The Port of Dillingham lies on the shores of Nushagak Bay in southwest Alaska some 72 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Bristol Bay (88 kilometers or 55 miles by air). In 2008, over 2300 people called the Port of Dillingham home. Because the Port of Dillingham has no roads connecting it to the outside world, the only way to reach it is by sea or air. Considered a "bush town" in Alaska, almost 70% of the local population are indigenous Native Alaskans.
During the late 20th Century, Port of Dillingham fishermen harvested millions of sockeye salmon for sale to foreign markets. In fact, fishing was so productive that limits had to be placed on the volume of fish harvested in the summer. While the Port of Dillingham commercial fishing is not as profitable as in the past, increased demand for wild Alaska salmon has boosted the price, giving local fishermen better wages and stimulating the local economy.
The area that would become the Port of Dillingham was originally settled by the indigenous Yup'ik people who called it Nushagak.
When the Russians arrived there in the late 19th Century, it became a trade center. A Russian Orthodox Mission was built in the Port of Dillingham in 1818. It became a place where people from villages in the area and foreigners met to trade or live.
The United States Signal Corps installed a weather station in the future Port of Dillingham in 1881. In 1883, the Arctic Packing Company began to build canneries in the Port of Dillingham, giving birth to the area's commercial fishing industry. In 1884, the first salmon cannery opened in the Port of Dillingham, and ten more canneries appeared by 1900.
In 1904, a post office was established and the town was named for US Senator Paul Dillingham. The early 20th Century brought tragedy to the Port of Dillingham when an influenza epidemic wiped out all but about 500 people, leading to the construction of a hospital and orphanage south of the Port of Dillingham.
In late summer 2010, the Port of Dillingham entered the national spotlight when a plane crash took the life of Former President Pro Tempore and Senator Ted Stevens and four other travelers.
Long known as the Pacific Salmon Capital of the World, the Bristol Bay watershed has one of the world's biggest salmon runs at juncture of the Nushagak and Wood Rivers. Located at that spot, the Port of Dillingham is the largest town in the region of Bristol Bay and an important port serving its fishery. Today, the main industries in the Port of Dillingham are commercial fishing, canning, sport fishing, government, and tourism.
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