South Naknek

Community Profile

Population 136 (Alaska Native 108)

South Naknek is located on the south bank, near the mouth, of the Naknek River. The community of Naknek is located on the north bank of the Naknek River and lies directly across the river from South Naknek. King Salmon is about 20 miles to the east. South Naknek is a Sugpiak Native village whose residents are descendants of people displaced by the Katmai and Novarupta volcanic eruptions of 1912.


The Bristol Bay area was first settled more than 6,000 years ago and hunting camps along the Naknek River date back to 3,000 to 4000 B.C. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Qinuyang (present site of South Naknek) and Paugvik (present site of Naknek) were counted as one village with a population of 192 Natives. By 1890, the two villages were counted separately. At that time, Qinuyang had a reported population of one white person and 92 Natives.

Many of the villagers came to South Naknek from the villages of New and Old Savanoski. Old Savonski is located near the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes within the boundaries of the Katmai National Monument. Russian fur traders inhabited the area in the early 1800s until the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867. In 1890 the first cannery opened on the Naknek River. Commercial fishing brought many men from outside the local area, including Scandanavian and Italian seamen, and Chinese and Filipino cannery workers.

South Naknek was one of the many villages along the Bristol Bay coast serviced by reindeer herders. The South Naknek herd was run as a cooperative by Norwegian Laplanders. The reindeer were allowed to run free sometime during the 1940s and eventually mixed in with local caribou.


Commercial fishing and salmon processing are the mainstays of South Naknek's economy. The majority of residents participate in the fisheries and a few local people work at the canneries. All of the canneries hire winter watchmen, as well as spring start up crews comprised for the most part of local residents. During the summer (late June to late July), the small community of South Naknek becomes fast-paced as fishermen and processors rush to catch and process the huge but brief run of salmon. At night, during closed fishing periods when the boats anchor in the river, the lights from the village, tenders, floating processors, tramper vessels, barges, set net cabins, and often more than 1000 32-foot gillnetters, light up the sky like a large city. The Kvichak River drainage, historically the largest contributor to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, has experienced poor returns in recent years, and residents here have lived through economic fluctuations resulting from the unpredictable nature of the fishing industry.


South Naknek is accessible by air or sea. The State of Alaska maintains a 3,500-foot gravel airstrip to accommodate small aircraft. Radio lighting is available at all times. A 3,000-foot seaplane landing area and base is located on the Naknek River. Peninsula Airways and King Air provide regular flights, mail and charter service to the community. Roads are maintained by the Bristol Bay Borough. There is a winter trail to New Savonoski. Some residents own cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles or snowmachines. During the winter the frozen river provides a travel route to the neighboring communities of Naknek and King Salmon. Barge service is available from several companies during the summer months. South Naknek has a public dock capable of handling large barges along with smaller watercraft.


The South Naknek Village Council is federally recognized as the governing body for the Native residents of South Naknek. The council consists of five members. South Naknek is located within the Bristol Bay Borough.


The Bristol Bay Borough School District operates an elementary school in South Naknek and provides instruction for grades pre-school through the fifth grades. Sixth grade, Junior high and high schools students attend school across the river at Naknek. They are bused daily by light plane.


South Naknek has approximately 90 single family homes which include fifteen HUD homes constructed in 1979. During the winter months more than half of the homes are vacant reflecting the seasonality of South Naknek.

Land Ownership

South Naknek's village corporation merged with the village corporations of Kokhanok, Port Heiden, Newhalen, and Ugashik to form the Alaska Peninsula Corporation.

Social and Economic Development Needs

New Multi-purpose Building

The community received $250,000 from the State Legislature in 1994 for the building. The facility provides an office for the village administrator, space for a new health clinic, and an area large enough to hold community meetings.

Water and Sewer

A $2.2 million dollar water and sewer project is now complete. Roughly 14 homes received individual wells and eight connect to the community system. The community sewer system was extended to serve 42 homes.

Village Contacts

QINUYANG -- South Naknek Village Council: P.O. Box 70029, South Naknek, Alaska 99670. Phone (907) 246-8614. FAX (907) 842-8613.

Alaska Peninsula Corporation (South Naknek, Port Heiden, Ugashik, Kokhonok and Iliamna): 800 Cordova St., Suite 103, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. Phone (907) 274-2433.