The Spirit in the Wood -- a Private Tour of Ketchikan Totem Poles and Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian art


Tour Number

Activity Level



Shore Excursion, Religious Heritage, Museums / Culture, Local Experience


Kid Friendly: Yes.

Friendly: Yes.
Must be able to climb into and out of an SUV (with help). Some of the paths are a bit rough, but with some huffing and puffing, we can manage.

Maximum travelers: 5



French (basic), English (fluent)

Understanding totem poles, native art, carving, symbols, myths and stories, with a Knowledgeable Private Guide

There is a long tradition of totem pole carving in Southeast Alaska. The tradition still lives and thrives here in Ketchikan. We have old poles all over town. The Totem Heritage Center maintains the oldest poles under controlled air and humidity. We have a number of master carvers, reproducing old poles and working traditional form-line design into some unique and beautiful modern designs.

I would like to show you all this, explain the poles, and explain how they are carved, and tell you some of the stories behind them. I am an amateur carver myself, and have some of my self-forged tools I can show you. I know many of the best modern carvers, and am very familiar with their work. Many I can recognize from the distinctive adzing, the cut-marks of their tools. I have been a story-teller all my life, and I will delight in telling you some of the stories that lie behind the figures in the wood.


irst: we shall tour downtown and some of the poles there. There are poles in whale park, and around the downtown museum, and creek street. I will show you carving tools and how they are used. I will also tell you how Raven stole the son and moon.

The downtown museum has a small but exquisite display of native art. Then we can go round to bear valley where most Salmon ignore the fish ladder and jump up the creek.

Then we can look at the interesting black-fish pole outside the middle-school. Nearby is the beautiful City Park, where I can show you all the common native trees. There is also a fish hatchery, which we can visit if it is open.

Then we can walk to the nearby Totem Heritage Center, which houses some of the oldest totem poles in Ketchikan. I will tell you about stone-skin (my wives ancestor), and his battle with Sea Lion.

After, we can drive round the south end of town, pausing to see the Frog Clan, Raven Steals Sun and Moon by Isreal Shotridge.

If raining, we shall concentrate on indoors.

Meeting Location + Tour Duration

Meeting location: I will meet you at the exit ramp from the ship. I shall carry a big sign with your name on it, or I shall wear distinctive clothes (often I wear a kilt!). There will be a short walk to my vehicle (I can not bring a car onto the dock).

End location: I will take you back to your ship.

Duration: 2 hours 30 min.

I will gladly go a bit longer or shorter.


2003 Dodge Durango R/T. Leather seats, Air-conditioned &individual climate control. Tinted windows. Seats 5 in comfort.

PLEASE NOTE: In the second row center ia a skinny wee jump-seat (with seat belt), so we could take 6 people if two are skinny, and willing to sit close together.

Room in back for bags and stuff, or even a wheelchair -- if the person in the wheelchair can get into and out of an SUV seat.

I can arrange for a larger vehicle, but that will significantly increase the price of the tour.

What’s Included

Transportation, and all entrance fees. I also carry water in the car.

Estimated Local Cash Needed

5 USD - only if you plan to pick up juice or a snack along the way. If we plan to stop for lunch, you might need $20-$30 for lunch. I will take care of any additional fees, (entrance fees, museum costs, etc.)

What’s Extra

Other than money for a snack if you want one, you need nothing else. But you might want to bring binoculars, a camera, some good walking shoes, some layered clothing, a raincoat, a hat, and some sunscreen for the occasional sunny day we get here.


I speak some French (Quebecois),
and Scottish Gaelic.
Driving tours max of 5 or 6 travelers (although I can charter larger vehicles for custom tours).
Walking tours max of 25 people, or even more - contact me for walking tours with more than 10.

A Recent Review of this tour

Had a great and informative visit to Ketchikan with Cruin in spite of the weather. It rains a lot there.
Ed Murl

Read More Reviews For This Tour

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