HISTORY

From Salmon Cannery to World-Class Fishing Lodge

The legend of Waterfall Resort Alaska started more than a century ago, when commercial fishing pioneers founded Waterfall Cannery near a natural waterfall amid 52 acres of rugged wilderness on Prince of Wales Island. They chose this location, on the island’s craggy western shore, because the surrounding waters were known for phenomenal fishing and epic salmon runs.

The cannery went on to make a major name for itself in seafood production. Salmon were caught in fish traps or aboard seiners, brine-cured, packed in handmade cans, and shipped off to New York and throughout Europe. Like most canneries in Alaska of the day, this frontier outpost was a self-sufficient community of seasonal workers.

At season’s end, the bulk of the crew departed and Waterfall Cannery shut down until the next summer’s salmon migration. To this day, Waterfall Resort’s operating days are based on the salmon fishing seasonand the fishing is still phenomenal!

TIMELINE

1911

Alaska Fish Company, the first outfit to pack salmon on a ship, starts a floating cannery aboard Glory of the Seas. The venture proves so successful that the company tows the barge to the west coast of Prince of Wales Island, where Seattle-based Oceanic Packing Company builds a shoreside facility.

1912

Alaska Fish and Oceanic Packing merge, establishing Waterfall Cannery.

1923

Waterfall Cannery is sold to Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, owner of the nationwide chain of A&P stores. Nakat Packing Corporation, a subsidiary of A&P, operates the cannery for the next half century.

1932

A major expansion begins that adds a warehouse, marine way, oil dock, dam, power lines, cable house, machine shop, storage room, mess hall, bunkhouses, four seiners, and the fish tender Quaker Maid.

A new fish house incorporates the latest standards for fast, safe fish processing. Additions also include a store and office building with upstairs crew quarterstoday, our General Store and Lodge Rooms.

1936

Waterfall Cannery produces 220,000 cases of silver salmon for the year, setting a record for a single Alaska cannery.

1937

The cannery’s $145,000 outbuildings are considered the finest in Southeast Alaska. The company adds five additional canning lines. 

1939–1945

During World War II, Waterfall Cannery supplies canned salmon to support the Allied forces.

1946

Waterfall Cannery’s output is 80 percent silver salmon; 20 percent, halibut and lingcod.

“At Ketchikan we chartered a plane and flew here to Waterfall. It is one of the most beautiful trips I have ever been on, and I hope you will have an opportunity to make it.”

—C. F. Bradford, bookkeeper, Waterfall Cannery, June 23, 1946

1959

Alaska becomes the 49th state. With Alaska statehood comes the abolishment of the floating fish trap. Canneries like Waterfall come to depend on seine-caught fish.

The Alaska Marine Highway System extends through Southeast Alaska, connecting Ketchikan and the Inside Passage to the rest of the U.S. National Highway System.

1962

Alaska adopts the king salmon as its official state fish.

1970

Restrictions on commercial fishing techniques cause the harvest to become too unpredictable to gear up for the summer pack and Waterfall Cannery closes its doors.

1973

Waterfall Cannery’s buildings and land are sold to Edward “Des” Moore and family, who convert the bygone operation into a sport-fishing lodge.

1980

The Ketchikan-based Waterfall Group purchases the property. The historic clapboard buildings that once housed cannery crew are carefully renovated to host sport-fishing fans from around the world.

1985

The Lagoon Saloon opens in a renovated warehouse once used for net and seiner repair, carpentry, and storage.

2012

Waterfall Resort Alaska marks 100 years of fishing and innovation. Former cannery superintendent Harald “Bud” Friele attends the celebration as guest of honor.

2015

The Waterfall Group marks 35 years at the helm of Waterfall Resort, the most popular fishing lodge in Alaska.

Today, Waterfall Resort Alaska’s time-honored facilities include the original General Store, a restaurant and saloon, guest quarters to accommodate 92 anglers, fish-processing facilities, a marina, and 27 custom-built cabin cruisersthe largest private fishing fleet in Alaska.

We’re especially proud of our one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio and our crew of expert U.S. Coast Guard licensed guides. And the same pioneering spirit of the property’s cannery days inspires us today.

Learn more about recent news from Waterfall Resort.

“AT KETCHIKAN WE CHARTERED A PLANE AND FLEW HERE. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TRIPS I HAVE EVER BEEN ON.”