Stikine River Travel (ca. 1933-1935)


J. J. Jackson, ca. 1928 (aged about 33), from Box 1 File 2, MS-2954, BC Archives

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Joseph J. Jackson (1895-1972) prospected extensively in the Alaska Panhandle, making mineral discoveries at Clearwater River and Georgia River (along the Portland Canal), and on Chichagof Island.[i]  He also pursued a few leads in the Cassiar and Skeena regions of northern B.C. Newspaper stories from this period take note of his nickname:

[W]hile he has been somewhat successful in his own quest for the yellow metal, he disclaims any merit of the sobriquet … which has been hung onto him.[ii]

 “‘The Millionaire Kid’ is a dreadful misnomer,” says Jackson, who insists that he is a long way from being either a kid or a millionaire.[iii]

Between his working seasons in the North, Joe spent many winters in Seattle. From January to March, 1932, he broadcast a series of eight Sunday night talks entitled “Alaska Up to Date” on radio station KPCB in Seattle. The text of these talks also appeared in the Alaska Weekly (a newspaper which was actually published in Seattle), and they may also have been rebroadcast in Ketchikan.

In 1932, as field manager for the Alaska Grubstake Company, Joe supervised prospecting teams in the Matanuska-Chickaloon district of Alaska (just north of Anchorage), as well as in the Cassiar region of BC. In May of that year, he arrived in Wrangell, Alaska, at the mouth of the Stikine River, and organized a team of prospectors to travel by boat up the Stikine to Telegraph Creek—and by horse and pack-train to Liard, where he planned to work east from Dease Lake into the Ingenika country.[iv]

Something about that summer’s work focused Joe’s attention on the area around Dease Lake. He established his own claims there on Thibert Creek, which he would develop under a new company: Three J’s Placer Mines, Inc., with headquarters in Seattle and Tacoma.

In the last of his Seattle radio talks, Joe described the experience of riverboat travel on the Stikine. [Timings in boldface inidcate the corresponding section in the video.]

“If you want to have the most wonderful vacation trip you ever had in your life, … start planning right now to visit the Cassiar country this summer. Any time from the first of June to the first of October is vacation time in the [Cassiar]. Take an Alaska Steamship boat from Seattle, and buy your ticket to Wrangell. You will have the most wonderful trip on the inside passage, through the grandest salt water scenery you ever imagined, for fifty hours . . .

0:28 – 1:37 – “and land at the site of old Fort Wrangell, now a thriving little Alaskan city at the mouth of the Stikine River.

“After landing you can ramble around the historic old camp, see the totem poles, and visit the site of old Fort Wrangell. Then take the fast and comfortable [boat] of the Barrington Transportation Company for the trip up the Stikine River to Telegraph Creek.”[v]

Joe’s description continues:

2:15 – “On the way up the Stikine River, get out on the deck of the [boat] and stay there every hour of the trip. You will see a solemn black bear or a ponderous grizzly here and there along the banks of the fast flowing river. Mountains like you never saw before come right down to the water’s edge. And glaciers—say, you never saw so many glaciers in your life—great hanging mountains of blue ice. At one point in the river, there are no less than nine great glaciers in sight at one time.

“Great waterfalls … tumble over lofty cliffs, and every turn in the white capped stream brings a fresh view, each one more wonderful than the last. You will find yourself more than half out of [oohs] and ahs before the trip is half over.”[vi]

2:46 – In this film sequence, the boat has arrived at Glenora, one of the few settlements on the lower Stikine.

“In the evening, when the [boat] is tied up, you may go fishing, if the sport of Isaac Walton appeals to you, and you can soon fill a fish basket with fighting rainbow or Dolly Varden trout.”[vii]

3:47 – These are The Three Sisters, three rocky islands in the Stikine just above Glenora.

4:53 – “The [boat] passes through the canyon, one of the scenic beauty spots of the trip, and here you will be in the midst of a real battle between the swiftly flowing Stikine River and the powerful craft that is carrying you up the river.

5:03 – “Finally you round a bend and Telegraph Creek, the head of navigation, is in sight, and then you are in the heart of the greatest big game country in North America.

5:40 – “Telegraph Creek … is still the outstanding point of the Cassiar Country, and has all the glamor of a frontier town.”[viii]

The video concludes with shots of the riverboat being unloaded, and candid shots of the streets and people of Telegraph Creek.


Hazel B No_2_f-06987_detail

The riverboat Hazel B No. 2 at a stop on the Stikine River. (BC Archives photo F-06987, detail)




[i]       “Miner’s Joke Makes Young Cook Famous,” [unidentified Vancouver newspaper clipping]; “‘Alaska Up to Date’ Is Subject of Radio Talk by Prospector of North,” Alaska Weekly, [January 29, 1932?], n.p., in Box 1 File 2, MS-0528, BC Archives.

[ii]      “‘Alaska Up to Date’ Is Subject of Radio Talk,” Alaska Weekly.

[iii]       “Joe Jackson Heads Grubstake Company,” Wrangell Sentinel, [May 27, 1932], in Box 1 File 2, MS-0528.

[iv]       “Alaska Grubstake Representative on Way to Wrangell,” The Stroller’s Weekly (Juneau, Alaska), May 27, 1932; “Joe Jackson Heads Grubstake Company,” Wrangell Sentinel.

[v]       Joe Jackson, radio talk text, printed as “Pleasing Program Ends Series of Radio Talks on ‘Alaska Up to Date,’” Alaska Weekly, March 18, 1932, [n.p.], in Box 1 File 2, MS-0528.

[vi]       Ibid.

[vii]       Ibid.

[viii]       Ibid.


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