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 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.

1918

Waterfall Cannery experiences a labor walkout. Four cannery line workers ask for an hourly raise, from 20 cents to 25 cents. When the superintendent refuses, the men swim across a stream to a nearby bight and camp there for two days until the superintendent concedes.

1923

Waterfall Cannery is sold to Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, owner of the nationwide chain of A&P stores.

1925

Nakat Packing Corporation, a subsidiary of A&P, is formed to operate 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 new $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

1954

New England Fish Company, then owners of Steamboat Bay Cannery on nearby Noyes Island, contracts to shift all its local fish packing to the larger operation at Waterfall Cannery. New England Fish ceases to run Steamboat Bay as a cannery and instead maintains it as a fish-buying station and marine service center. So begins what becomes the decades-long relationship between Waterfall and Steamboat Bay.

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 by ferry to the rest of the U.S. National Highway System.

1962

Alaska adopts the king salmon as its official state fish.

1963

Waterfall Cannery begins processing salmon roe in a structure called the Egg House, later to become Waterfall Resort's premium Egg House Suites.

1969

New England Fish purchases the assets of Nakat Packing Company, including Waterfall Cannery. Steamboat Bay Cannery closes and the property there remains largely unused for the next 15 years.

1971

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

New England Fish sells Waterfall Cannery’s buildings and land 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 and cabins that once housed cannery crew are carefully renovated to host sport-fishing fans from around the world.

1984

New England Fish sells its unused property at Steamboat Bay to private buyers.

1985

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

1989

Waterfall Resort hosts the first annual King of Kings Salmon Tournament, which continues to the present day.

2004

The first annual King Salmon Jackpot Challenge is held at Waterfall Resort to celebrate June as peak season for Southeast Alaska’s acclaimed king salmon fishing.

2012

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

2013

New owners at Steamboat Bay work with the Waterfall Group to launch Steamboat Bay Fishing Club, luxury sister lodge to Waterfall Resort, reestablishing the relationship that began in the 1950s.

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 the latest 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.”