Cassiar Cannery

~where history and nature meet~



June 2 - 10, 2020

Are you naturally curious?  Spend eight days exploring the Great Bear Rainforest by land, sea and air with passionate, interested experts.

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I had the privilege of attending the first Ecology Week run at Cassiar Cannery this year. It wasn't a hard sell: I love the beautiful north coast, I love wildlife and bird viewing, I love identifying wild plants ... and I love great food, comfortable surroundings and stimulating company and information. The course delivered on all counts. The schedule was action-packed, and included plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with nature. I saw herons fishing for eels from my living room window, I watched grizzlies munching on grass from the comfort of a large catamaran, I saw fascinating, wriggly critters (which I had no idea were living in the mud flats) under a microscope. I was impressed with the caliber of the instructors and lecturers, nearly all of whom were clearly expert in their respective fields. Beyond their expertise and preparedness - these lecturers were personable and entertaining. One wonders, when one is preparing to share living quarters (and every meal in the lovingly restored general store dining hall) with new acquaintances including the hosts and instructors, how that will go down. Will conversation lag? Will you grow tired of each other's company after a week? No, it just keeps getting better. You forge friendships. You learn from the other salt-of-the-earth types drawn to this kind of experience. And the science involved in the learning is completely non-threatening. Justine and her family are natural hosts: they are flexible and generous, and their family tradition steeped in years' past experience in the restaurant business shows in the quality (and quantity !) of delicious meals. No detail was overlooked on the many excursions and it was clear a great deal of planning had gone into the selection of partners for transportation and adventure. Cassiar Cannery itself is a beautiful, other-worldly place at the end of the road. It's really quite accessible but feels removed, sitting on a tidal river channel surrounded by forested mountains. There are two things to be aware of: dogs and trains. There are three charming resident dogs who greet visitors, but there is nothing to fear from them but being bowled over with love. Garlicgurl, Prince Rupert, BC



The North Coast has a healthy and varied avian population.  From raptors to tiny shorebirds, we will spend one day with Dr. Reto Reisen learning to identify a variety of birds.  Dr. Reisen is also a whiz at bird calls!  We will spend time at the Cassiar Cannery spotting a large variety of birds who call the Skeena Estuary home.  While the shorebirds siesta during the afternoon, we will board a big canoe for a three hour paddle to sneak up on those unsuspecting sea birds.   John Przeczek Photo


For thousands of years, your landscape was your grocery store and pharmecy.  We will be educated about ethnobotany, local plants and and cultural traditional uses,  and head into the field to forage and learn and about our North Coast edible and medicinal plants.  This is a hands-on day learning how nature provides for us.  We will create a devils club salve, learn to make fruit leather and more!

The Khutzeymateen Valley.  Famed as one of the World's first Grizzly Bear Sanctuaries inside one of the most spectacular scenic areas on the North Coast. It is an awesome experience to view these iconic creatures in their natural setting.  Mother's feeding cubs, males challenging for territory, these grizzlies share a piece of themselves which you will carry forward with you. We will floatplane into the Khutzeymateen Lodge where we will board a zodiac for an intimate grizzly viewing experience.


We will take to the high seas to look for sea birds during our afternoon paddle around Lelu Island, a hotbed of animal life by land and sea.  Most likely we will be able to spot porpoises, cranes, mallards, eagles, loons, grebes, kingfishers and herons while we sneak up on them in the incredibly stable ocean going canoe.  A paddle in the big canoe is a highlight in all of our programs.  Something that needs to be experienced!


Estuarine ecosystems, where fresh water meets and mixes with the salt rich ocean, are some of the most productive, bountiful and rare ecosystems on the planet.  The Cassiar Cannery is nestled within the heart of the Skeena River estuary surrounded by a rippling green sea of grasses, sedges and wildflowers in a rare salt water marsh. Dr. Coxson has discovered almost 140 species!  This day includes a lab component where a whole new world opens up under the microscopes.


Temperate Rainforests - towering mountains shrouded in mist cloaking green slopes.  Forests are primal, supporting complex, symbiotic relationships from the smallest fungi to the soaring Sitka Spruce.  Dr. Coxson, who is also a lichen and fungi specialist, will take you through the forest to learn, first hand, fascinating facts about the coastal forests and unusual, some globally endangered, species of lichens and fungi.


Endlessly fascinating and everchanging, intertidal zones are the area between high and low tide.   Often estuarine ecosystems are created by the silt and sediment carried down the river.  The Cassiar Cannery is  surrounded by perfect mud flat intertidal areas.  We will also explore a rocky ocean intertidal zones and compare the two.  Wait until you see some of the creatures under the microscope - 'aliens on earth' was my first thought.


This is a day for the memory book as you board your private jet boat and set off for a scenic educational adventure.  You will trace a river system by jet boat up one of the tributaries of the Skeena River.  Lined with waterfalls and spectacular scenery, keep your eyes peeled for salmon fry, bears, birds and moose while rubber necking, almost unbelievable, beautiful wild scenery.  This is our nature and it is fabulous! 


From the air, the rugged terrain of the North Coast unfolds below you with endless wilderness dotted with blue lakes, shimmering rivers and the rippling blue expanse of the ocean.  This is British Columbia at its best and the spectacular coastline within the Great Bear Rainforest will not disappoint.  But this time, you will look at it with a different eye after learning about the gigantic forces of nature that shaped our landscape.


Learning how this rugged landscape was created is so interesting.  Some are tall jagged peaks, others smoothed and shaped by glaciers, the incredible forces of tectonic movement can lift, slide or drop enormous chunks of the landscape.  It is awe-insiring and a little frightening at the same time.  It is unmatched by man.  First we will learn about it and then we will fly it!


Have you ever looked at the environment around you and wondered why?  Join 9 inquisitive individuals for eight days of learning with leading professionals about their specialties.  

Estuaries, where fresh water meets the ocean, provides a dynamic, bountiful and unique ecosystems.  They provide critical habitat for marine and terrestrial creatures as well as rich biodiversity in the flora and fauna of the area.  The Cassiar Cannery is nestled within the estuary of the Skeena River, the second largest river in British Columbia, and within the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest tract of protected coastal temperate rain forest in the world, providing a perfect base for curious people to get out to explore and learn about this amazing environment. 

Cassiar Cannery is 25 minutes south of Prince Rupert, 15 minutes by road from Highway 16 in Port Edward, BC. Daily flights are available with Air Canada from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. Visitors can also travel aboard BC Ferries on the Inside Passage route or by VIA Rail, a two-day excursion from Jasper to Prince Rupert with a stop right at the Cannery door.

It was all about the fish...In 1899, Alfred E Green purchased a lot to participate in the fishing boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. By 1903, the Cassiar Packing Company was in business at the Cassiar Cannery.  For over 80 years, without skipping a season, the Cassiar Cannery was a heavyweight independent salmon cannery touching the lives of thousands of people throught its rich cultural history.  It slid into its dark ages as the milleneum hit before purchased in 2006 by us, Justine Crawford and Mark Bell.  Over the past decade, we have been restoring and diversifying this remarkable place.  The Cassiar Cannery now supports tourism, science and research, art, boat works and custom lumber and cedar products.  

Ecology Week is a combination of our unique tourism experience coupled with the science and research we have been conducting over the past ten years.  Combined, they offer a rich learning experience with passionate engaged professionals, in a rare and diverse natural ecosystem, without foregoing the comfort of luxurious bed.  Please join us for Ecology Week 2020 in an all-inclusive, immersive discovery adventure by land, sea and air at the Cassiar Cannery. Your hosts, Justine and Mark       

Experience Cassiar Cannery. 

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Prince Rupert, BC


Dr. Darwyn Coxson

Dr. Coxson is a Professor in the Ecosystem Science and Management Program at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). Dr. Coxson’s research in plant ecology looks at plant environmental physiology, examining the contribution of plant communities to ecosystem function. A major area of specialization focuses on non-vascular plants such as lichens and mosses.  Since 2009, Dr. Coxson has been studying the rare salt marsh ecosytem surrounding the Cassiar Cannery getting more detailed with every passing year.

Dr. Travis G. Gerwing

Dr Gerwing cultivated his love of science at UNBC before heading to Atlantic Canada to obtain his PhD.  Returning to BC, Dr. Gerwing recently started a Postdoctoral Fellowship, partnering with the Hakai Institute, to conduct biodiversity surveys of intertidal habitats along the coast of British Columbia. He hope to understand, not only the natural factors which structure these productive ecosystems, but also how human impacts alter this community.  The Skeena Estuary is fortunate to have his talent and enthusiasm focued on its unique ecosystem.

Dr. Reto Riesen

My career as a naturalist probably started around age three or four, when my grandfather took me on walks back in Switzerland, telling me stories of hawks and teaching me to sit still so as to spot the rats at the local dump!  Those lessons stayed with me, and for many years I would watch birds without binoculars. Only while finishing my Ph.D. in chemistry I got a chance to take a course in ornithology. Since then I birded (with a pair of binoculars) wherever I went, from the Swiss Alps to the English Coast, the Fraser and Squamish estuaries, and now the North Coast.

Grace Hamilton

When I first saw Grace Hamilton's cedar work, I was actually speechless!  Her weaving is absolutely incredible - the weaves and tension is perfect.  Grace is Haida and they are renown for their cedar work.  She learned as a small child and brings the spirit of her ancestors and culture to her work.  She loves to teach and share her skills.  



Flexible Payment Plans Available - 25% non-refundable deposit, scheduled payment plan, balance paid by April 30, 2020


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Phone: (250) 628-9260

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See you in 2018!


A BC First Nations specialty is their cedar work.  From soaring poles and slick bentwood boxes to delicate cedar weaving, this is a high level art form.  We will learn basic cedar weaving techniques from Haida artist, Grace Hamilton, an absolutely phenomenal cedar worker.  We can aspire to reach her level of perfect tension and stitching in her hats but it will take a lot of practice!  This is a tricky craft.  After trying it for yourself, you will have a renewed appreciation for how skilled Grace is!


One of the Top 10 Unique Places to Overnight in BC by Destination BC, the Cassiar Cannery has restored four of the former cannery manager homes into fully equipped Guest Houses.  We are known for our extremely comfortable beds with luxury linens and huge reclaimed cedar waterfront decks.  

We have a one bedroom Guest House, a two bedroom and two three bedrooms Guest Houses. Rated five stars on Trip Advisor, they are a great base for any trip to the North Coast!

Coho House is a private Guest House and possibly Steelhead House depending on registration numbers and sleeping configurations. Expect to share your Guest House with another single or couple and each Guest House has one full washroom.


We eat very well during Ecology Week! 

Fresh, handmade meals will keep our energy from flagging as we explore the Great Bear Rainforest.

Most of our meals are at the Cassiar Cannery but we have one gourmet picnic lunch on our jet boat adventure and one lunch on a floating lodge in the Khutzeymateen.

We are well versed in special dietary requirements and special requests!

Ecology Week is an all-inclusive, immersive program.  Rates are per person and include:

  • eight nights of accommodation
  • all meals with wine and beer for dinner
  • daily instruction and evening presentations
  • all activites and adventures including:
    • full day on private jet boats
    • big canoe trip
    • float plane ride to the Khutzeymateen Valley
    • intimate grizzly bear viewing experience

$3,500 per person

One private Guest House available - add $500

Not Included:

  • Travel to and from the Cassiar Cannery
  • Travel Insurance
  • Taxes: 5% GST and $64 PST

Dr. Lisa Wood

Lisa Wood (PhD, University of Victoria) is instructing the ethnobotany classes at UNBC. She is a professional forester with a keen interest in traditional plant use.  

Andrea from Ecology Week 2018 says "Ecology Week! What a great experience!  And the right balance of activities and rest.  The food, cabins, atmosphere, hospitality, and beautiful scenery were all amazing! Be sure to take a tour of cannery a few km's up the road, well worth it! I recommend traveling there by train, it will drop you off right at the cannery. It is a beautiful ride into beautiful Tsimshian territory."

Suspended until 2022 due to COVID-19