Dillingham, Alaska Employment and City Information
Dillingham is the largest fishing town in the Bristol Bay region of southwestern Alaska. It lies at the northern end of Nushagak Bay, where this cove meets the Nushagak River. Both waterways are key fishing areas for Dillingham’s residents and guests.
Inuit and Athabascan people were the first to enjoy Dillingham’s rich natural resources. They’ve fished for local salmon in their home for thousands of years. These native residents were forced to share their land when Russian settlers built the Alexandrovski Redoubt Post in 1818. The establishment of the trading post brought indigenous people from the Kuskokwin region, Alaska Peninsula, and Cook Inlet to Dillingham. The city’s population again swelled on the establishment of the region’s first salmon cannery in 1884. This processing plant was such a success that ten more joined it within the next two decades.
Dillingham came at its name relatively late. The city was dubbed Dillingham in 1904, after American senator Paul Dillingham who’d toured the state a year prior. It seems he made a big impression on the townsfolk, despite doing little else of note in his senate term!
Commercial fishing is vital to Dillingham’s economy. Its Alaska salmon fishery is one of the world’s few remaining sustainable wild salmon fisheries. This fishery, along with others in the area, offers employment to the visitors who travel to Dillingham looking for seasonal work each year. But you don’t need to chase the dollar to appreciate the various species of local fish. The Wood and Tikchik lakes and rivers attract many amateur anglers hoping to hook rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, arctic char, or one of the five varieties of Pacific salmon living there.
A commitment to sustainable practices is shown in several other aspects of Dillingham life. The city is the headquarters for the nearby Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for migrating sea birds, seals, walruses, and caribou, and one of the largest wild herring fisheries on the planet. The haven was developed to conserve fish and wildlife populations, and it continues to do this vital work today.
Dillingham is known as “Nature’s Front Porch,” and there are plenty of activities designed to take advantage of that reputation. You could explore the area’s waterways by kayak or canoe, or hike through the trails of the nearby Wood-Tikchik State Park. Just remember to take your camera and keep your eyes peeled, as you’re likely to come across caribou, brown bears, beavers, a wide variety of waterfowl, and other local creatures on your travels.
The Wood-Tikchik State Park is so beautiful that many visitors to Dillingham don’t want to leave. Thankfully camping is permitted all over the park, although a permit is required to pitch a tent in some areas of the Upper Tikchik Lakes.
You’ll need to move on after ten days in the one spot, but you can relocate to another site a mile away without breaking the rules. The state park’s back-to-basics approach to accommodation is charming, but it won’t suit all travelers. Thankfully Dillingham also has a small selection of bed and breakfasts and wilderness lodges for guests making a fleeting visit, and long-term rentals aimed at seasonal workers.
Dillingham has a variable climate influenced by the humid, maritime conditions of Bristol Bay and the cooler, arctic weather of the nearby Alaskan Interior. Temperatures typically range between 40 and 60 degrees in summer, and drop to between 5 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. With such chilly temperatures, it’s unsurprising that Dillingham sees an average of 65 inches of snow each winter. These icy conditions are often coupled with fog. When traveling to Dillingham it’s best to be prepared for the chill. Coats, hats, and scarves are a must during winter, while dressing in layers in the warmer months will ensure you’re ready for any unexpected conditions.
Dillingham is a relatively isolated city. A road connects it to its neighboring town of Aleknagik, but it isn’t a part of Alaska’s highway network. Without easy land access, most travelers arrive in Dillingham by air. Alaska Airlines and PenAir planes regularly fly to Dillingham from Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage.