Big Port Walter, Baranof Island

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Big Port Walter, Baranof Island

by | Jan 26, 2019

Port Walter is a deep and narrow embayment about 3.7 miles (6 km) long on the southeast coast of Baranof Island, 9.5 miles (15 km) north of Port Alexander. The bay includes Little Port Walter near the entrance and Big Port Walter near the head of the bay. The name was first published in 1901 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Big Port Walter is a sheltered basin, with depths of 22-54 fathoms (40-98 m), entered through a narrow passage 0.4 miles (0.6 km) long and only 0.18 miles (0.3 km) wide. A large stream cascades into the basin from a lake about 800 feet (24 m) high. The basin is too deep for good anchorage and freezes in winter. The ruins of a wharf for an abandoned salmon cannery and herring saltery are at the head of the bay.

In 1917, the Alaska Pacific Herring Company built a saltery in Big Port Walter, but after 2 years sold to Southern Alaska Canning Company and the facility was converted into a salmon cannery. They closed in 1922, and the facility was sold to Pacific American Fisheries in 1929 but remained idle. In the late 1940s, the cannery was used as a herring reduction plant. Fish oil was pumped into a tank on the pier until the weight of the oil caused the pier to collapse. In 1949, there were 37 herring oil reduction plants in Southeast Alaska. A wooden pipe was laid down the mountain from the lake above to generate electricity for the town. The herring boom didn’t last long, and the king salmon fishery collapsed shortly after the herring were gone. Read more here and here. Explore more of Big Port Walter here:

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