Tlingit Indian History (Over 800 years of fishing and adventure!)

The history of our lodge site has always been noted for exceptional fishing. The local fishing grounds were originally discovered by the Tlingit Indians when they traveled from Canada to what is now called Southeast Alaska and constructed their first village only minutes from our lodge. Once they had time to venture through the region, they discovered and built another village site where our lodge is currently located. The Tlingit name “Killisnoo” means “Shelter from the wind”. The Tlingits chose Killisnoo Island due to the exceptional weather, calm waters of Chatham Strait and the superb fishing on the saltwater as well as the freshwater.

Hutsnuwu Raven leaders in ceremonial garb, at potlatch given to Wolf-Eagle clans, Angoon 1901. Left to right: Youth wearing an abalone-incrusted ‘bear’s ears’ head-dress and a Chilkat blanket. Mrs. Chief Mitlakettle in black, as a mourner. Chief Mitlakettle of Basket Bay and two unidentified younger men. A huge thanks to the Sobeloff Picture Collection!

Alaska Northwest Trading Company (mid 1800’s to 1920’s)

The Trading Company, which was later renamed Alaska Fish Oil and Guano, was a trading stop for the whaling fleet that operated in the Bering Sea. Alaska Fish Oil and Guano began rendering oil from herring (our bait fish) and salmon which were locally caught and used in foods, medicine and for lubricants. The by-product, which was ground herring and other fish, was sold as fertilizer and was used in California and Hawaii for pineapple and sugar cane and other crops.

The founders of Whaler’s Cove Lodge had viewed a vessel passenger’s journal from the late 1800’s which states that the crew of the schooner fished in the exact spot for halibut as we do today. The historical log book also refers to the wealth of herring found around the area. This holds true today; the abundance of herring supports our immense resource of all five Pacific Northwest Salmon (King, Coho, Sockeye, Chum and Pink), Halibut, Black Cod and over twenty species of Rockfish including Ling Cod and Red Snapper.

In 1886, Alaska Northwest Trading Company founded the town of Killisnoo on the abandoned Tlingit village site on (then called) Kenasnow Island. The site was chosen due to the prosperous fishery and the calm harbor. The town of Killisnoo was destroyed by fire in 1928. The fish plant was saved, but the homes of the work force were lost. This amazing story was recounted by an equally amazing individual (Dr. Walter Sobeloff) who was born and raised in the town of Killisnoo. Before his passing he was our guest and told the story as he was witness to the loss of the town (as a child).

Whaler’s Cove Lodge Founders (1950’s through 2013)

Whaler’s Cove, Inc. was originally founded as a partnership between Carl (Jake) and Marguerite (Peg) Jacobson and Richard (Dick) Powers and Stella Powers in 1977. The concept and actual construction began in 1970 as an informal partnership between Jacobson and Powers. The formalization of Whaler’s Cove, Inc. began with the first written partnership agreement and the formation of a Subchapter S corporation 8 years later. The lodge site is part of US Survey #5; one of the first patented properties in Alaska (1882). It was previously an Indian Village and after the Alaska Purchase, a trade manufacturing site. The lodge location was once, also, the town site of Killisnoo; a herring rendering and fish processing plant and one of the largest towns in Alaska at the turn of the century. A fire in 1928 and The Great Depression put the rendering plant out of business in the early 1930’s. The Jacobsons purchased the abandoned property from the caretaker in 1952.

In 1970, the principals of Whaler’s Cove, Inc. started construction by clearing the site of dilapidated Killisnoo buildings and dock remains. They purchased a portable sawmill, cut beach logs into building materials and framed the original lodge and 3 cabins. The development proceeded slowly until 1975 when Powers resigned his Forest Service job (area manager in Yakutat, Alaska) and moved to Angoon. He purchased the general store, Angoon Trading Company, from the Jacobsons and accelerated the growth of Whaler’s Cove Lodge. The first summer season of guests was in 1983.  Whaler’s Cove Lodge soon gained enough momentum that Mr. Powers sold Angoon Trading to focus his efforts on the sportfishing lodge.

Whaler’s Cove, Inc. sold Whaler’s Cove Lodge in 2014.  The last remaining original founder of the lodge, Richard Powers sold his home in Angoon and resided on Killisnoo Island, 1/4 mile from the lodge.  When his energy allowed, he frequented the lodge during it’s operating season and enjoyed the legacy he created.  Richard “Pops” Powers left this world for the Great Fishing Grounds on October 22, 2021.

Killisnoo Harbor 2014 – Today

Killisnoo Harbor LLC was formed in 2013 by Mark & Kristine Powers.  Killisnoo Harbor, LLC then bought the property and Whaler’s Cove Lodge name in 2014. Mark had helped build the lodge as a child (free working family labor). He came back to the lodge after careers in commercial fishing, building construction and development to see the business succeed into the future. Kristine joined forces with Mark in the endeavor, after building a career in tourism, event production, real estate, and property management.

Both have thrown themselves into learning all there is to know about the hospitality industry, while running, revamping, & building  the entire infrastructure of a self-sufficient town on a remote island in Alaska.  The growth and evolution of the facilities and the business would not have been possible without the help of many skilled and talented friends and crew members.

In addition to the continued improvement of the facilities and equipment, the owners have invested significant effort and time to discover crew who are willing to provide an exceptional customer experience.  While the lodge is now run by an autonomous management team (check out the “Crew” page for more details) who are active in the day to day operations of the organization and island logistics, Mark & Kristine are dedicating their energies to supporting Killisnoo Island and the surrounding communities through other endeavors.

Today, Whaler’s Cove Lodge is truly an authentic and enduring Alaskan Lodge. 2023 will be WCL’s 41st summer hosting sport charter fishing in gorgeous SE Alaska.  Come visit us, relax, and join our Island Family!

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