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The History of Yakutat Borough, Alaska

    Yakutat is isolated among the lowlands along the Gulf of Alaska, 212 miles northwest of Juneau and 225 miles southeast of Cordova. It is at the mouth of Yakutat Bay. The Hubbard and Malaspina Glaciers are nearby. It lies at approximately 59 33' N Latitude, 139 44' W Longitude (Sec. 30, T027S, R034E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Juneau Recording District. The area encompasses 5,875 sq. miles of land and 5 sq. miles of water.

    Yakutat has a diverse cultural history. The original settlers are believed to have been Eyak-speaking people from the Copper River area who were conquered by the Tlingits. Yakutat means "the place where the canoes rest." In the 18th and 19th centuries, English, French, Spanish and Russian explorers came to the region. Fur traders were attracted to the region's sea otters. The Russian-American Co. built a fort in Yakutat in 1805, to harvest sea otter pelts. Because the Russians would not allow local Tlingits access to their traditional fisheries, a Tlingit war party attacked and destroyed the post. In 1884, the Alaska Commercial Co. opened a store in Yakutat. By 1886, the black sand beaches in the area were being mined for gold. In 1889 the Swedish Free Mission Church had opened a school and sawmill in the area. A cannery, sawmill, store and railroad were constructed beginning in 1903 by the Stimson Lumber Co. Most residents moved to the current site of Yakutat to be closer to this cannery, which operated through 1970. During World War II, a large aviation garrison and paved runway were constructed. Troops were withdrawn after the war, but the runway is still in use.

A Guide to Yakutat, Alaska

Alaska Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development