Claxton, Telegraph Passage

Claxton, Telegraph Passage

by | Oct 9, 2022

Claxton is a historical salmon cannery and community at the mouth of Claxton Creek on the eastern shore of Telegraph Passage in the Skeena River estuary, about 66 miles (106 km) southwest of Terrace and 19 miles (31 km) south-southeast of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The name Telegraph Passage commemorates part of the route taken in 1866 by the steam sternwheeler Mumford, under the command of Captain Horace Coffin, to transport cable and supplies from Victoria for the construction of the Collins Overland Telegraph. Claxton Creek starts at the outlet of Ptarmigan Lake at an elevation of 2,133 feet (650 m) and flows generally northwest for 3 miles (4.8 km) to Telegraph Passage. The watershed is underlain by Permian to Triassic metamorphic rocks of the Alexander terrane that consists of a broad range of volcanic, sedimentary, and plutonic rocks and their metamorphic equivalents. A large dolomitic deposit occurs about 1,000 feet (300 m) from the water at Claxton. Claxton was started in 1891 by the Royal Canadian Packing Company and was the first of the remote Skeena River canneries built beyond the protected waters of the river mouth and closer to the fishing grounds.

The cannery was named after Frederic J. Claxton, one of the promoters of the site. The cannery had a large wharf built over the tidal mud flat that extended into deep water and was capable of docking steamers at any time of the year. In 1893, a sawmill powered by water from a flume was built to make lumber and boxes for the Claxton facility as well as several other Skeena canneries. The community supported a population of 200 and had sidewalks, a post office, a church, a large store, a boat shop, and a hotel on the waterfront that promoted the health benefits of hot springs located nearby. In 1899, Claxton was purchased by the Wallace Brothers Packing Company that later became Wallace Fisheries. The sale included 150 acres (61 ha), dwelling houses, administration buildings, a store and stock of goods, the sawmill, blacksmith forge, fishing boats, nets and gear, and a complete canning factory with two full canning lines and five retort ovens, cold storage, and boiler house. In 1923, Wallace Fisheries was purchased by Kildala Packing Company which was acquired by British Columbia Packers in 1926, and they operated the facility until it closed in 1944, and then used it for a seine net loft until 1949.

The location selected for Claxton was on the main navigational channel used by steamships traveling between Victoria and the Skeena and Naas Rivers. The remote canneries in the Pacific Northwest relied on coastal steamers to transport machinery, supplies, and labor necessary for the season’s operations, and to transport the canned pack when the season finished. The best canneries were located where certain environmental conditions were met, including a tidewater berth large and deep enough to accommodate these ships. A gently sloping shoreline with a soft substrate was required for driving piles so that the cannery could be built over water which minimized the time and labor for handling fish and facilitated the disposal of waste products. This also allowed the smaller fishing boat to be hauled out of the water at the season’s end. A reliable water supply was also necessary, and this was either from a nearby stream or diverted from a lake. Claxton was an example of a cannery that had all of these attributes and was considered one of the best cannery locations in the Pacific Northwest. Read more here and here. Explore more of Claxton and Telegraph Passage here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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