The earliest known inhabitants of Alaska were from the continent of Asia, who crossed the Bering land bridge which once existed between present day Alaska and Siberia. Later, many pre-columbian peoples crossed the land bridge and migrated south. A Russian, Ivan Fedorov, is credited with discovering northern Alaska in 1732. At this time, Inuits, Yupik Eskimos, Aleuts, and other Native American peoples populated the area.

Recorded history starts with the explorations of Vitus Jonassen Bering, after whom the the Bering Strait was named. The first landfall was in 1741, and a failed economic enterprise of otter hunting began at the site of today's Sitka. High shipping costs kept the settlement from prospering.

Ketchikan, Alaska, is located on the southern-most boundary of the continent. Its high faluting name means "thundering wings of an eagle," and it was originally a fish camp for the Tongass and Cape Fox Tlingits tribes. In 1885, 160 acres of surrounding land was  purchased from the Native Americans and a cannery was built in 1886 at the mouth of the Ketchikan Creek to profit from the abundance of fish found there. By 1812, four more canneries had been built.

Logging was also a lucrative industry (particularly spruce) and by the second world war, Ketchikan had become a center of business for area logging. This contributed greatly to the growth of the community. Today, Ketchikan's logging industry is defunct, and it has become a popular destination of fishermen and naturalists. It is known as the salmon capital of the world.