7/6/19 Wilder B&B, Port Alsworth, Alaska
King Salmon is busier than its size suggests. With barely 400 people, King Salmon is bustling with air traffic. That’s not exactly surprising given that there are no roads or train tracks into King Salmon. Furthermore, its location, on the narrow NakNek River (flowing the short distance from NakNek Lake to Bristol Bay) makes it accessible only by small boats. Still, King Salmon acts as an air transportation transfer station, supporting a huge volume of commercial and sport fishermen. They fly into King Salmon on a regular airplane, landing on a conventional airstrip, and then fly out again on a floatplane to various lakes and rivers in the region, all teaming with trout and salmon. It is also far enough south that the tundra here does not freeze and is shielded from the Pacific Ocean precipitation by the coastal mountains. So it is an ideal transportation hub.
The town is not very old. The US government built an air navigation silo in the area in the 1930s. Then, as they did in towns all over Alaska, they built an airfield as part of preparing support for the Pacific theater in World War II. In the 40s and 50s, they constructed most of the local roads. It’s location on a river and near a substantial lake, positioned it well for air traffic. The first Inn dedicated to sport fishing opened in 1956 and many more have opened up since.
One of the newer ones is Gold Creek Lodge, where we stayed. This is not a hotel, but a lodge supporting a small number of guests at a time. During our three nights there, I believe the maximum number of guests was 14. Guests stay in separate wood cabins or in an unusual option – one of their three yurts. Since their cabins were booked during our stay, we were housed in Yurt #1, our first time in one. They were roomy and comfortable. Probably the only downside was that the bathroom facilities were located in a modern trailer facility a 75 foot walk away. (That is a mild inconvenience, except at night when nature calls, one has to get dressed and trek out in the night air. That is made especially interesting since the entire complex is surrounded by high-voltage ‘bear fencing’. So getting to the restroom at night is complete with some exciting additional risks…)
Despite that single complaint, which we knew about before we made reservations, the level of pampering at Gold Creek is exceptional. From the moment we arrived, the owner, Cat Ellis, and her young staff did everything to make us feel very special. They make and deliver drinks and wine to you in the main lodge so there really is no ‘bar’. They take care of your baggage, delivering and picking it up right from your room. And they shuttle you around just about anywhere you need to go. Since cell phone service is a little spotty (at least for Verizon), the lodge was also the number people used to contact us about our flying arrangements. Cat, or her staff, took extra care in relaying messages. And she will make just about any kind of arrangement you might need during your stay.
I especially have to rave about the food, the best of any place we have stayed on this trip, or any other one I can remember. Notified of my fin-fish allergy, the chef one night prepared a delicious duck breast just for me while everyone else enjoyed halibut cheeks. The plates are not huge, but the food is so good and so rich that you don’t need a huge serving. If you stay here, definitely consider the meal plan.
The meals are served on one side of a huge three-story main lodge room. Decorated with trophies of moose, elk, boars, and many fish, and furnished with massive wood furniture and dark leather sofas, it is definitely a testosterone-filled ambiance. But it is very tastefully done and, given the fishing interests of most of their clientele, it is probably appropriate.
There isn’t an easy way of getting around the fact that Gold Creek Lodge is high-end luxury, and the price can be kind of shocking, especially for those of us used to traveling by travel trailer and SUV. But, sometimes you need to splurge and this is a very good way to pamper yourself. Given that our whole purpose for this three night stay in King Salmon was to see Aniakchak, it was totally appropriate to wait in luxury.