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Creek Street

Ketchikan, Alaska

During Alaska’s pioneering days, every gold rush town had a red-light district; in Ketchikan, it was Creek Street. Prostitution wasn’t outlawed here until 1954, and it was legal as long as business wasn’t transacted on dry land. This explains why Creek Street isn’t a street at all, but an elevated boardwalk built on wooden pilings above Ketchikan Creek.

This historic bordello hub, once home to more than two dozen houses of ill repute, is a lot tamer these days. The brightly painted wooden buildings now house shops and galleries, as well as Dolly’s House, a museum that recounts the neighborhood’s colorful past. The boardwalk has become something of a symbol of Ketchikan, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a city tour that doesn’t include a walk down Creek Street. A particularly popular way to enjoy the neighborhood is on a guided pub crawl to some of Ketchikan’s favorite watering holes.

  • Creek Street is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Ketchikan.

  • Don’t forget your camera—Creek Street is one of the most picturesque areas of Ketchikan.

  • Creek Street and most of its businesses are wheelchair accessible.

The town of Ketchikan can only be reached by plane or boat. Once you’re in town, it’s easy to get to Creek Street (and the rest of the historic downtown area) on foot.

Visit Creek Street in the summer to watch salmon heading upstream to spawn, from the viewing spot known as Salmon Ladder. June tends to be the best month for warmer weather and sparser crowds. Check the cruise ship schedule, and plan to visit when the fewest ships are docked.

Keep an eye out for the street sign to Married Man’s Trail at the end of Creek Street near Park Avenue. When Creek Street doubled as the red-light district, this trail—then little more than a muddy path along the creek—offered men a discreet entrance to the brothels of Creek Street, so they wouldn’t get caught going through the front doors.


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