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 moved in and a paved runway was constructed. Troops enjoyed Yakutat until they were withdrawn after the war, but the runway is still in use.
The United States purchased the territory of Alaska from Russia. At that time, in 1867, Russian leaders were convinced they had gotten the better of the deal, while many Americans suspected that their government had foolishly bought worthless property. Within Congress there was considerable opposition to the Alaska purchase. There were strong possibilities that either the Senate would fail to ratify the Alaska treaty or the House would not appropriate the money needed to buy this vast northern territory. Even supporters of the treaty, who recognized the potential economic and strategic value of Alaska, never dreamed that it would become such a center for strategic communications, command, and control.
Yakutat has a population just under 900. Most of the residents are associated in one way or another with the fishing industry. The town has a bank, hardware store, couple of food markets and a few nice restaurants to have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Night life consists of a few bars serving spirits and snacks.
Fishing is the primary enjoyment. However, Yakutat has some great hiking, beach combing, sightseeing and a nice relaxing atmosphere. Bring a camera and/or camcorder. Plenty of wild life and great scenery. One of the favorite past times when not fishing is a daily visit to the dump. At the dump you have a good chance to watch Brown Bear play and scavage. Eagles are everywhere and if you keep your eyes open and look around you'll find other critters like otters, mouse and even cats!
The most bazaar thing I see, which always makes me wonder, is seeing the surfer! Yes, surfers. It has been written in Surfer Magazine that Yakutat has a great break that last for what seems forever.
In all, this is truly the "Last Frontier". Do your self a favor and come see for your self.
Ron & Angel Pelissier (907) 784-3545 or (831) 809-8030 P O Box 496 Yakutat, Alaska 99689