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USA/Northwest: Alaska

Out There and In It


The Highlights: The outdoors in all its glory…forests, streams, wildlife, fishing, hiking, kayaking…you name it, this is the place for it. America’s last great wilderness.

Other Places Nearby: Ketchikan is a 40-minute flight by floatplane from Waterfall Resort…and that’s about it. There isn’t anything else nearby. That’s the whole idea. 

Meetings & Event Options: Cape Fox Lodge in Ketchikan can handle groups from 10 to 500; Waterfall Resort can handle up to 92; and Steamboat Bay Fishing Club can host groups of up to 24.  

A Different World
A Short Hop West
Refuel, Relax, Repeat
A Life-Changing Experience

Imagine being startled by a bald eagle with a 5-foot wingspan as it swoops down and grabs a fish off the surface of the water an arm’s length from the stern of your tiny fishing boat. Feel the momentary adrenaline rush as a 40-foot whale silently breaks the surface and then sinks gracefully beneath the water 10 feet from your ocean kayak. Have a vigorous tug-of-war with a sea lion that wants the fish on your line as much as you do and isn’t giving up easily. To experience the sheer wildness of a place like Alaska. To be right out there and in it, rather than watching it glide by from the rail of a cruise ship. To be close enough to touch it, taste it and feel it. That’s a different kind of sensation—an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime sensation.

It’s not as hard to picture as you might think. Most people are surprised to learn that Ketchikan, Alaska—jumping off point for a trip to the nearby Waterfall and Steamboat Bay sport fishing resorts—is only about 90 minutes by air from Seattle. It’s like taking a flight from Boston to Washington, DC or driving an hour-and-a-half from Chicago to Lake Geneva, WI. Certainly well within the boundaries of a quick getaway by any definition. 

A Different World

From your window seat on the flight out of Seattle, watch the suburbs recede and the snow-capped peaks of the Coastal Range begin to poke through the low-hanging clouds. Soon you’re gazing down at a different world. Soaring, snow-covered mountains. Cold, clear ocean inlets. Roiling, crashing rivers rushing to the sea. Tall-growth, temperate rainforests stretching out to—and beyond—the horizon. 

Arriving in Ketchikan, you find the city occupies about four square miles of land hugging the western edge of Revilla Island on the Inside Passage. No big chain hotels, no fast-food franchises, lots of jewelry stores and souvenir shops (catering to the cruise ship crowd, naturally), a few bars and restaurants. Like most cities in Alaska, Ketchikan retains a certain frontier vibe. Ninety minutes from Seattle? Feels more like 90 years.

That is until you check into the Cape Fox Lodge for an overnighter before departing for Waterfall or Steamboat Bay the next morning. Perched on a cliff overlooking downtown Ketchikan, the 72-room property features all mod cons. If you have time, ride the funicular down the hillside into town and check out some of the local history and color. Ketchikan is a fascinating mix of people passing through on their way to somewhere else and the blue-collar residents who entertain them, outfit them and get them where they’re going—shopkeepers, service workers, tour operators, pilots, etc. Truly a unique place.

A Short Hop West

The next morning you pack up and head down to the Taquan Air terminal on the waterfront. Ketchikan’s geographic position as the southernmost Alaskan city with a major airport and cruise ship facility has made it a popular portal to the state’s vast and beautiful wilderness. It’s also the departure point for a trip to Waterfall or Steamboat Bay—just a short hop west by floatplane to Prince of Wales Island, and 45 minutes later you’re tying up at the dock. 

After checking in and dropping your bags you’re off for an afternoon of fishing—no delays, no downtime, no better way to get acclimated. Lunch every day is served on board each group’s designated cabin cruiser, piloted by experienced, licensed guides who know all the best fishing spots around Noyes, Lulu and Baker Islands—places with names like Pineapple, Granite and Rockpile. 

Returning to Waterfall around 4:30 in the afternoon, you disembark and your catch is hauled up to the main dock, where the fish are weighed, hung up and trophy photos taken. After that most guests repair to their rooms to clean up and change—while their catch is cleaned, filleted, flash-frozen and vacuum-packed for the trip home. 

That’s right. In addition to an unforgettable fishing and nature experience, each guest typically goes home with anywhere between 50 and 100 lbs. of the freshest fish on the planet, providing months of fine dining that creates lasting memories every time you sit down to enjoy the delicious fruits (or fish) of your labors. 

Refuel, Relax, Repeat

The next step in the daily routine if you’re at Waterfall usually involves a stop at the Lagoon Saloon which, true to its name, overlooks the saltwater lagoon and Tongass National Forest. It’s not hard to see why guests enjoy relaxing while playing poker or ping pong, shooting pool, throwing darts, checking their email on the saloon’s guest computers, or catching up on the latest sports on the big-screen satellite TV. And if you really feel the need for a more formal gathering, the TV room converts into a comfortable meeting room for 40-50 people.

This is followed by a huge all-you-can-eat buffet dinner from 6-8 pm in the resort’s dining room (actually the old Cannery Manager’s house) overlooking picturesque Ulloa Channel. The vast array of appetizers, entrees, breads, pastries, soups and salads are prepared fresh daily and the complementary selection of house wines flows unabated.

Later, you can opt for a hike to the waterfall (it’s usually light until after 10 pm during the Summer fishing season), relax some more in the Lagoon Saloon, or head back to your room for a well-deserved night’s sleep before getting up early the next morning and doing it all over again—armed with a thermos full of bloody marys, a cooler full of beer, your made-to-order lunch from the Waterfall’s kitchen staff and fully decked out in your waterproof boots, slicker overalls and hooded jacket., all supplied by the resort as part of your stay.

A Life-Changing Experience

Whether you opt for a 3-day package, a 6-day package or something in between, one thing’s for sure—you won’t ever look at fishing the same way again. As the people at Waterfall say: “You will catch fish.” Granted, it’s not the cheapest trip you’ll ever take, but let’s do some quick math: accommodations, food and beverages, wall-to-wall fishing—and don’t forget your catch. I don’t know about you, but where I live 50 lbs. of wild Pacific salmon will set you back anywhere from $1,250 to $1,500 easy. Not a bad day’s work, as they say. 

Most importantly, ask yourself: What is it worth to have a life-changing experience like this? To feel at one with nature? To see some of the last truly wild country in the U.S.? To form a lasting bond with your boatmates over a unique shared adventure that few people ever have? To discover, most importantly, that there’s a huge difference between “fishing” and “catching fish.” 

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