History of Naknek and Region
Naknek is located on the north bank of the Naknek River, at the northeastern end of Bristol Bay. Some theorists believe that this region was first settled over 10,000 years ago by Yup’ik Eskimos and Athabascan Indians. In 1821, the original village of “Naugeik” was noted by Captain Lt. Vasiliev. By 1880, the village was called Kinuyak, which was later spelled Naknek by the Russian Navy. The Russians built a fort near the village and fur trappers inhabited the area for some time prior to the U.S. purchase of Alaska.
The first salmon cannery opened on the Naknek River on 1890. By 1900, there were approximately 12 canneries in Bristol Bay. The Homestead Act enabled canneries to acquire land for their plants and the Russian Orthodox Church on the north bank of the river was the first land recorded in Naknek, encouraging settlement in the region.
The village developed in the tract of Russian Orthodox Church land deed by the United States under U.S. Survey 880. Squatters built houses on the church property and these lots were eventually sold in what became the heart of Naknek. Our founding member grew up in U.S. Survey 880, on the banks of the Naknek River. A post office was established in 1907 and over the years Naknek has developed as a major fishery center. The Naknek Native Village Council is the federally-recognized tribe located in the village. Several of our original and existing LLC members are enrolled members of this tribe.
Today, Naknek is a fishing community, with a mixed population of approximately 614 Non-Natives, Aleuts, Yup’ik Eskimos, Alutiiq and Athabascans. Approximately 41.1% of the population is Alaska Native, in whole or in part. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 455 total housing units, and 208 were vacant. 145 of these vacant housing units are used only seasonally. Approximately 290 residents were employed at the time of the Census. The unemployment rate at the time was 9.38%, although 35.56% of all adults were not in the work force. Median household income was $53,393, per capita income was $21,182, and 3.73% of residents were living below the poverty level.
Households, schools, and HUD housing have individual wells and almost all homes are fully plumbed. A piped sewage collection system operated by the Borough serves most residents, while some resident have individual septic tanks. Refuse collection is provided by a private firm, with the majority of residents hauling their own waste to the Borough landfill. Electricity is provided by Naknek Electric Association. The electric utility charges approximately $0.85 per KWH, which greatly contributes to the cost of living for local residents. The utility has actively opposed development of solar and wind energy technologies, even going so far as to force the disassembling of solar panels on the local school district.
The economy is predominantly based on salmon fishing and processing. Other sectors of employment include government (including tribal) and the local village corporation, Paug-Vik, Inc. Ltd. 115 residents hold commercial fishing permits. Trident Seafoods, North Pacific Processors, Alaska General Seafoods, Ocean Beauty, Silver Bay Seafoods, Nakeen Homepack, and other processors operate facilities in Naknek. The seafood processing industry primarily produces headed and gutted (H&G) salmon for reprocessing (mostly in China), canned salmon and some fresh and frozen salmon fillets. Most of the frozen fillets are from headed/gutted salmon that is shipped overseas, thawed, and reprocessed using cheap Chinese labor. All of Naknek Family Fisheries’ products are produced in the United States by American workers.
Naknek is located within the Bristol Bay Borough, the first Borough established in the State of Alaska. Naknek is also the seat of the Bristol Bay Borough. Accessible by air and sea, Naknek is also connected to King Salmon via a 15.5 mile road. Two runways serve the town for air transportation: Tibbetts Airport has a lighted 1,700’ long by 60’ wide gravel runway and the State-owned Naknek Airport is 1,950’ long by 50’ wide lighted gravel runway with a 2000’ float plane landing area. Jet services are available at King Salmon.
The Borough operates the cargo dock at Naknek, which is the Port of Bristol Bay. It has 800’ of berthing space and serves Northland Services and provides moorage for fishermen in the region, as well as ice and water. An Alaska Cruise is a great way to get started on your Alaska trip to Naknek.