and cool winters without extreme differences, and Ketchikan fits perfectly into that category. The summers are cool and overcast with an average high temperature of 59 degrees with the hottest day coming in late July with an average of 65 degrees. The winter months are long but with an average of only 44 degrees. The coldest of days come in early January with the average high of 38 degrees. With a record high of 89 degrees and a record low of only -1 degrees, Ketchikan is considered mild when it comes to Alaska standards. In fact, Tallahassee, Florida has a lower record low than Ketchikan at -2 degrees. As you can see, the temperatures don’t fluctuate too much between winter and summer.
The mild temperatures isn’t what make Ketchikan’s climate unique, not entirely anyway. What really makes Ketchikan stand apart from the rest of the state is the amount of precipitation it sees on a yearly basis. You see, Ketchikan is part of the Tongass National Forest which is the largest national forest in the United States covering 17 MILLION acres. Tongass NF is also considered a temperate rainforest, and you know what that means; RAIN! And lots of it. So much in fact that it rains more in Ketchikan than anywhere else in the United States, well, except Hawaii. Ketchikan averages 153 inches a year. That’s almost 13 feet of rain a year! Surprisingly, most of that precipitation falls during the autumn and winter months. Ketchikan does see snow however, but it typically doesn’t stick around for long, unlike most other parts of Alaska.
Ketchikan is an anomaly when it comes to its weather, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. Ketchikan is unlike any other place in the world. The key to enjoying this magical place is dressing in layers and embracing the liquid sunshine. So book that once in a lifetime fishing trip, take a hike, immerse yourself in the rich culture and history and take full advantage of the vistas when you visit Ketchikan, Alaska. Just don’t forget your raincoat!