Geography of Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska

by | March 5, 2024

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough, located in the southeastern region of Alaska, is known for its stunning natural beauty, abundant waterways, and temperate rainforest climate. As one of Alaska’s southernmost communities, the borough encompasses a diverse range of geography, including rugged coastline, dense forests, and numerous islands. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other notable features of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.


According to Weddinginfashion, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough spans approximately 1,620 square miles and is situated along the Inside Passage, a scenic coastal route renowned for its fjords, islands, and diverse marine life. The borough includes the city of Ketchikan, which serves as the borough seat and the primary economic and cultural center of the region. Other communities within the borough include Saxman, Ward Cove, and parts of the unincorporated areas of Revillagigedo Island.

The landscape of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough is characterized by steep, forested mountainsides, deep fjords, and countless islands. Much of the land is covered by the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. This temperate rainforest is home to towering Sitka spruce, Western red cedar, and other lush vegetation, creating a verdant backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


The Ketchikan Gateway Borough experiences a temperate maritime climate, characterized by mild temperatures, abundant rainfall, and relatively stable weather patterns throughout the year. The region’s climate is heavily influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the moderating effects of the warm North Pacific Current.

Summers in the Ketchikan area are cool and moist, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (around 18-22°C). However, temperatures rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) due to the presence of marine air and frequent cloud cover. Rainfall is common during the summer months, with precipitation occurring on approximately 50% of days. The combination of mild temperatures and ample rainfall supports the lush vegetation of the temperate rainforest ecosystem.

Winters in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough are relatively mild compared to other parts of Alaska, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to low 40s Fahrenheit (around 2-6°C). Snowfall is infrequent and typically light, with most precipitation falling as rain. However, the surrounding mountains receive significant snowfall, creating opportunities for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

Spring and fall are transitional seasons, with gradually changing temperatures and daylight hours. These seasons bring vibrant displays of wildflowers, migrating birds, and changing foliage, making them ideal times to explore the natural beauty of the region.

Rivers and Lakes

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is home to numerous rivers, streams, and lakes, which play important roles in the region’s ecology, transportation, and recreation.

The Tongass Narrows, a narrow body of water that separates Revillagigedo Island from Gravina Island, serves as a vital transportation corridor for maritime traffic, including ferries, cruise ships, and commercial vessels. The narrows also provide habitat for a variety of marine life, including salmon, herring, and marine mammals such as seals and sea lions.

Several rivers flow through the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, including the Unuk River, which forms part of the border between Alaska and British Columbia. The Unuk River is known for its pristine wilderness and abundant salmon runs, attracting anglers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world.

In addition to rivers, the borough contains numerous lakes and reservoirs, which provide opportunities for fishing, boating, and other recreational activities. Some of the notable lakes in the area include Ward Lake, Harriet Hunt Lake, and Carroll Inlet.

Natural Attractions

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is home to a wealth of natural attractions, including majestic fjords, cascading waterfalls, and pristine wilderness areas.

Misty Fiords National Monument, located just north of Ketchikan, encompasses over 2 million acres of protected wilderness, including deep fjords, sheer cliffs, and dense forests. Visitors can explore the monument’s rugged terrain by boat, kayak, or seaplane, marveling at the dramatic scenery and abundant wildlife.

Totem Bight State Historical Park, situated on the outskirts of Ketchikan, preserves a collection of intricately carved totem poles and traditional Native American structures. The park offers interpretive trails, cultural exhibits, and demonstrations of traditional crafts, providing insight into the rich heritage of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples.


The Ketchikan Gateway Borough offers a diverse array of geographical features, including rugged coastline, dense forests, and abundant waterways. The region’s temperate rainforest climate, mild temperatures, and stunning natural beauty make it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers. Whether it’s exploring Misty Fiords National Monument, fishing for salmon in the Unuk River, or learning about Native American culture at Totem Bight State Historical Park, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough invites visitors to experience the wonders of Alaska’s southeastern coast.