Yakutat is isolated among the lowlands
along the Gulf of Alaska, 212 miles northwest of Juneau and 225 miles
southeast of Cordova. It is at the mouth of Yakutat Bay. The Hubbard and
Malaspina Glaciers are nearby. It lies at approximately 59░ 33' N
Latitude, 139░ 44' W Longitude (Sec. 30, T027S, R034E, Copper River
Meridian). The community is located in the Juneau Recording District.
The area encompasses 5,875 sq. miles of land and 5 sq. miles of water.
has a diverse cultural history. The original settlers are believed to
have been Eyak-speaking people from the Copper River area who were
conquered by the Tlingits. Yakutat means "the place where the canoes
rest." In the 18th and 19th centuries, English, French, Spanish and
Russian explorers came to the region. Fur traders were attracted to the
region's sea otters. The Russian-American Co. built a fort in Yakutat in
1805, to harvest sea otter pelts. Because the Russians would not allow
local Tlingits access to their traditional fisheries, a Tlingit war
party attacked and destroyed the post. In 1884, the Alaska Commercial
Co. opened a store in Yakutat. By 1886, the black sand beaches in the
area were being mined for gold. In 1889 the Swedish Free Mission Church
had opened a school and sawmill in the area. A cannery, sawmill, store
and railroad were constructed beginning in 1903 by the Stimson Lumber
Co. Most residents moved to the current site of Yakutat to be closer to
this cannery, which operated through 1970. During World War II, a large
aviation garrison and paved runway were constructed. Troops were
withdrawn after the war, but the runway is still in use.