About Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka National Historical Park was the site of the Battle of Sitka between Russian forces and Alaska Natives in 1804. Built to commemorate this famous clash, Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska’s oldest national park.
Sitka National Historical Park history
Sitka National Historical Park covers 113 acres in the city of Sitka on Baranof Island in the Gulf of Alaska and is the smallest national park It was established and named a federal park in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison.
Located within easy walking distance of downtown Sitka, the park is home to authentic totems nestled in a rainforest of giant Sitka Spruce trees, ferns, shrubs and flowers. The Russian Bishop’s House, a restored building that commemorates Sitka’s history of Russian colonialism in 19th century, stands as a testament to the rich history of the area.
The park preserves the site where the Tlingits were finally defeated by Russian forces in 1804 after defending their wooden fort for a week. The cannons did little damage to the walls of the Tlingit fort, it was only when the Tlingits ran out of gunpowder and flint, and slipped away at night, that the invaders were able to enter the deserted fort.
The area became a national monument in 1910 and Sitka National Historical Park in 1972 to commemorate the Battle of Sitka. In preserving the battlefield, the park also preserved a lush temperate rainforest and a rocky coastline that gives way to the island-studded waters and mountainous horizon that makes Sitka one of Alaska’s most beautiful seaside towns.
Sitka National Historical Park today
There is little remaining from the battle itself, only a clearing where the Tlingit fort once stood. There is also a visitor centre dedicated to Native American culture, a totem pole trail and a film about the history of the Sitkans.
On display at the Sitka National Historical Park visitors centre are Russian and indigenous artefacts along with a video in the theatre that provides an overview of the battle. Visitors can either explore the trail as a self-guided tour or join a ranger-led ‘Battle Walk.’
The National Park Service also renovated the Russian Bishop’s House, the oldest intact Russian building in Sitka. It now features exhibits about this period.
Getting to Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka National Historical Park is located in downtown Sitka, Alaska. Sitka is situated on Baranof Island in the Gulf of Alaska, on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage. No roads connect the city to the mainland; Sitka can be reached only by air or sea. Visitors can travel to Sitka by scheduled and charter air services, ferry, and cruise ships.
Sitka National Historical Park’s visitor centre and Totem Loop Trail is located at the east end of Lincoln Street, approximately one-quarter mile from downtown Sitka.
The visitor centre and Russian Bishop’s House are located about a ten-minute walk apart in this essentially urban park.