I pulled into the gravel parking lot and saw picturesque, colorful wooden buildings that were elevated on stilts above the river with stunning snowcapped mountains and the blue sky as the backdrop. It looked like it came right out of a postcard. I walked over the railway tracks and made my way onto the boardwalk. I couldn’t wait to roam around and explore the village site of the North Pacific Cannery. I was so impressed how well preserved the 1889 North Pacific Historic Fishing Village looked. This historic site proudly showcases the oldest remaining intact salmon cannery village on the West Coast of North America.
In the late 1800’s, there were close to a thousand salmon canneries that lined the West Coast, from California up to Alaska. The fishing industry no doubt played a vital role in the economic and cultural development in North America as it enlisted many ethnic workers as fisherman, boat builders, and cannery workers. Many of these men brought their families with them to these remote places and so the cannery provided them with modest size homes which created a fishing village.
I poked my head into one of the family accommodations that was the size of a bachelor suite apartment. The front door opened up into a multipurpose room, a dining room, living room and kitchen. There was one bedroom that was just big enough to fit a double bed. There was one window in the main room and in the bedroom. This home would accommodate two adults and 2 kids. Families would live here during the fishing season in the summers. These wooden buildings were linked by a wooden boardwalk and were hoisted up on wooden beams over the estuary of the Skeena River. If you want a unique overnight experience in the beautiful backdrop of a remote wilderness, I suggest booking a room in one of the original bunkhouses. Not to worry, breakfast is served in the common area and there are meals available at the Mess Hall Café.
As I walked inside the cannery facility, it was interesting to see that everything was done by hand before the age of technology. Certain ethnic group had specific tasks in the cannery. For example, the Japanese men made and repaired the boats and fish nets, the Europeans and First Nations men caught the salmon, and the Chinese workers cleaned, gutted and canned the fish. Even the tin cans were made on site.
It was fascinating to see the original canning line and to step into modest living quarters of the people that lived at the cannery site. One of my favorite places to explore was the company store, all the colorful tin cans and the collection of original artifacts were all neatly displayed. When I was younger, I loved to play grocer, picking up food items and loading them in my shopping cart and checking them out. This general store would have been a dream playhouse for me in my childhood days.
The North Pacific Cannery’s primary focus is to preserve the heritage of the North Coast region of British Columbia. After a visit here, you’ll definitely gain a new appreciation for how the fishing and cannery industry contributed to the social and economic development in BC.
Summer Contact: 1 (250) 628-3538
Winter Contact: 1 (250) 628-3667www.cannery.ca