Romeo Gourdeau may never have imagined that what he began 60 years ago has translated into a decades-long business offering an outdoors experience and great fishing.
But that’s exactly what has happened as the Nadina Lake Lodge celebrates its diamond anniversary this month.
What’s more, the lodge has stayed within the same family all these years.
And to note the lodge’s history and its 60 years of existence, it’s hosting a lunch this Saturday.
Brad Thompson, who now owns the lodge with wife Wendy, is a nephew of Gourdeau and recalls its early history.
“He came to B.C. in search of a piece of land his father (Thompson’s grandfather) had purchased site unseen,” says Thompson of his uncle who was living in Peace River country of Alberta after being released from the navy at the end of the Second World War.
That property was on Swan Lake near China Nose Mountain east of Houston.
“He then stumbled across Nadina Lake while trying to get some fishing in on his trip. A fellow by the name of James Quitly was living on this site renting a boat and a shack. He was a caretaker of supplies for the Morrison-Knutsen company building the road to Tahtsa Reach for the Kemano project,” said Thompson in reference to the hydro-electric project being built to provide power for Alcan’s aluminum smelter at the new town of Kitimat.
Thompson said his uncle visited Quitly for several years in a row before buying what he had, approaching the provincial government for a lease and also applying to become a guide outfitter in the area.
“He started the lodge and business with two partners, John and Daisy Foster,” Thompson continued.
“Daisy was instrumental in helping develop horseback trails in this backcountry for the guiding business. The partnership only lasted six years. Joe then became the sole owner and operator — running the fishing lodge and guiding hunters. Joe, was a very colourful character!”
At the start, the partnership had just a few old shacks with which to work but gradually added more accommodation by building others and acquiring buildings from closed down tie mill operations.
After the partnership dissolved, Gourdeau managed the lodge by himself with the help of family until he passed away in 1998 whereupon it passed to Thompson and a brother.
Brad and Wendy bought out his brother the following year and have been the lodge’s owners — and sole employeeswith the help of their children when they were younger — ever since.
And for eight of the years the Thompsons have been owners, Wendy ran the lodge by herself because Brad was away at other employment “so we could keep the place and continue our dream,” Brad adds.
“We have tried to maintain the original look and feel of the lodge so we have spent a great deal of time and effort in restoring what buildings were here. We have added a few smaller buildings, re-developed many of the old trails and made many grounds approvements,” said Brad Thompson.
If the lodge has stayed in the same family all these years, several generations of families have also been its guests.
Some guests have been coming for more than 40 years and some families over four generations, Thompson notes.
While most of the guests are from the area — Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers, Prince George, for example — the lodge also hosts customers from the United States and also has returning European clientele.
Along with accommodation improvements over the years, Thompson said the business side has changed with government regulations and licensing being much more challenging.
“We also spend a great deal of time working with industry (logging companies) and the forest service trying to maintain access to this location as well as efforts in the preservation of surrounding ecosystems,” said Thompson.
This Saturday’s complimentary lunch runs from noon until 2 p.m. and the Thompsons welcome the chance to look at old photos and to share stories.