2018 Canneries of the North Coast Highlights

One of our first tours of the year is the “Canneries of the North Coast” and also one of the most unique.  Over the 4 days we visit over 18 remnants of the salmon canneries of the lower Skeena River and the islands at the entrance to it.  Names like Balmoral, Humpback Bay, Claxton and Carlisle to name a few.  We also visit some of the most remote  fishing related communities on the north coast like the Icelandic Community of Osland and the boat building town of Oona River.  Plus we stay 4 nights in a cannery at one of the most unique accommodations in BC- Cassiar Cannery.  The trip is for those who like small group sizes and getting off the beaten path to see some of the most unique sites on the north coast.

Here are some photos of the 2018 tour

Old Boat House at Oona River
Old Growth walk along Oona River
Exploring old Boardwalk among the sedge grass.
Exploring amongst the pilings of an old cannery
Heading back to jet boat after exploring old cannery ruins
Some of the guests aboard the bus at Oona River
Exploring the ruins of Claxton Cannery
Remains of the old Dr House near Dodge Cove
Photographing an discarded headstone left n the mud
Exploring the “Bone Yard” between the cannery piliings
An old headstone at a lower Skeena Cemetery
Enjoying lunch and the views on a secluded island beach
The remains of the humpback bay cannery
The “Rainbow House” at Oona River!
Remains of a lower Skeena River Cannery

The Lower Skeena Canneries and Historic Sites!

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!

May 15-18, 2018 at Cassiar Cannery

The Hi-Lo Crab Boat
Cassiar Cannery from the Air
Remnants of Claxton Cannery
Old abandoned North Coast Boat
Old cabin at Osland
Haysport Boardwalk
The Rainbow House at Oona River
An Old Boat House at Oona River
Old Dr House at Digby Island
The foundation of the Old Hospital on Hospital Island

What lies below the Cannery Tides?

One of the most interesting times to explore the old canneries of the Skeena River is at low tide. This area still has upto 20 ft tides and for a few hours each day the shores come alive with items from the past that provide some insights into the history of these abandoned sites. We usually visit a couple of them at low tide and provide the guests with some time to explore. Old animal skulls, bones, teeth, headstones, bricks, beach glass, muffin pans, pots, ceramics, and much more still remain. Every cannery is unique with the remnants from the past depending on the dismantling, length of operation and year it closed. These seldom visited sites are truly a unique trip and we visit them on our Canneries of the North Coast tour in May 2017.

Skulls below the tide
Claxton Cannery at low tide
My thats a big tooth
Muffin Pan
Abandoned Headstone visible at low tide
More low tide cannery remnants





2017 Skeena River Historic Journey

August 1-6, 2017
Hazelton – Port Edward, BC

Join us for a one a kind journey as we jet boat 200 km of the amazing Skeena River from Hazelton to Port Edward. You will not find a tour like this anywhere else as the guests overnight in a different accommodation adjacent tot he river each night.


Jet Boating down the Skeena River
Jet Boating down the Skeena River enroute to Port Edward
Sternwheeler – The Hazelton

This five day experience will retrace the travels of the sternwheelers that navigated the Skeena River from Hazelton to Port Essington in the early 1900’s. You will join a small group of 10 guests boarding two jet boats to begin a 300 kilometer journey along the Skeena River, through the coastal mountains before arriving at Port Edward. Much of the time will be spent floating the river without the engines running allowing you to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the river on this trip of a lifetime!You will eat, sleep and breathe early Skeena River history for five days on the river, while gaining knowledge about the region from a variety of guest speakers and first nation’s communities. Historic sights of interest will be visited and discussed as your group navigates through some of the most scenic landscapes in the world. This journey will provide photographers with some very unique picture taking opportunities. You will spend all five nights in accommodations adjacent to the Skeena River.

Traditional Kitseguecla Smokehouse
Traditional Kitseguecla Smokehouse

The first day of the trip will begin in the community of Hazelton where we will have a “meet and greet” breakfast which will include introductions and a discussion of the tour itinerary. Your first stop is the aboriginal historic site of Ksan. From there, you will board one of two jet powered river boats and begin your voyage down the river towards the ocean. This section of the Skeena was notorious for its navigation hazards and the difficulty it presented for the Sternwheelers, but this will not be an issue for our modern day jet boat transportation. As you journey down the river, your tour guide will highlight many of the stories from this early period of British Columbia’s history and will identify the associated locations. You will stop at the First Nations community of Gitsegukla or “People of the sharp pointed mountain” where a hereditary chief will provide a cultural tour of the village. Next, the tour will travel to “The People of the Place of Rabbits” or Gitwangak, where another hereditary chief will share their knowledge of the carved house totem poles that date back to 1840. The final stop of the first day will be to visit a First Nations salmon netting and processing site on the banks of the river, below the community of Gitwangak. Your accommodations on this first night will be in unique “wall tents” adjacent to the mighty Skeena River that are erected on cedar platforms with spacious sundecks and commanding views. These deluxe tents are well appointed with quiltcovered queen sized beds, antique furnishings, rugs and oil lamps to lend luxury and romance to a “roughing it” experience. The tour will commence in the community of Hazelton with a visit to the historic village of Ksan, a living museum of the Gitxsan Aboriginal people. The trip will finish in the Skeena River Estuary where you will explore the history of the north coast canneries and fishing villages. The last two nights will be spent in the historic “Cassiar Cannery”, a once thriving salmon cannery recently restored as luxury accommodations. You will complete your journey by retracing the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad route on a return trip to Hazelton by rail.

Woodcock Airstrip on the banks of the Skeena River
Robert Tomlinson Grave at the Meanskinisht Cemetery on the Skeena River
Very Unique Accommodations on the first night of the trip
Very Unique Accommodations on the first night of the trip

This will be one of the busiest days as the tour will be stopping at as many historic sites as possible. The day will start with a quick stop at Woodcock, which is home to a crumbling RCAF runway adjacent to the Skeena River. Shortly after this stop, your tour will arrive at the present day site of Cedarvale, or Meanskinisht, as it was known in the early 1900’s. With so much to visit, the jet boats will power through some of the most well know rapids with names like “Devil’s Elbow”, “Hornet’s nest”, and “Gig Rapids”. These rapids were the demise of more than one Skeena River Sternwheeler over the
years. The remote “Ghost Town of Dorreen” will be visited, with one of the part-time residents guiding the group through the scattering of buildings and old vehicles that still remain. The once thriving town of Usk will warrant a quick visit, reaction ferry ride, and presentation by a long time resident. The next stop will be Kitselas Canyon, which was, and still is, the most feared section of the Skeena River. Your second night’s accommodation at the Magnificent Yellow Cedar Lodge on the banks of the Skeena River.

Historic Ring Bolt on Ringbolt Island
Historic Ring Bolt on Ringbolt Island
The Dorreen General Store

After a hearty breakfast in the lodge your journey will continue through some of the most scenic sections of the trip as the Skeena River carves its way through the towering, snowcapped, coastal mountains. This day will be taken at a slower pace with more time to explore islands and gravel bars in search of that unique photo or memory. The jet boats will float many portions of the river on this day, allowing time to just take in the awe inspiring beauty. One of the highlights will be a lunch time salmon BBQ on a Skeena River gravel bar. If water levels permit, you will jet boat up one of the many scenic Skeena River tributaries – some of which are known as “The Most Beautiful Rivers in the World”.

Cruising up a Skeena River Tributary

This segment of the trip marks the tidal portion of the Skeena River. You will boat by some magnificent scenery on this day as waterfalls cascade down from the glaciers and the vegetation and ecology changes to a coastal variety. You will visit Port Essington which is the site of a salmon cannery that operated in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Highlights here include the eerie moss covered grave sites in the cemetery, and the remnants of the historic boardwalk. If the group desires, a stop for a soak in a remote hot spring can be accommodated. The tour will then make its way through the Skeena River estuary before arriving at Cassiar Cannery where you will spend the next two nights.

Port Essington Pilings
Port Essington Cemetery

The last full day on the water will be spent exploring the canneries and fishing communities of the lower Skeena River. The first stop will be the unique fishing community of Osland. The long boardwalk, which is supposedly an extension of Highway 16, and a variety of old fishing boats and cabins will be explored, providing opportunities for photographers to obtain unique photos. The tour will then explore the old cannery locations of Carlisle and Claxton on the south side of the Skeena River. The old pilings, structures and discarded items will again make for some interesting photography. The day will end with a tour of the North Pacific Cannery Historic Site and then back to the Cassiar Cannery.

Osland Boardwalk
Cassiar Manager’s Houses


Waiting for the Train at Cassiar Cannery

For more information on this tour please contact:
Rob Bryce (250) 960-5982 or Rob.Bryce@unbc.ca

2017 Canneries of the Northcoast Tour

Canneries of the Northcoast

May 8-11, 2017
Cassiar Cannery, Port Edward, BC

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.

Rusty Old Cannery Roof

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.

Old boat layed to rest

Explore the following Canneries:
• Balmoral
• Carlisle
• Cassiar
• Claxton
• Haysport
• North Pacific
• Porcher Island
• Port Essington
• Dominion
• Sunnyside
• Inverness

Old Cannery on skeena Slough

• Oceanic

Port Essington Pilings by guest Andrew Pugh



Cassiar Cannery Manager Houses voted one of the most unique accommodations in BC

Marine life on the Skeena Estuary

Many of our Educational Travel Programs take advantage of the magnificent scenery along the Skeena River Estuary. The estuary is not a typical estuary that is well defined with a big flood plain. The rivers flows out between many islands and channels before it reaches open ocean. The estuary is home to many marine mammals and while out exploring this past week here were a couple of the mammals that we spotted.

Skeena Sea Lions
Skeena Sea Lions
Cassiar Cannery Porpoise
Cassiar Cannery Porpoise
Skeena Sea Lions
Skeena Sea Lions
North Pacific Cannery Porpoise
North Pacific Cannery Porpoise

Canneries of the NorthCoast – Cassiar Cannery

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.

Cassiar Cannery Guest Houses

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.


Osland – Skeena River Fishing Community

On the UNBC Educational Tour “Canneries of the Northcoast ” & “The Skeena River Historical Journey by Jet Boat” we will visit the Icelandic fishing community of Osland.  It is situated on Smith Island  at the mouth of the Skeena River. The community was settled 1910-15 with a group of Icelandic individuals from the province of Manitoba. The community was quite small with a population rarely exceeding 100. The main industry was fishing.  Today it is a small community of cabins and cottages with a scattereing of old boats and relics from the fishing days.  The most unique feature is the 1 km long boardwalk that parallels the ocean which makes for a magnificent stroll while looking for that unique photo.

Osland Boardwalk



Old boat relic along the Osland Boardwalk

Haysport Cannery

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.

Haysport Cannery Boardwalk
Haysport Cannery Pilings