Sitka:A Place Where Nature & Civilization Coincide

Sitka:A Place Where Nature & Civilization Coincide

Sitka is the land facing the Pacific Ocean, overlooking the west side shore of Baranof Island in the shade of Mount Edgecumbe, alongside Japan's dormant volcano Mount Fuji. The most beautiful southeast city of Alaska, Sitka nestled on the western part of Baranof Island. Sitka is apparently charming due to its vestige of Russian traditional dome-shaped buildings and St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral gold cross. The city and the district constitute of tiny, dense green islands, south Chichagof Island and the greater Baranof Island. It is island stuck between the hills and ocean, Sitka boasts of primitive native islanders, rain forests and natural beauty everywhere. Americans, Russians, and Tlingits are the primary ethnic group in the land of Sitka which is acknowledged by the name "Paris of Pacific" for its rich cultural heritage and dynamism.

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Sitka:A Place Where Nature & Civilization Coincide

1. Alaska Raptor Center

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The Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka is a private, non-profit rehabilitation center for raptors - sick birds of prey like eagles, hawk, owls, falcons, etc., found in the whole region of Alaska. Encircling the Tongass National Forest and the Indian River, this 17-acre plot is state of the art in entire North America and rated first in the state for birds of prey. It is home to almost 150 to 250 wounded and traumatized suffering birds. In special boxes, these birds find their way to Alaska Raptor Center by Alaska Airlines. The injured birds get proper healing treatment and tried for free flying in the Bald Eagle Flight Training Center. The place is open all days for public tours and offers various touring options.

2. Sitka National Historic Park

The Sitka National Historic Park better known as Totem Park is a place for fun activities and amusement. It exhibits the Tlingit Culture, Russian Bishop's abode demonstrating the rich culture and tradition Sitka has been holding since 1843. You can have a ranger-guided tour all days in the summer and selected days during the winter. Acknowledged as a national monument on October 18, 1972, this national park has been undergoing restoration in phases. It preserves the primitive Totem Poles which is a must watch if you are visiting Sitka. The visiting hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the months of May-September, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm in the months of October-April from Tuesday to Saturday and alternate days from Saturday to Monday.

3. Sheldon Jackson Museum

Located downtown of Sitka, the Sheldon Jackson Museum is a fun loving, educational place alongside the Giant Fjord. It tells you the history of the Chilkat Valley and the life of Northwest Coast Indians residing in Alaska. There are various artifacts, relics from the local natives of Athapaskans, Eskimos, and Aleuts. In spite of being a small and composed museum, this place enlightens visitors with the livelihood and times of natives by demonstrating their weaving, woodwork, boat making, carvings, Aleut baidarka, and canoes from the Tlingit tribe. The visiting hours are dependent on the climate condition. In general, it is open all days from morning 10 am to evening 4 pm. The entry cost is $4 during summers and $3 during winters.

4. Fortress of the Bear

Photo by Alla Khananashvili/

Ardent tourists’ fond of animals must visit the Fortress of the Bear - a non-profit rehabilitation center for bears and the only peerless center for bears in the whole of United States. It primarily concentrates on the best treatment for bears, cubs with best possible care for their growth. Contrary to a zoo, this place is open for bears where you can see them being fed and cared. You can watch bears playing all around in open lands designated to them. Reaching here is easy by taking the shuttle service from the docks that will cost you $3 from the latter. Entry fee is free for children aged below 7, $5 for age 7 years to 18 years and $10 above 18. The entry timings are 9 am to 5 pm all days in the summers, and 10 am to 2 pm from 1st October to 15th April from Friday to Sunday.

5. St. Michael's Cathedral

St. Michael's Cathedral is an exemplary architecture built in 1848 when efforts were being carried out on and off to Christianize the local tribes. It was half demolished in January 1966 and rebuilt and today is the source of pride for its traditional Russian architecture. St. Michael’s Cathedral exhibits a remarkable collection of primitive Russian art, antiques of church remains and artifacts. It is open all days during summer from morning 9 am to evening 4 pm with a voluntary donation of $5 as entry fees. There is a good stock of gifts, books, souvenirs, CDs for adults and children across the museum.

6. Sitka Sound Science Center

Sitka is not only predominant in nature and culture; it extends its beauty and knowledge of deep sea water animals. The Sitka Science Center showcases a 15 feet whale, saltwater fishes, starfish and sea anemone. There are more than a dozen salmon for all visitors to see in the vast aquarium. The aquarium staffs are very friendly and always on foot to help you, enlighten you with knowledge and discuss the latest news, projects, and curriculum on the table. Outside the aquarium, stands the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery, which is home to varied species of salmon and its kind. The Sitka Sound Science Center is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from morning 9 am to evening 4:30 pm, and on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. Entry fee is $5.

7. Baranof Castle State Historical Site

Renowned as Castle Hill, the Baranof Castle State Historical Site is a one of its kind in Alaska. Basically, it was the Tlingit Native fortification domain and occupied by the Russians later as a defense base. It marks the historical transfer of Alaska to the USA where the American flag hoisted for the first time in 1867. It offers fascinating site for photographers who can capture wondrous landscape beauty of the nature with the waterfront and metropolitan view of Sitka. There is no entry fee and visiting hours are from Monday to Friday, morning 10 am to evening 5 pm.

8. Russian Bishop's House

Photo by Matt Howry

Constructed in 1843, this double storied building situated down of Sitka in the National Historic Park. It marks the ‘Golden Age’ of Russian North Americans and depicts the rich cultural seminary, halls, study rooms, and church. It was the abode of Bishop Innocent. Russian Bishop's House stands tall in history for 125 years of rule by Imperial Russia over North Pacific. It was seized from the Russians in 1969 and refurbished to its former looks as in 1853 by the National Park Service. Entry fees are $4 and are open all days during summers from morning 9 am to evening 5 pm with ranger-led tours every half an hour.

◎ Closing

Visiting Sitka is possible only by air or sea and forms Alaska's profound historical place that is rich in culture, civilization and natural grace. Sitka offers tourists impressive scenery, fishing, trekking, and enjoying fun-filled activities with remarkable history to cherish. Sitka was ranked 49/109 in the honorary destination Stewardship survey for National Geographic Traveler (NGT) in 2008 for its diverse wildlife, community lifestyle and history. With 22 buildings registered in National Register of Historic Places, there is plenty to view while you have your evening strolls in the roads in the southeast city of Alaska, Sitka. The Sitka Summer Music Festival is a must watch an event that occurs during the summers.