Location & ACCESS
Yakutat, Alaska is located halfway between Juneau and
Cordova at the north end of the southeast “panhandle” of
Alaska. Yakutat is easily accessed with twice daily flights
by Alaska Airline 737 jet. Arrive before lunchtime by taking
flight #61 out of Seattle Tacoma Airport or route through
Anchorage with flight #66 to land in the early evening which
often allows for coordinating connecting flights from
further away. Gain precious time for sightseeing or fishing
by arriving on the morning plane and departing on the
Lodge staff can pick you up & transport you to
the lodge. However most guests choose to rent a
vehicle in order to take full advantage of all
the area has to offer. Rental vehicles are
rented by the day & may be added to your lodge
as package making payment easier at check out.
Leonard’s Landing Lodge is just 6 miles from the
airport. It shares a scenic bay with the Yakutat
boat harbor where fish & sightseeing charters
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Leonard’s Landing Lodge was purchased in 1997 by a group of
sports fishermen most of whom had a long history of staying
at the lodge. The lodge site was originally a marine repair
station and had the only marine “ways” railway to pull boats
out of the bay in order to work on them in hundreds of
miles. The previous owner of the lodge began creating
lodging space until there was two waterfront duplex
buildings, a small cabin, a warehouse building with two
apartments on the top floor, a structure housing three
rental units, plus a large building with several guest rooms
that was leased to a local seafood processor as a bunkhouse.
After the original “Leonard” died, his grandchildren
operated the lodge, adding a waterfront restaurant in
1995. When his granddaughter who managed the lodge
wanted to move and raise a family, the property was
purchased by the current ownership. At that time the
bunkhouse became the main lodge with office, gift shop,
hotel rooms and lobby.
Sadly, the restaurant
building caught fire & burned to the ground on Labor Day
of 2007, taking with it the two apartment rentals that
were above it & the main walk-in freezer. By August of
2008, three new waterfront cabins were ready for
occupancy in place of the original structure. The
property is constantly being upgraded in order to assure
the best guest experience. The older waterfront duplex
units have been completely remodeled, upgrades in the
main lodge have created a comfortable, functional
facility for lodge room guests, and upgrades to the
Halibut building, housing the 3 larger units, were
completed. The sport fish processing facility has also
been upgraded with a blast freezer high quality vacuum
packing equipment & new equipment on existing freezers.
The village name of Yakutat was derived from the Eyak word
Yat-tat, meaning the lagoon behind the breakers or “where
the canoes rest.” Yakutat has a diverse cultural history.
It is believed that because of its location, Yakutat grew as
an important trade and travel post and was eventually
settled by the Eyak from the Copper River area, Tlingits
from the South East, and the Athabascans from the Northern
Interior who were united through trade, war, potlatches and
marriage. Many spoke three or four languages and could trace
their origins to different homelands. The local language
today is known as the Yakutat Tlingit dialect.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, English, French, Spanish
and Russian explorers visited the region. The
Russian-American Company built a fort in Yakutat in the
1790’s and for years exploited the local Tlingit native
people, plundering their salmon, restricting their travel,
and even abducting their children. The Tlingit finally
responded in 1804 by attacking the fort and burning it to
the ground, causing the Russians to flee the area.
After the civil war in March of 1867, Secretary of State
William Seward signed an agreement with Russia to purchase
Alaska for $7.2 million dollars. In 1889 the Swedish Free
Mission Church had opened a school and sawmill in the
Yakutat area. The Stimson Lumber Company built a cannery,
sawmill, store and a railroad for fish access early in 1903.
The 12-mile fish train was unique. The Yakutat & Southern
was the only railroad in the U.S. built to carry raw fish
and the only one to run on a tide schedule. One of the three
fish pickup points could not be reached by the fishing boats
except during high tide. Each time the train ran it towed 3
to 6 cars each carrying up to 10,000 sockeye or 7,000 coho
salmon. The train was retired in 1949 and now sits on
display at a park entering town.
During World War II there was a fear that Yakutat would
become a Japanese staging area had their battles in the
Aleutian Chain been successful. To counter this threat, the
United States built a major paved airfield in Yakutat in
1941 and moved in nearly 10,000 troops to protect it. This
airfield remains in use today as the commercial Yakutat
airport. The huge flight hangers on the field still remain
and one is being modified and houses the Situk River Fly
Shop and other businesses.
Major armament fortifications were also built along the shoreline
bluffs on the sea side and on the northwestern shores facing the
mouth of Yakutat Bay. Remains of these fortifications still exist
and a park was built among them at Cannon Beach some six miles from
town. Most of the troops were housed and supplied on the tip of the
peninsula facing the bay. For access, a bridge was built across the
salt-water Ankau River which connects to several fairly large salt
water inland lakes. Salt water rushes both directions under this
bridge during the rising and lowering of the tides.
Logging--- Logging operations were
initiated in 1952 and lasted for about 30 years. The slow growth
rate of the local spruce trees did not allow for the logging to be
sustainable. New growth timber, shore-line log dumps and other
facilities are still evident today.
For more information about
Yakutat, call the lodge at 907-784-3006 and order “The Place in
Alaska Called Yakutat” on DVD for $13 & plus $5 shipping/handling.
Thank you to Ted Heikell, writer, producer, and moderator of the DVD
for historical information about Yakutat.kell, writer, producer, and moderator of the DVD for
historical information about Yakutat.