Have you ever heard of the Lulu Island Canning Company? The Fraser River salmon cannery was just one of up to 150 that operated in this province, beginning in the 1880s up to the 1950s.
Canneries once flourished along B.C.’s coast and are a unique and fascinating part of our history. Usually tucked away in remote locations, the canneries were a hive of activity and employed workers from all walks of life. Chinese immigrants, First Nations, men and women all worked towards the same goal of catching, washing, canning, loading, and dispatching millions of cans of salmon around the world. See our Winter 2010 article “Cannery Life” by Rosemary Neering for more information.
These days, there are remnants of old canneries around the province, such as the Butedale Cannery on Princess Royal Island, but few are fully restored to welcome visitors. This spring, as the canneries open to visitors, why not consider a unique trip into the recent past?
This national historic site in Port Edward, near Prince Rupert, is open to visitors from May to September. The cannery was established in 1889 and ran for 100 years. These days, visitors can stroll along the boardwalk, enjoy a salmon dish in the café, or even spend a night in the authentic but comfortable Bunkhouse Hostel. Displays describe the fishing and canning process and the workers’ way of life.
The popular cannery is located in the fishing village of Steveston, about 30 kilometres from downtown Vancouver. Guides will fire up the cannery line and visitors can experience the process firsthand, with many of the site’s machines still operational. The structures date back to between 1894 and 1964 and include an icehouse and a vitamin oil shed. The cannery holds more than 10,000 items pertaining to the processing of salmon, herring, and halibut, including machinery dating back to the 1900. As a preview, watch our editor’s video shot live at the cannery.
Other canneries in the province offer unique overnight accommodation, including Good Hope at Rivers Inlet, and Tallheo, near Bella Coola, which also features tours.