Kukak Bay Cannery

View from the bow of a boat to a collection of buildings on stilts on the coastline, black and white image
Historic photograph of the waterfront of the Kukak Cannery circa 1925. The main dock, superintendent’s house, the main cannery, the back dock, the tank house, the winterman’s house, the smoke house, the china house, and the oil dock are all visible.

Frida Nelson / Lake Clark National Park & Preserve Archives

  • Period of Significance: 1923 to 1949
  • Current Status: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Current Use: Ruins, not accessible. The Kukak Bay Cannery ruins are located in Katmai National Park, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kukuk Bay Cannery is now an historical archeological district located on the east side of the Alaska Peninsula on the coastline of Katmai National Park and Preserve. The cannery ruins are located in a glacially carved fjord, surrounded by three hills and a rocky shoreline. The location of the cannery was both advantageous and limiting to the siting of buildings. The hills provided a natural barrier against the harsh winds, but restricted space for construction in the valley. Springs running off the hills provided freshwater to the site, while at the same time creating a boggy meadow which required that buildings be constructed on stilts.

Two women with bobbed haircuts and overalls carry shovels and pails, black and white photo
Workers at the Kukak Bay Cannery, no date

NPS Photo (National Register Nomination Photos)

The first cannery at the site was constructed in 1922 by the Hemrich Packing Company to can razor clams. The campus consisted of two cannery buildings, warehouses, bunkhouses, a mess hall, cabins, machine shop, repair shop, electric power plant, two stores, and a wireless station. In 1923, the Hemrich Packing Company leased the site to the Seashore Packing Company, which packed clams from 1925 to 1927, and in 1929. Three years later, the cannery was leased to Pioneer Canneries, Inc. That year, the cannery workforce consisted of 42 people, with women conducting the majority of the cannery labor. The cannery had its most successful pack that season, producing 15,000 cases of clams and 6,350 cases of salmon. Though the 1932 season was successful, the cannery was not operated again until 1935, when Surf Canneries took over. Unfortunately, most of the structures comprising the cannery burned in the following season.

In 1931, the boundary of Katmai National Monument was expanded, reaching the cannery and the clamming beaches. This caused issues for the Hemrich Packing Company, because they would need to obtain a patent to operate on their land. The owners never obtained the patent, and after the fire of 1936, they abandoned the company and the land. In 1980, after the passing of Alaska National Lands Interest Conservation Act (ANILCA), the coastline in which the cannery is situated was designated wilderness, ending any further use of the site.

The Kukak Cannery site was vacant until 1947 when Mainland Fisheries took over. They set up a Quonset Hut to serve as the main cannery building, rebuilt the dock, and rehabilitated the bunkhouses, mess hall, and storage buildings. The company operated until 1949.

Summary timeline of Kukak Bay Cannery
Year Event Owner Pack
1922 First cannery constructed on site Hemrich Packing Company -
1923 Leased by Seashore Packing Company Hemrich Packing Company -
1932 Leased Pioneer Canneries Hemrich Packing Company 21,350 cases
1935 Leased by Surf Canneries Hemrich Packing Company -
1936 Most of the structures burned - -
1936 Property abandoned Hemrich Packing Company -
1947 Operated Mainland Fisheries -
1949 Permanently Closed Mainland Fisheries -
A collapsed structure on a rocky coastline, between water and rolling hills
Photograph shows the collapsed Quonset Hut that replaced the original cannery in 1949.

Katherine Johnson Ringsmuth / Lake Clark National Park & Preserve Archives

Clemens, Janet, and Frank Norris. “Clam and Salmon Canning” in Building in an Ashen Land: Historic Resource Study of Katmai National Park and Preserve. 2nd ed. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service; 2008.

More about Kukak Bay Cannery

Part of a series of articles titled Canneries of Alaska.

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Last updated: November 1, 2021