Tourism in Katmai Country
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Although the concessioner has been the dominant (and most publicized) recreational service provider at Katmai, other camp-based operators have also thrived over the years. Some of these were lessees or subcontractors from one of the five main fishing camps. Others were commercial guides whose properties became surrounded by NPS land during the park expansions of 1969 and 1978. The military has also been an active user of Katmai's resources. Troops stationed at King Salmon visited the monument beginning in the 1940s, and Lake Camp, at the western margin of the present park, served as an officers' recreation facility until it closed in the mid-1970s.

Northern Consolidated Airlines and its successor organizations, Wien Consolidated Airlines and Wien Air Alaska, were the holders of the only concession contract within Katmai National Monument from 1950 through 1980. Because of that contract, the various holders of the Katmai concession contract were the only commercial organizations allowed to establish permanent facilities within the monument boundaries. When, in 1980, the monument expanded into Katmai National Park and Preserve, Wien advertised three other camps, also dating from 1950, which were included within the boundaries of the new park. Katmailand, the successor to the Wien contract, continues to administer the five camps.

These companies, however, have not been the only organizations to provide tourist services within the boundaries of the present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve. Two other inholders have also operated tourist camps, and the government has also operated a rest and relaxation camp for military personnel. In addition, the holders of the concession contract have been far from consistent in the operation of their camps. Camps have remained closed for years at a time; they have also been leased out to other operators. Finally, the last decade has seen an explosive growth in the number of recreational businesses, based outside the park's boundaries, which have used park lands for fishing, river floating, hunting, and similar pursuits. Those who have operated permanent facilities in the park are discussed below, while the history of the various temporary park users is outlined in Chapter 7.

Usage Patterns at the Main Concession Camps

The number of camps which the principal concessioner operated over the years was by no means uniform. During the first decade of operation, there was sufficient demand to keep each of the five camps open each year; several of the camps, however, were open for only an abbreviated season. During the first few years of operation, the concessioner experimented with various camp schedules. Brooks Camp, for instance, closed in late August in its first two years of operation, but extended its season in 1952 and has remained open through early September ever since. [1] Regarding the other fish camps, their locations were such that each of their fish runs peaked at a different time of the season. Therefore, the first year's plan of operation called for shuttling guests to a different facility depending on the fish run. As a consequence Coville, Nonvianuk, Kulik and Battle, in that order, opened and closed as the season progressed. Only one or two remained open at a given time. [2] The runs at certain camps were apparently so disappointing that in the spring of 1951 the concessioner told NPS officials that "only two camps will be operated, one at Brooks River and one outside the monument." [3] But none of the camps closed that season, or anytime during the rest of the decade. [4]

The concessioner soon recognized that some camps offered better, more long-lasting fish runs than others. That potential was reflected in the length of season that the various camps were open. The run along the Kulik River, just north of the monument boundary, remained good for a number of weeks each summer, and nearby Kulik Camp, as a consequence, soon rivaled Brooks Camp in size. Coville Camp (renamed Grosvenor Camp in the mid-1950s) was more intimate in scale, and was typically open for only a few weeks in June and July. Battle and Nonvianuk camps, both about the same size as Coville Camp, were open for only brief periods each summer; Battle Camp, in particular, proved to be a relatively poor location for a fish camp. [5]

Northern Consolidated continued to operate the five camps, for varying amounts of time each summer, until 1962. [6] By 1965, however, the airline had mothballed Nonvianuk and Battle camps, and the two camps remained closed for the remainder of the decade. In the early 1970s Nonvianuk Camp reawakened to see occasional use as a base camp for early fly-in fishing trips. Wien did not open it to a general clientele for most of the decade, but a few groups of fly-in fishermen probably used it each year. The camp was reopened on a full-time basis in 1979. [7]

Battle Camp, meanwhile, was taken over by Ben C. White, a registered hunting guide who used the camp as a base for guided hunts. White, a 35-year Alaska resident, leased the camp from Wien Consolidated, and in the spring of 1971 began advertising his Battle River Wilderness Camp. [8] For the next three or four years he offered both hunting and fishing from his camp; to accommodate his guests, he erected a couple of plywood tents at the camp. In 1976 and 1977, advertisements noted fishing as the only camp attraction. [9] For reasons of age or health, he probably did not operate the camp after the summer of 1977. He continued, however, to hold the camp lease.

With the takeover of Wien Air Alaska by Household Finance Corporation, the smaller camps entered a period of flux as management experimented with their revenue-producing potential. Wien personnel purchased the Battle Camp lease back from Ben White, [10] and in 1980, all five camps were again open for the first time in a decade and a half. They remained open the following year as well. Available data suggests that both Battle and Nonvianuk camps were open for only a few weeks each season. [11] But in 1982 Battle Camp closed again, and so-called Nonvianuk Lodge was used only in conjunction with float trips down the Nonvianuk River. Wien kept a caretaker there, but booked less than half a dozen guests there all summer. [12]

Katmailand's management chose a different approach toward the smaller camps. Battle Camp remained closed during 1983 and 1984, but Nonvianuk was leased to Bill Wright, who operated Alaska Campout Adventures (later known as Alaska Fishing and Wilderness Adventures). Wright renamed the camp Cry of the Loon Lodge, and to improve the site, he had Katmailand construct two additional Panabode guest cabins at the site. Wright ran the camp for three years; by 1985 he was overseer of a thriving operation which hosted 526 guests. [13]

In 1986 Katmailand regained direct control of Nonvianuk Camp, but the only known camp activity that year was a series of informal programs given by NPS rangers stationed nearby. Katmailand has opened the camp on a sporadic basis during the last five years; they were inactive, for instance, in 1988, and hosted fewer than 30 guests in 1989 and 1990. [14] Operations at Battle Camp were equally sporadic. In 1985 the camp, managed by Tim Conway, a former guide for Bill Wright, opened "on a limited basis for special groups." The camp appears to have lain dormant the following two seasons, but in 1988 Conway and his wife Wendy, operating under a Katmailand rental agreement, opened Alaska's Battle River Wilderness Retreat. The Conways have continued to run the camp ever since. [15]

Other Commercial Inholdings in Katmai

Although many private inholdings now exist within the boundaries of Katmai National Park and Preserve, only two landowners have attempted to offer commercial services. Facilities in the park which have competed against the principal concessioner are Enchanted Lake Lodge, just south of Nonvianuk Lake, and the Last Frontier Lodge, just below the outflow of Naknek Lake.

Both lodges were built in the 1960s. Edwin W. Seiler, the founder of the first Katmai lodge to compete with the Northern Consolidated camps, was a Maine native who had lived in Alaska since 1948. His interests soon turned to the Katmai country; according to George Collins, "he scouted the region afoot and with a rubber boat, and concluded that it was the place he wanted to make his career." By 1950, he and Ernest Weschenfelder were the co-owners of Air Martel, which served as King Salmon's restaurant, hotel, store, and social center. Seven years later, using his Cessna 180, he began flying visitors into the monument. In the 1960s, he became interested in the lands surrounding Enchanted Lake, a small (50-acre) lake located one-half mile south of Nonvianuk Lake and ten miles southwest of Kulik Camp. [16] In 1964, he began improving the property around the lake's northeastern shore for the purpose of opening a fishing lodge. The following August, having completed the construction of two Panabode guest buildings, Enchanted Lake Lodge took in its first paying customer. By 1966 Seiler had completed the lodge building, and constructed a 1-1/4-mile road connecting his lodge with Nonvianuk Lake. The following year he finished an adjacent warehouse. He built an additional Panabode in 1972. [17]

By 1973, the lodge property boasted four Panabodes, one and one-half miles of graded road, four outbuildings, two seaplane docks, and other equipment. It was described during this period as being "a luxurious facility" by wilderness standards, which accommodated four guests for stays of a week or more. Guest cabins featured central heating and private baths with showers; meals were served in the main lodge. As early as 1974, lodge guests took part in flights to nearby fishing holes. Due to Seiler's expertise guests were, in effect, able to follow the concentrations of sport fish during the summer. [18] Lodge guests typically flew to such locations as Brooks Camp, American Creek, Alagnak River, Moraine and Funnel creeks, Idavain Creek, and Kulik River. [19]

Although Seiler had staked the lodge property in 1964, difficulties in the land claims process delayed his ability to obtain a patent. Not until January 1981 did he obtain title to the 53.87-acre trade and manufacturing site. The following year, he obtained a Special Use Permit which allowed road access to Nonvianuk Lake. Seiler also began to make plans to sell his interest in the lodge property. [20] The lodge did not operate in 1983, but in February 1984 the lodge buildings and all but 3-1/2 acres of his property were purchased by Richard Matthews. Matthews, who still owns the lodge, expanded the main lodge building and built an additional guest cabin during his first year of operation. In 1987, he renamed his operation Alaska's Enchanted Lake Lodge, Inc. Development since that time has been limited, perhaps due to restrictive covenants Seiler placed on the land. [21]

While Enchanted Lake Lodge was notable for its remoteness, Last Frontier Lodge was relatively accessible. Located on the right bank of Naknek River, approximately one and one-half miles south of its outflow from Naknek Lake, the camp could be reached by float plane, by boat from Brooks Camp, or by road from King Salmon.

The proprietors of the lodge were Dean Paddock and his wife Diane. Mrs. Paddock filed a location notice for the 4.95-acre headquarters site on January 4, 1968. Just over a year later, on January 20, 1969, President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation expanding Katmai National Monument during the waning hours of his administration. [22] The Paddock's parcel was included in the 94,500 acres added to the monument.

Had their property been undisturbed on the date the monument was expanded, the Paddock claim would have reverted to Federal control. The couple, however, proved that they had transported a load of lumber onto their claim prior to the park expansion date, and the pile of lumber was sufficient to prove that the land was improved. [23] More than a year later, the first structure was built on the property. Foundation holes were dug by July 1970. Two months after that, an aerial field reconnaissance revealed that the outside walls had been erected. [24]

The lodge finally opened, amid appropriate fanfare, in the spring of 1971. In March, their first advertisement in Alaska Magazine announced the following: [25]

For 15 years a professional Fishery Biologist
in the Great Bristol Bay country...
DEAN PADDOCK will now help you make
that "Fishing Trip of a Lifetime"
Specializing in TROPHY RAINBOW,
Float Trips on Wilderness Waters

The Naknek River camp soon became the headquarters site for a sport fishing guide service; satellite camps were set up on the Alagnak River and at the narrows between upper and lower Ugashik Lake. [26] By the end of its first season of operation, the headquarters camp consisted of a 20' x 16' residence (which had been partially finished the year before), a combination outhouse-storehouse, and a combination sauna-bathhouse. Within a few years, the lodge grew to the point that it consisted of two cabins able to accommodate up to six guests. [27]

The lodge continued to advertise its services through the 1973 season, and on January 31, 1974, Diane Paddock was awarded a patent for the parcel. Shortly afterwards, however, the lodge shut down. [28] Ms. Paddock still owns the parcel, but no commercial activity has taken place there during the last decade. [29]

Military Operations at Lake Camp

As noted in Chapter 1, the members of various military branches were some of the first visitors to the Katmai country. Military personnel arrived in the area with the establishment of Naknek Air Base in 1941, and soon afterwards the U.S. Army Air Corps established two rest and recreation camps nearby. Naknek Recreation Annex

No. 1, informally called Rapids Camp, was the enlisted men's camp and was located at the foot of the Naknek River rapids, five miles southeast of Naknek Air Base. Annex No. 2, called Lake Camp, was the officer's camp. It was located at the west end of Naknek Lake, eight air miles east of the base, seven miles upstream from Rapids Camp and only 640 feet north of the parcel where the Last Frontier Lodge was located. Because Rapids Camp is located outside of the boundaries of Katmai National Park and Preserve, the focus of this section is directed toward Lake Camp.

The initial public land withdrawal at Lake Camp took place on January 22, 1943. [30] By 1949 the Air Force applied to have Lake and Rapids camps withdrawn as recreation areas. On September 1, 1949, the Air Force applied to withdraw 329 acres for the two camps, but it later reduced its request to approximately ten acres at each site. That request was approved on October 23, 1956, with the passage of Public Land Order 1350. [31]

Improvements, meanwhile, had been in place since the 1940s. By 1949, "Camp No. 2" contained a 16x40-foot Yakutat Hut, presumably used as a barracks. [32] By September 1951, the camp had "been in use for some time by the military forces." Over the next few years a dock and quonset hut were built at the east end of the parcel; at the west end were erected a large, rectangular barracks/mess hall/recreation hall complex, a small quonset hut, and a group of corrugated metal shop buildings. By the early 1970s, the camp was able to accommodate fifty personnel at a time. [33]

In January 1969, roughly two-fifths of the camp (4.66 acres out of a total of 12.16 acres) fell within the boundaries of the expanded monument. The Air Force reacted to the new boundaries by obtaining a special use permit for the land within National Park Service jurisdiction; otherwise, activities at the camp continued as before. The camp offered rest and recreation to officers from around the country; those ranked majors and above visited because of its excellent fishing. [34]

In 1974, however, the status quo was shattered under charges that the two King Salmon recreation camps were wasting Federal funds. Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI), who received the allegations, asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the camps. The study, made that fall, revealed that Lake and Rapid camps cost the taxpayer, on the average, $384 per guest. The per-guest cost was found to be more than five times that of a similar camp at Seward, and more than fifty times the cost of a camp at Birch Lake, near Delta Junction. [35] Based on the findings of that study, the GAO directed the Air Force to consider closing the King Salmon camps. The Air Force responded by closing the camps on a temporary basis in 1975, and finding them not cost effective, closed them permanently the following year. [36]

The Air Force notified the National Park Service that Lake Camp was excess property in July 1976. The military hoped that all of the Lake Camp acreage—not just the eastern two-fifths—would be included in the monument. When President Jimmy Carter, on December 1, 1978, proclaimed some 56 million acres of Alaska lands to be protected as national monuments under the provisions of the Antiquities Act, the western three-fifths of Lake Camp was included in the proclamation. Perhaps in response to that action, most of the abandoned buildings at Lake Camp were destroyed by fire the following day. Over the next few years, the remaining buildings fell into varying states of collapse. [37]

Since that time the camp has continued to lay unused, and most action related to the parcel has concerned land ownership. Paug-Vik, Ltd., the Native village corporation based in Naknek, claimed rights to Lake Camp in the mid-1970s; since that time the Cook Inlet Regional Corporation and the Bureau of Land Management have also expressed an interest in the land. Control of the parcel has further been clouded by at least one lawsuit. The NPS, however, feels that the primary forces contending for ownership are itself and the U.S. Air Force. [38] The two sections of the twelve-acre camp have undergone different legal sequences.

Regarding the 4.66-acre parcel along the river, title has been clouded because of the nature of the 1969 monument expansion. Presidential proclamation 3890, which expanded the monument, revoked the Air Force withdrawal, but it has remained unclear as to whether title passed to the NPS at that time. The Air Force has long been convinced that the land belonged to the National Park Service; its acceptance of a twenty-year Special Use Permit, obtained in June 1969, implied its recognition of NPS ownership. That recognition extended through 1979, when it told the Service to revoke its permit. But other Federal agencies assume that the Air Force, because of environmental hazards which may exist on the property, has not yet transmitted the parcel to another agency. These conditions suggest that the NPS either owns the parcel outright, or is in an excellent position to obtain the parcel once environmental cleanup takes place. [39]

The 7.5 acres on the west side of the camp were not included in the boundaries of the monument until 1978. The language of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was more forgiving to those who had preexisting rights to new park lands. Therefore the U.S. Air Force, which had never relinquished its withdrawal for the west side of the camp, continued to own the western portion of the old Lake Camp property.

During the last decade the Air Force has tried to donate the parcel to the National Park Service; the Service, if possible, would like to receive it. But under the provisions of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, the Air Force is required to clear its property before title can be transferred. To that end, military personnel demolished what was left of the burned or collapsing buildings in the late 1980s. The site is now vacant, but due to the lack of restoration funds it will take several more years before the site will be sufficiently clean to transfer title. [40]

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Last Updated: 13-Oct-2004