Arctic Packing Company, the First Cannery
by Tim Troll
The first cannery in Bristol Bay was the Arctic Packing Company cannery established at the Yup’ik village of Kanulik on the Nushagak River. It was built in 1883 and produced the first pack of canned salmon from Bristol Bay in 1884 – 400 cases of tall cans – maybe 6000 fish. It was sometimes known as Rohlff’s Cannery after its founder businessman Carl Rohlffs of San Francisco. The name Rohlff survives (often misspelled) on some maps as the name of the slough running in front of the site. The slough was once the main channel of the Nushagak River. Few people living in Bristol Bay today would know the origin of the name Rohlff, or even that this place was the beginning of cannery history in Bristol Bay.
The old photo shows the cannery around 1900. Nothing remains of the cannery as can be seen from a more recent photo taken from the same location. On the small hill above the cannery in the old photo the buildings of the Carmel mission of the Moravian Church can be seen. The mission was established almost contemporaneously with the cannery, and both closed not long after the turn of the last century. Rohlff often helped the mission with shipment of supplies on his cannery ships.