Current Population: 79 (2013 est.)
Incorporation Type: 1st Class City
Borough Located In: Unorganized
Taxes: Sales: 4%

Location and Climate

Pelican is located on the northwest coast of Chichagof Island on Lisianski Inlet. It lies 80 miles north of Sitka and 70 miles west of Juneau. Pelican is located 10 miles down Lisianski Inlet from its mouth at Cross Sound. Most of the community is built on pilings over the tidelands. Sunnyside and Phonograph are two residential areas on either side of Pelican with close ties to the community.

Pelican has a maritime climate characterized by cool summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures range from 51 to 62 °F; winter temperatures range from 21 to 39 °F. Temperature extremes have been recorded from -3 to 84 °F. Annual precipitation averages 127 inches, with 120 inches of snow. During winter months, fog, high winds, and high seas can limit access.

The History of Pelican

A cold storage plant was the first development at this site in 1938. Kalle (Charley) Raataikainen bought fish in this area, which he transported to Sitka. He chose this protected inlet as an ideal cold storage site and named the place after his fish-packing vessel “The Pelican.” Two of his fish-buying scows were used as a cookhouse, mess hall, bunkhouse, and warehouse, and the community of Pelican grew around this operation; today the seafood plant is in flux, and its future is uncertain. A store, office, sawmill, post office, and sauna had been erected by 1939. A school and cannery were developed in the 1940s, and a city was formed in 1943. A boardwalk serves as the town’s main thoroughfare, due to the lack of flat land.

Economy and Transportation

Pelican is dependent on float planes and the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry for travel. Daily scheduled air taxi services are available from Juneau. Facilities include a small boat harbor with a seaplane dock and state ferry terminal. The ferry provides two monthly departures during summer months and one monthly departure during winter. Barge service is available only on an as-needed basis.