On the way out of Prince Rupert, B.C. the North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site (Parks Canada) (NPC) stands on the Skeena River. It was a favorite stop of mine on the way from AK to CA. If you’d like to travel back to the start of that trip begin HERE.
Nearly 200 West Coast canneries (Sacramento River to Bristol Bay, AK) existed from the mid 1800’s and into the 20th century. Only a few survive today. NPC was built in 1889.
As usual for the area, the day was blanketed in gray. Light rain fell at times. The dark river flowed past making the green vegetation pop. Colors are more saturated when wet, something I noted and loved when travelling through S.E. AK and B.C. Living in such a wet climate, with so little sun, would drive me mad. Still, I sometimes wonder if I could trade the sun for the beauty of these places.
Most canneries were in very rural/isolated areas, taking advantage of the salmon runs up rivers. The NPC clings to the Skeena’s banks and extends into the water on pilings. Boats had no refrigeration, necessitating a cannery on the river for quick fish delivery.
A tour given by a First Nations young lady I joined. Detailed photos and interpretive signs furthered the learning during my first cannery visit.
The main building contains most of the assembly line used in the canning process. One fella started up parts of it. What a racket! If I remember correctly (maybe, maybe not) they packed the cans then pressure cooked the fish in the sealed cans. What a noisy, smelly, monotonous working environment it must have been. Initially a completely hand-crafted process (including butchering and making the cans) mechanism increased profit but decreased employees.
Remote locations made for unusual working conditions for the migrant workers who manned (and womanned) the cannery several months out of the year.
Here, a photo of a photo of workers:
PC? Nah…a piece of machinery named for those it replaced:
Also in this building were displays of boats, motors, cans, labels, tables, sinks, and much more.
Workers needed housing. Race and culture dictated labor division. For example, Europeans fished and managed, the Japanese mended nets and fished, all worked the cannery line. Housing was segregated. Though some cabins are intact, many rotted away in neglect. One village area, destroyed in a landslide (or was it an avalanche?), killed many people.
Note the roses and foxglove. Sigh…
By 1891 The NPC packed a quarter of B.C’s total salmon production and the most sockeye salmon worldwide. This lasted into the late 1970’s when the cannery was sold. Then, a brief stint as a fish reduction plant lasted until 1980 when it was sold off and closed.
This larger home must have been a managers quarters. Being restored now, the workers were slogging through mud, working on the foundation.
A furnished business office:
One entire building, full of nets, floats and such was fun to peruse:
A bunk house offers travelers affordable lodging. Coffee and pie I enjoyed at the cafe. NPC is a fine museum. Canada really knows how to do parks, folks, we could learn a lot from them.
This concludes the tale of the great trip from AK to CA a year ago. A few pics I snapped along the Frasier River. Perhaps they will show up as Wordless Wed. pics? By this point I had little time to get to CA leaving no time to explore.
The B.C. coast intrigues me to no end. I foresee many return trips up that way.