The lower Skeena Estuary and coastal area is home to this region’s most historic sites. This seldom visited area has a a wide variety of unique sites related to the early history of this region. The area is home to the many abandoned canneries, boat building towns, mills, and fishing villages. There were over 30 canneries on the north coast in the early 1900’s and this created many associated towns and industry in the area. Touring this part of the NorthCoast is truly a memorable experience for anyone interested in a unique historical adventure!
The lower Skeena River on British Columbia’s North Coast was line with over 26 canneries starting in 1877 with the Inverness Cannery. Inverness was situated in the Skeena Slough or one arm of the delta of the Skeena River before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. This slough is also Known as “Cannery Row” due to the numerous canneries which lined it’s shores. North Pacific Cannery and Cassiar Cannery still have substantial remains with North Pacific now a national historic site. Other than these two relatively easily accessible canneries, many of the other ones are boat access only and at different stages of decay and remaining remnants. The hidden treasures that remain and the stories they tell are truly amazing. One of the best sources of information on the canneries is Gladys Blyth’s book “Salmon Canneries British Columbia North Coast”. We are fortunate to be able to deliver a 3 day tour to these sites plus many other fishing villages and historic sites in our “Canneries of the North Coast Tour”. Through the UNBC “Northern BC Adventures Program”
One of the iconic towns of the Skeena River is the town of Port Essington. Founded by Robert Cunningham in 1871 and a fall camping spot of the Tsimshian known as Spokeshute this site has over a wealth of interesting sites and features that will truly amaze you! A jungly 100 year cemetery with hundreds of moss covered headstones, a grisly boneyard of cow skulls and bones, a one km long boardwalk falling into disrepair, pilings protruding out of the brackish river on their last legs, a boiler form the Cunningham sawmill, old bottles, trinkets, and remnants from over 100 years of habitation. The One day Port Essington Experience will jet boat you back in time to a place that few have visited and explored.
When most people think of Ringbolt Island on the Skeena river they think of the one in Kitselas Canyon. There is actually another on the Lower Skeena in the Salmon Cannery area. Directly in front of the remnants of the 1895 Carlisle Cannery lies another small island with a series of ringbolts lining the top. I am not sure of the exact purpose of the ringbolts but most likely they were used to tie off some sort of fishing boast that were used in the fishing industry. It was one of the first Canneries to be built outside of the protected waters of the Skeena River. This Cannery was built in 1895 and ceased operations in 1950. The cannery produced a high of 72 000 cases in 1941. It is one of the many Canneries we will visit on our Canneries of the Northcoast tour in May 2017. It is very seldom visited and one of the unique places we will explore on the tout
This is our third new tour that we are introducing this year. This tour will amaze you with the vast historic remnants from this remote area of the lower Skeena River. This one will fill up quickly so don’t wait too long to sign up for this truly unique adventure!
The Port Essington Experience is a unique adventure on the tidal portion of the lower Skeena River. The once thriving cannery town and service centre for the Skeena Region has almost 100 years of history to explore.
The overgrown cemetery with hundreds of headstones is a highlight of the tour. The low tides of the Skeena will expose a myriad of historical features rarely seen, like the eerie “Essington Bone Yard” with skulls and bones.
Artifacts from the canneries past lie abandoned on the beach and inland. These will help us learn more about the incredible history of the town that the Tsimshians called “Spa Xksuutks”.
Our adventure will also include stops at other Skeena Cannery sites like Claxton, Carlisle, Balmoral, Haysport and Cannery Row. We will boat by the unique and rarely visited Icelandic community of Osland with its km long boardwalk. You won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit these rarely visited and unique sites on the lower Skeena River.
We are excited this year to have a new format for the canneries tour. We have three jam packed days of touring the old cannery sites of the seldom visited lower Skeena River.
Explore the once thriving canneries and fishing communities of the lower Skeena River and Chatham Sound. For three days and four nights you will be immersed in the history of this region as we spend out nights in the newly renovated manager’s houses on the site of Cassiar Cannery. This will be our base for exploring the area as we leave each morning by Jet Boat on a new adventure. This seldom explored area is home to some of the most unique and interesting historical sites. Over twenty canneries once lined the bank of the Skeena and ocean shores, but they have all since closed and only remnants remain. The history from the 100 years of operation is rich and plentiful as we get to see for ourselves the locations of all these sites.
Explore the following Canneries:
• North Pacific
• Porcher Island
• Port Essington
One the many Canneries on the North Coast we will visit is the old Carlisle Cannery at the mouth of the Skeena River. It was one of the first Canneries to be built outside of the protected waters of the Skeena River. This Cannery was built in 1895 and ceased operations in 1950. The cannery produced a high of 72 000 cases in 1941. When seeing photos from the past of Carlisle Cannery was a bustling place that sprawled across the shore and out onto the ocean with hundreds of pilings. When heading back now to look at a 120 year old cannery there does not seem to be much left but when you start to explore on shore it is amazing what remains in the mud amongst the pilings and in the forest where rows of houses once stood. Here are a few then and now photos.
During our “Canneries of the NorthCoast” tour and two nights of the “Skeena River Historic Journey by Jet Boat” we will be staying at the historic Cassiar Cannery on the banks of the Skeena River near the estuary. The guest will be staying in the former homes of the cannery managers, the houses have been restored and are fully furnished with luxury linens and complete kitchens.
The Cassiar Cannery, which was built on Inverness Passage on the Skeena River in 1903. It canned salmon until 1983 which made it the longest running cannery on the Northcoast. Here is a link to their website.
Each morning we will board the jetboats in front of the Cannery and head off for our next adventure. We do not have to travel far as this area of the Skeena was the epicentre of the commercial salmon industry. There are remnants from the past everywhere if you know where to look. Let us show you some amazing sights and also learn about this historic area of our province.
Here is a link to a “Time lapse video” from the deck of one of the Guest Houses.
On our “Canneries of the NorthCoast” Tour we will visit the the sites of over 10 canneries that were situated in the Skeena River Estuary. Some have many buildings still remaining while others are just a a set of pilings. For those that like to explore and “poke” around there is always a plethora of items to find laying in the mud or in the forest where the canneries once stood. For photographers there is no shortage of unique and interesting photo opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.
Haysport was one of these Skeena River Canneries. it lies on the north side of the Skeena River across from Port Essington and adjacent to the Grand Trunk Pacific rail line. It was named for Charles Hays, president of the railway at the time. It was established in cold Storage facility in 1910 and as a cannery in 1919. By the 1930’s fishereis had moved the commercial fishing boundary below this point which hurt the cannery and it eventually closed in 1938.
Today many pilings remain as well as a 500 m fairly intact boardwalk or Haysport mainstreet. There are also lots of old items and remnants still littering the surrounding forest.
Port Essington is another stop on our Jet Boat Photography and Ghost Towns of Northwest BC programs. It is a remote historic that is difficult to access and coordinate. It is located on the lower Skeena River which is impacted by 16ft tides which makes the launching of boats and planning of activities very important. The jet boat ride on the lower Skeena River is amazing though as we cruise past the remnants of many old canneries as this was the centre of the canneries on the Skeena River. We will explore the cannery site and the view what is left before it all disappears. The highlights are the old boardwalk and the objects that line the forest just up from the beach.