The village of Kasaan offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and view Alaska as it was hundreds of years ago. Famed for its totem poles and rich Native history, Kasaan is located on the eastern side Prince of Wales Island, just south of Thorne Bay.
A Haida village that was established in the 1800s, Kasaan was once only accessible by canoe. Although your trip here will be a little more convenient (there are scenic roads leading in and out now), you’ll be amazed at how well the local residents and Haida Tribe have preserved this historic settlement.
Kasaan Whale House and Totem Park
Although you can spend some time exploring the trails and visiting the beach here, the highlight of your trip to Kasaan will be the whale house and totem park. The whale house, the former home of Haida chief Son-I-Hat, is the oldest standing longhouse in North America. It was originally built without nails and has been carefully restored to reflect the architecture and techniques of its early construction.
In addition to the longhouse, nine totem poles, each hand-carved and full of history, lead the way to two cemeteries. Like the longhouse, the grounds have been carefully preserved to reflect Native life as it was lived in the 1880s. Whether you make a quick trip to view the totem poles or linger to absorb the nature and history, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
How to See and Experience Kasaan
Visitors to Kasaan are welcome to take self-guided tours over the grounds. However, for a real glimpse at the rich history and culture, it’s highly recommended that you take a guided Tribal Tour. Led by a member of the Haida Nation, these tours include a personal narration of the longhouse and grounds, including the fascinating history of Son-I-Hat and his family.
Fewer than a hundred people call this village home, which means you’re in for peace, quiet, and some of the most beautiful natural surroundings in Alaska. The history is everywhere, the connection with nature is unmistakable, and the totems are some of the best you’ll see in all of the state. A trip to Kasaan can easily be fit in around your fishing activities and other Alaska adventures.
Book your stay at Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge now, and consider touring the Kasaan Totem Village. Guided Tribal Tours should be scheduled weeks in advance of your trip, so please call ahead for availability.