MK Bay

Once a bustling industrial supply depot

By Walter Thorne

In the early 1950s Kitimat was a wild industrial hub overflowing with workmen.

On the western side of Douglas Channel, from the beach near the Delta King riverboat, was a network of roads and camps. There, Kitimat Constructors, a large and powerful conglomerate of thousands of construction folk, was supreme.

But on the eastern side, just outside Kitamaat’s reserve lands, it was a whole different empire. There a conglomerate called Morrison Knudsen – known as MK and based in Boise, Idaho – was in charge of an emerging industrial supply depot.

They were entrusted with the industrial development of the energy corridor and infrastructure at Kildala, Kemano and the Kenney Dam near Vanderhoof, which included 14 camps with more than 4,000 workers.

From their depot between Maggie Point and Wathl Creek was a short-lived 200-man camp called MK Bay. The Crawley McKracken Supply Company kept the camp organized, stocked and well fed – the meals created by camp chefs were legendary. The workers, most of whom were members of the powerful Rock and Tunnel Workers Union, were certainly well looked after.

Adam Charneski recalls the housing was all on skids. The beach in those days extended much further out into Douglas Channel before falling away into the depths.

Morrison Knudsen initially established a barge grid near the current site of the MK Bay Marina breakwater. The barge grid was crazy busy with dolphin dock pilings and poles and adjacent, on the inner side, a small boats float.

New barges were frequent, transporting transmission cable, pieces of steel towers, D-9 caterpillars, cement mixers, front-end loaders, dump trucks, etc. and the gravel lay-down area was piled high with organized supplies.

In no time a wooden bridge had been completed spanning Wathl Creek, and a road heading off to Green Mountain and the Dala River quickly appeared.

An effective helicopter port was developed in Kemano and this was the debut for an upstart helicopter outfit called Okanagan Helicopters.

This company, which eventually morphed into Canadian Helicopters, reportedly made a fortune off the Kitimat project – its choppers had a major role in constructing the remote transmission towers and stringing the cables.

Imagine the cacophony of rumbling bulldozers, approaching tugs and barges, departing choppers and directing foremen. It would have been one frenzied location.

Young 21-year-old Charneski was for some time in charge of the MK Bay camp. Interestingly, he went on to a 55-year career with Alcan and the powerline corridor connecting the Kemano powerhouse and Kitimat.

Over the years Adam saw and dealt with many of the catastrophes and challenges, including the January, 1955, Kildala Pass avalanche which destroyed the line.

After the Alcan project was complete and the line was energized, MK Bay’s role as a supply depot and staging area diminished to nothing. The camp had a short life, starting in 1952 and being demolished in 1956.

Following a major storm, a huge section of the gravel land just slumped into the channel and disappeared, although much of the dock structure was spared.

Alcan eventually relinquished control of the MK Bay dock and barge grid to the new Regional District of Kitimat Stikine. The district invested money excavating, dredging and installing pilings, floats and a fuel dock for the emerging marina.

This arrangement worked for about 50 years until just recently when the regional district passed on the torch to the Kitamaat band council.

Currently the Mill Bay Marina Corporation operates the marina at MK Bay and they have many plans for an exciting future.

Clearly the Morrison Knudsen Company had a major impact on the development of the north end of Douglas Channel. Their legacy is the MK Bay marina which bears its name and is a vital part of what Kitimat offers its tourists and visitors.

 

Map drawn by Adam Charneski.

Just Posted

US-$473 million Kemano second tunnel project gets the go-ahead

Construction will start in spring 2018 and will be completed by 2020.

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Be a pal, become a Snow Buddy

They are overworked trying to cope with all the driveways that need clearing.

PNGI founder Chris Arnold passes away at 48

Advocate for persons with physical, mental barriers remembered for the many lives he changed

Provincial government responds to anti-dumping duties

Our goal is to make sure we evaluate measures that help the sector grow and diversify

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

AHUS patient Shantee Anaquod is home for Christmas

Less than a month after receiving first dose of $750K drug, 23 year old healthy enough to go home

Firefighter dies, thousands more take on California blaze

This is second death linked to the Thomas fire, northwest of Los Angeles

Moose calves rescued in northern B.C. are ‘golden nuggets:’ researcher

Calves discovered near Prince George in late May. Mother had been killed by a car

Missing Alberta man could be headed to Victoria

Police in Alberta say Vernon “Allan” Pickard has not been heard from since late November

Cineplex charges extra at some Star Wars screenings

Fans are getting a surprise twist at the box office with extra $1 charges for assigned seating

Toddler sent to hospital following dog bite at Vancouver Island daycare

Malamute/husky cross involved in incident at 1200-block of Burnside Rd. West

Local guides aren’t happy with grizzly ban

Guides say new ban could end businesses, including first nations outfitters and float planes.

Provincial Contractor of the Year awards handed out across B.C.

Deputy Minister’s 2017 awards recognize excellence in transportation and infrastructure

Most Read