Dillingham is the regional hub of the rich Bristol Bay salmon fishing district.
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.
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.
There were 1,000 housing units at an average density of 29.7 per square mile (11.5/km²).