Yakutat, Monti Bay

Yakutat, Monti Bay

by | Aug 25, 2018

Yakutat is a small community on Monti Bay, on the southeast shore of Yakutat Bay, Alaska. The name “Baie de Monti” was given in 1786 to Yakutat Bay or a part of it by Captain Lapérouse. It was named for Lieutenant de Monti who was the first officer of L’ Astolabe, one of Lapérouse’s ships, and the first to reconnoiter the bay. It was called De Monti Bay on early U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey charts, but since 1945 the name has been contracted to Monti Bay.

Yakutat Bay extends southwest from Disenchantment Bay to the Gulf of Alaska. “Yakutat” is a Tlingit name reported as “Jacootat” and “Yacootat” by Yuri Lisianski in 1805, meaning “the place where canoes rest”. The original settlers in the Yakutat area were Eyak-speaking people from the Copper River area. They were assimilated when the Tlingit migrated into the area before the arrival of Europeans. In the 18th and 19th centuries, English, French, Spanish and Russian explorers came to the region. The Shelikhov-Golikov Company, precursor of the Russian-American Company, built a fort in Yakutat in 1795 to facilitate trade in sea otter pelts. It was known as New Russia, Yakutat Colony, or Slavorossiya. When the Russians cut off access to the fisheries nearby, a Tlingit war party attacked and destroyed the fort.

After the Alaska Purchase in 1867, the black sand beaches in the area were mined for gold. A cannery, a sawmill, a store, and a railroad were constructed by the Stimson Lumber Company and many people moved to Yakutat to be closer to the cannery. The cannery closed in 1970, but fishing is still the largest economic activity. In addition, Yakutat now hosts the largest surfing community in Alaska, drawn to the good beach breaks and big swells. A paved runway was built during World War II that still provides for scheduled airline service. Read more here and here. Explore more of Yakutat here:

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