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Mill Bay Cannery | BC Cannery

Mill Bay Cannery buildings on pilings above the Nass River with many small fishing vessels at the wharf. 

Gas powered fishing boats load their nets from the tanks lining the wharf at the Mill Bay Cannery, 1935. Image E-02091 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

The Mill Bay Cannery became a model for future canneries.


54°59’40.5″N 129°53’38.8″W

The Mill Bay Cannery was built on the site of a mill near Kincolith (Gingolx), a Nisga’a village. In 1912 the owner and manager at the time, Henry Doyle, replaced the cabins along the path which connected the cannery to the workers’ living quarters with a large mess house for the European workers. This reduced the fire insurance premiums from the highest of any B.C. cannery to the lowest. This idea was so successful that all new canneries were built using the “Mill Bay model”. Doyle also had two lakes dammed to create a reservoir of water to provide power for the cannery and cold storage plants as well as electricity for all other buildings on site.

By 1923 the two-story cannery was almost twenty-five thousand square feet built on pilings over the Nass River. It featured two lines, four retorts, machine shop, blacksmith shop, boat building shed, and net storage above cannery. It was one of the first canneries in B.C. to have its own can-making equipment and it supplied the nearby Arrandale and Cassiar Canneries with cans. Of all canneries Doyle associated with, the comparatively small Mill Bay plant was his pride and joy.

The plant was closed in 1937 by BC Packers Ltd. and continued to operate as a camp until 1959.

Mill Bay Cannery buildings and wharf with many Columbia River skiffs moored in front of the wharf.

Mill Bay Cannery, 1913. Image C-04928 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

Columbia River skiffs in the water and on the beach at the Mill Bay Cannery

Gillnetters on the Nass River and beached at Mill Bay Cannery, c. 1913. Image C-04941 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives.

Mill Bay cannery buildings and wharves at low tide.

The Mill Bay cannery buildings, and wharves were built on tall pilings. The bluestone tanks for net maintenance are lined up along the dock. Image C-04964 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives