Dundas Bay Cannery

Cannery buildings extend from a shore, seen through trees from a high view, black and white photo.
Dundas Bay Cannery in 1912

NPS / Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Archives

  • Period of Significance: 1900-1931
  • Current Status: A feature of the Dundas Bay Cultural Landscape
  • Current Use: Ruins; only one structure remains. The Dundas Bay Cannery ruins is part of the Dundas Bay Cultural Landscape in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
In 1900, the Western Fisheries Company of Portland, Oregon built a cannery in a small cove on the west shore of Dundas Bay. Reportedly, the company paid a fee to the head of the T'akdeintaan clan for the use of the land upon which the cannery was built, as well as for the fish in Dundas Bay. Clan members continued to fish in the Dundas River, but sold the fish to the cannery.
Smoke rises from the chimneys of a tight cluster of structures along a steep, wooded shoreline with boats in the water - black and white
Dundas Bay, c. 1900-1910

NPS / Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Archives

The facility initially consisted of a small hand operation capable of producing 300 cases per day. In 1900, the cannery employed 96 workers, including 26 native fishermen and 26 native cannery workers. Most of the Native Alaskan fishermen used company-owned gear and were paid by the fish. They fished primarily in Dundas and Taylor Bays, Cross Sound around Cape Spencer, Glacier Bay, Excursion Inlet, and the Alsek River delta.

By 1912, a small Native Alaskan town had developed adjacent to the cannery buildings. Historical photographs of the town show small houses and ancillary buildings, mostly built on pilings, clustered along the shore of the sheltered inlet north of the cannery. Unlike the large communal houses found in traditional villages, the small houses constructed adjacent to the cannery were likely occupied by a single nuclear or extended family. The photos also show a variety of boats, including traditional dug-out canoes as well as dories and vessels with enclosed cabins, beached in front of the houses or anchored in the bay in front of the buildings. This was a critical period of transition for this aspect of traditional Tlingit culture – it was at this time that dugout canoes rapidly gave way to plank boats, and as soon as gas engines arrived, the era of the canoe was over.

The cannery changed hands in 1901, when the Pacific Packing and Navigation Company purchased the plant and added a mechanized processing line. In 1905, the Northwestern Fisheries Company bought the Dundas Bay facility and continued to operate the cannery until 1931. In 1932, the Northwestern Fisheries Company sold the plant to Pacific American Fisheries, but the new owner never reopened it. With the closing of the cannery, most of the Native Alaskan workers relocated to the village of Hoonah on Chichagof Island. However, they continued to use Dundas Bay on a seasonal basis for traditional subsistance practices of harvesting and preparing resources.

Summary timeline of Dundas Bay Cannery
Year Event Owner Pack
1900 Cannery built Western Fisheries Company 300 case per day
1901 Sold; mechanized processing line Pacific Packing and Navigation Company -
1905 Sold Northwestern Fisheries Company -
1912 Native Alaskan Village develops adjacent to the cannery Northwestern Fisheries Company -
1931 Plant closed Northwestern Fisheries Company -
1932 Sold; never reopened Pacific American Fisheries -
Weathered wooden piers stand in a row along a rocky shore, with long grass in the foreground and foggy mountains in the distance
Dundas Bay Cannery Ruins in 2017


Kurtz, Rick S. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Historic Resource Study. Anchorage: National Park Service, Alaska System Support Office, 1995.

Langdon, Steve. "From Communal Property to Common Property to Limited Entry: Historical Ironies in the Management of Southeast Alaska Salmon:” In, A Sea of Small Boats, J. Cordell, editor. Cultural Survival, Inc., Cambridge. 1989.

Part of a series of articles titled Canneries of Alaska.

Last updated: November 5, 2019