By Ray Williams
Until 1938 the fishermen who lived in Cordova would travel from Cordova to Williamsport (formerly Iliamna Bay) via boat. From there, they would hike the 15 miles to Iliamna Lake where they would launch their sailboat, which they had left the previous fall. They would travel via sail or by rowing, down Iliamna Lake to the Kvichak River. They traveled the river to its mouth and then on to the various towns of Bristol Bay. In the fall the cycle was reversed, but a powered barge would tow them up the Kvichak River to Iliamna Lake, or at least part way.
In 1938 the Cordova fishermen approached my father, Carl Williams, asking if he would be able and willing to transport their boats over the portage road to and from Iliamna Lake. This request started a business, Iliamna Transportation Company, which is still thriving today.
My father hauled boats by himself until my brother, Richard, began to help him in the early 60’s. In 1969, I began helping while Richard began spending the seasons in Homer with his family. In 1975 my father retired, and my wife, Linda, and I took over.
My son, Chet, began hauling boats sometime around 1994. The business saw less than 10 boats per year at that time.
Until 2003, when the Iliamna River bridge was replaced, the width of the boat we could feasibly move was limited to 12 feet 3 ½ inches due to the trussed bridge over the river. In 2003 a second bridge was constructed, allowing us to haul boats up to 15 feet wide. We began to see an upturn in the number of boats we were moving each year, and in sharp contrast to number of boats we hauled in the 90’s, in 2019 we managed an influx of 253 boats, and are anticipating similar numbers this year.