In October of 1940 the US Military began construction of four remote Airfield installations in southeastern and central Alaska as part of the Army’s Long Range Defense Program. The threat of another World War was well underway and in 1941 it looked as if US war with Japan was imminent. By the end of 41 all four airfields were fully operational. One of the said airfields was located in Yakutat. Over the course of the war effort the base was utilized by the US Army and Air Force for the Aleutian campaign. At the end of World War 2 all troops were withdrawn and the airfield was turned over to the state. Yakutat Lodge came to be in 1960.
The Main Lodge consisted of the old Military Barracks and buildings that were converted into the facility. For the most part these facilities continue to exist today. The present owner and operator Ken Fanning has owned the lodge since 1980 and it appears to have seen no modernization since then. The Lodge can best be described as old and rustic. At first glimpse one may say well past it’s prime and nearing retirement but the facilities are clean and the food is outstanding with exceptional service and hospitality.
The proximity to the Airport provides an ease of access likely unparalleled by any other Fishing Lodge of its kind. You literally walk off your plane, through the terminal and onto a covered walk way that leads you to the main Lodge office and restaurant. No Taxi's or connector flights. The lodge offers accommodation at the main site consisting of a multi roomed bunkhouse style converted military barracks. What these accommodations lack in glamour they make up for in convenience and proximity to the bar and restaurant.
They just began an effort to repair and renovate these accommodations. Walking into the bar and restaurant is like walking back in time. The walls are adorned with signed dollar bills affixed to old wooden paneling. The bar and dining rooms are filled with stereotypical animal mounts, beach combing trinkets and outdoorsman themed items. It’s a fishing lodge for the hardcore steelheader not for the high maintenance catalogue prima-donna fisherman and thus priced accordingly. The Beer is cold and the food plentiful and outstanding.
They Lodge also offers modern housekeeping cabins constructed on a 5-6 acre parcel of waterfront located approximately 15mins from the airport on Monti Bay. With an inside tip from a previous client we opted for one of these cabins. From what we witnessed up at the main lodge we made the right decision for our preferences. We were given Cabin #3. Five of the 10-12 cabins down at the bay are relatively new. Upon arriving to our cabin we were pleased to see it was one of the newer ones. The log cabin design afforded a warm and cozy feel.
There was a large sleeping loft area with three single beds along with a main floor bedroom with a double bed. We had our own private bathroom and a fair sized common sitting area and kitchen. The cabin was heated with a newer style forced air Oil burner that worked great. It certainly kept the cabin warm and moisture free and at the end of rain filled outing dried our gear nicely by morning. As it turned out the cabins by the bay are centrally located between the restaurant, river, and local market store so it’s a good call to stay down at the bay. Everything down on the property was buried in snow but we were told there is a central fire pit located in the middle of the turnaround that gets a lot of use by the clients in the later part of the season.
After the days adventures clients can exchange stories over drinks and a roaring fire. The views from the bay property are outstanding with Monti Bay before you and the Mt St Elias Range in the background. There is no shortage of wildlife in the area as well. One can see porpoise and whales breaching in the bay and Bald Eagles seem to be visible in every direction. The Lodge also has a large Dock located here that they run their Happy Hooker ocean guide service out of in the weather friendly months. From the dock one gets a panoramic view of Yakutat Bay, Monti Bay, St Elias Range and Town. On a clear day it is quite the view.
As far as accommodations go it pays to do your homework prior to heading in. I was fully aware of the facilities and understanding as to why the price was right. Another customer was initially taken aback by the extreme rusticness of the main lodge. He was expecting more glamorous accommodations I guess and the initial shock was more than he could handle after his long travels.
After a few drinks, great meals and some quality fishing they came around. Like I said the Beer is cold, the food is plentiful and outstanding and the accommodations are warm dry and cozy. We were there to fish and fish hard at that. All things considered it was 5 star to us.