Imagine a century ago, when hundreds of fishing boats would be out on the Skeena and Nass Rivers for 4-5 days per week, 24 hours per day during the salmon runs, in all kinds of weather and sea conditions. Tender boats would shuttle the salmon catch back to the docks of the North Pacific Cannery. Imagine a dock with thousands of silvery salmon being cued up for processing. It was tough work done by specialists of different ethnic backgrounds. In the beginning the work was all manual, even the cans were made by hand. As time went on, new machines and processes improved the efficiency and ability to can more salmon.
The North Pacific Cannery was more than just a cannery. It was a small town, processing salmon for over 90 continuous years from 1889 to 1968, and remains the oldest standing cannery on the West Coast. A tour of the North Pacific Cannery is a glimpse back in time, where you get a sense of how these hardy people fished, processed the salmon, and lived in different housing areas onsite. As you tour the buildings and grounds, you can almost hear and feel what it must have been like.
The North Pacific Cannery museum captures what cannery life was like for the Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and Europeans working in this plant. You can walk from building to building and see how a cannery worked, see the company store, office building, and rows of houses. You can tour the cannery on your own, or take one of the group tours to learn more about the canning process and the social aspects of life here.
The North Pacific Cannery is located 22 km south of Prince Rupert. You can rent a car in town or take the local bus which stops right in front of the cannery. Allow about 3 hours for a docent’s tour of the facility. The Crew Kitchen, a small café at the cannery, sells baked goods and is open for lunch. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop.
The North Pacific Cannery is accessible by boat, 5 miles up Inverness Passage from Chatham Sound. The cannery has a 45-foot guest dock for stays up to 4 hours on a first-come, first serve basis. It’s best to time your visit around high tide to minimize the effects of river flow from the Skeena River.