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Dillingham, Alaska
Location of Dillingham, Alaska
Location of Dillingham, Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Dillingham
Incorporated July 12, 1963
 • Total 36.3 sq mi (94.1 km2)
 • Land 33.6 sq mi (86.9 km2)
 • Water 2.8 sq mi (7.2 km2)
Elevation 95 ft (29 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 2,329
 • Density 69/sq mi (26.8/km2)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code 99576
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-18950
GNIS feature ID 1401203

Dillingham /ˈdɪlɪŋhæm/ (Curyuk in Central Alaskan Yup'ik), also known as Curyung and (for the southwestern section) Kanakanak, is a city in Dillingham Census Area, Alaska, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 2,329.


Dillingham is on Nushagak Bay at the mouth of the Nushagak River, an inlet of Bristol Bay, an arm of the Bering Sea in the North Pacific, in southwestern Alaska. It is located at 59°02′48″N 158°30′31″W / 59.04667°N 158.50861°W / 59.04667; -158.50861 (59.046751, -158.508665).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 36.3 square miles (94.1 km2). 33.6 square miles (86.9 km2) of it is land, and 2.8 square miles (7.2 km2) of it (7.64%) is water. This may change as the City of Dillingham will likely petition the State of Alaska to increase the size of its boundaries to include most of Nushagak Bay and Wood River, to gain revenue from the Nushagak District and Wood River Special Harvest Area commercial salmon fisheries.

Dillingham is located in the 37th district of the Alaska House of Representatives, and is represented by Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat who is from Dillingham.

Dillingham is not connected to the statewide road system, and the only way to reach the city is by airplane or boat. The Dillingham Airport located near the center of the city limits has a 6,400-foot (2,000 m) runway and is served by several flights daily through Alaska Airlines (seasonal - summer) and PenAir (year-round). A 20-mile (32 km) paved road connects Dillingham with Aleknagik and the Wood-Tikchik State Park. Many residents live along the Aleknagik Lake Road and roads connecting the city's central business district with Wood River and Kanakanak.

Weather chart for Dillingham
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches

Natural resources

Dillingham is the regional hub of the rich Bristol Bay salmon fishing district. Bristol Bay supports the world's largest runs of wild sockeye salmon and returns of other species of Pacific salmon. The Nushagak district produces an average of 6.4 million salmon annually and as many as 12.4 million salmon in 2006. Harvests are closely regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to ensure adequate spawning escapement to ensure long term sustainability and provide for subsistence harvests by residents of upriver villages.

Commercial fishing remains an important part of the Dillingham economy, but prices paid for salmon vary due to international competition, especially from fish farming operations in Chile, Norway, Canada and elsewhere. Prices paid Bristol Bay fishermen for sockeye salmon peaked at $2.11 per pound in 1988 but fell to just $0.42 per pound in 2001. Prices have since rebounded due to techniques to improve fish quality and enhanced marketing efforts, and were up to $1.50 per pound in 2013.

Dillingham is an important gateway to many sport fishing lodges and eco-tourism opportunities. Many of these are focused on the adjacent Wood-Tikchik State Park, the largest state park in the United States, known for its great fishing opportunities. Dillingham is also the headquarters for nearby Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, home to walruses, seals, terrestrial mammals, migratory birds, and fish, as well as one of the largest wild herring fisheries in the world. Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity, including salmon, to fulfill international treaty obligations, to provide for continued subsistence use, and to ensure necessary water quality and quantity.

In 2010, the City of Dillingham voted to re-authorize its position opposing the proposed Pebble Mine, a large gold-copper-molybdenum prospect located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The resolution explains that the value of the fishery totals about $100 million a year; that the commercial wild salmon fishery has been the backbone of livelihoods for more than 100 years; that the future of the renewable resource industry depends on its freshwater stream reputation; that local residents depend on subsistence activities which in turn depend on Bristol Bay's pristine freshwater streams and habitat; and that Pebble threatens to destroy the last great wild salmon fishery on the planet.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 165
1920 182 10.3%
1930 85 −53.3%
1940 278 227.1%
1950 577 107.6%
1960 424 −26.5%
1970 914 115.6%
1980 1,563 71.0%
1990 2,017 29.0%
2000 2,466 22.3%
2010 2,329 −5.6%
Est. 2015 2,404 3.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,466 people, 884 households, and 599 families residing in the city. The population density was 73.4 per square mile (28.3/km²). There were 1,000 housing units at an average density of 29.7 per square mile (11.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 52.55% Native American, 35.60% White, 1.18% Asian, 0.65% Black or African American, 0.61% from other races, and 9.41% from two or more races. 3.49% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 884 households out of which 41.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.37.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 34.6% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 106.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $51,458, and the median income for a family was $57,417. Males had a median income of $47,266 versus $34,934 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,537. About 10.1% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.4% of those under age 18.


The area around Dillingham was inhabited by the Yup'ik people for millennia. British Captain James Cook first charted the Bristol Bay region in 1778 but did not venture into Nushagak Bay. The Russian-American Company built a redoubt (trading post) at Nushagak Point across the river from present-day Dillingham in 1818. Named "Alexandrovski" after the czar, the post attracted fur traders from as far as the Kuskokwim River, the Alaska Peninsula and Cook Inlet. In 1837, a Russian Orthodox mission was built at Nushagak, but the post status was later downgraded in favor of other Russian-American Company posts in the Kuskokwim.

In 1881, after the Alaska Purchase by the United States, the United States Signal Corps built a weather station at Nushagak.

The Arctic Packing Company built the first cannery in Bristol Bay in 1883 at Kanulik, across the river from the site of modern-day Dillingham. Operations began the following year with a pack of 400 cases of salmon, or 19,200 1-pound cans. By 1903 a total of ten canneries had been built along the Nushagak River, including four within the current city's limits, and produced as much as one million cases of canned salmon annually. Most of these canneries were closed for a variety of reasons, including coastal erosion, siltation, consolidation, and as production shifted to frozen salmon.

In 1901, the Alaska-Portland Packers Association built a cannery near Snag Point, what is now the city's central business district. The cannery burned down in 1910 but was rebuilt the following year. It was acquired by Pacific American Fisheries in 1929. Now known as Peter Pan Seafoods, the cannery in downtown Dillingham remains operational, and other seafood companies maintain offices and support facilities within the city's limits.

A courthouse was built in Kanakanak in 1903 and named after United States Senator William Paul Dillingham of Vermont, whose Senate subcommittee investigated conditions in Alaska following the 1898 gold rush. Despite extensive travels throughout the territory, neither Dillingham nor his subcommittee ever set foot in the Bristol Bay region. The post office later adopted the name, as did the community.

In 1918 and 1919, the global Spanish influenza pandemic struck Bristol Bay and left no more than 500 survivors around Dillingham. A hospital and orphanage were established in Kanakanak after the epidemic, 6 miles (10 km) south of downtown Dillingham. An Indian Health Service hospital operated by the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation remains at Kanakanak.

The Dillingham News, the first local newspaper, was published in 1947 by the Dillingham Volunteer Fire Department as a way to attract new members. It was soon succeeded by the Beacon of Dillingham, a newspaper closely aligned by the unions of resident fishemen and cannery workers. Both were simple mimeograph editions.

In 1951, powerboats were first allowed to replace sailboats used by fishermen in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.

The City of Dillingham incorporated as a first class municipality in 1963.

In 1974, the first regional AM radio station for the Bristol Bay region was built by the Dillingham City School District under an educational grant. With the call letters KDLG and operating at 670 kHz, the station continues to provide education, entertainment, and important safety information to the fishing fleet and the surrounding communities. It is part of the National Public Radio (NPR) and Alaska Public Radio (APRN) networks.

Present-day industries around Dillingham are commercial salmon and herring fishing, seafood processing, sport fishing, government-related jobs and tourism.

Dillingham attracted national attention in 2006 when the City of Dillingham installed 80 cameras at city-owned facilities such as the dock, harbor and police station, funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant. The city justified them by stating that they enhanced the ability to monitor and enforcement at those facilities. Many criticized the project as an infringement on privacy and also that the funds were intended for national rather than local public safety issues. After spirited public debate, locally and nationally, the community held a referendum vote on the system on October 12, 2006, resulting in a rejection of the anti-camera initiative by a vote of 370 to 235.

On August 9, 2010, a DHC-3T Texas Turbine Otter crashed near Dillingham due to fog and reduced visibility. Former President Pro Tempore and Senator Ted Stevens was among the five killed aboard the plane. There were four survivors, including former NASA Administrator and EADS executive Sean O'Keefe.

On September 2, 2015, President Obama visited Dillingham as a part of his trip around Alaska to call attention to climate change.

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