Kanatak, Portage Bay

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Kanatak, Portage Bay

by | Feb 25, 2019

Kanatak is an abandoned community located at the head of Portage Bay, on the south coast of the Alaska Peninsula, about 66 air miles (106 km) southeast of Egegik, Alaska. The original Alutiiq residents lived off the land and traveled seasonally to Bristol Bay via the Kanatak Trail, a route used for centuries to cross the coastal mountains of the Alaska Peninsula. The 5 miles (8 km) trail climbs 900 feet (275 m) over Kanatak Pass between the Pacific Ocean and Becharof Lake.

In the early 20th century Kanatak was a small Native settlement with a population that varied seasonally. In the winter there were Alutiiq families living in small sod barabaras, but in the summer some would go to Bristol Bay to work in the canneries and others to Becharof Lake where they caught and dried salmon for winter food. In the 1920s, Kanatak became synonymous with the oil and gas industry and, along with Katalla on Controller Bay, experienced an oil boom.

In August 1922, two steamships landed drilling equipment at Portage Bay and during a two or three week period, Kanatak changed from a town with a population of 10 or 15 to a typical boom town with a population of nearly 200 living in tents, log cabins, and frame buildings. Work was immediately begun on a road connecting Kanatak and the site selected for drilling which was 17 miles (27 km) to the northwest. The oil and gas development ended in the late 1940s, after efforts to produce recoverable oil failed. When the oil companies abandoned the prospects, the local economy could no longer support the hotels and merchants. This was followed by the closing of the post office and later the Bureau of Indian Affairs school. Read more here and here. Explore more of Portage Bay here:

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