Having an up-close encounter with Orcas is possible at Orca Adventure Lodge. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Ben and Jen Nye believe strongly in family vacations. They have taken their five kids, ages 5 to 13, to Japan and throughout the U.S., but Ben was looking to introduce the family to an Alaska adventure lodge. He had worked in Alaska as a guide while attending college and had fished there several times with his father and brothers. The Nyes wanted the opportunity to fish, go whale-watching and see other wildlife.
“We were hoping for this to be a learning experience for the kids and, while they all wanted to catch their first salmon, we also wanted to explore the wilderness safely,” said Jen.
They found a willing partner in Steve Ranney, owner of Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova. An abandoned cannery that he renovated into a lodge, the destination has attracted a dedicated band of followers and families.
“We have a group of more than 20 Hawaiians — mostly doctors and business professionals who know each other — who have booked each year for more than a decade,” Ranny said. “They make themselves at home and process their fish to their own specs. One of the anglers is 95 years old, and the group brings a lawn chair for him to sit on the riverbank and fish.”
The variety of adventures that the lodge offers was particularly appealing to the Nyes.
“On one trip, we went sightseeing for Orca whales and one came up to the boat to look at us,” Ben said. “The kids were running from railing to railing to see this 25-foot-long whale right under the surface of the water.”
They took a three-mile, guided canoe trip along a saltwater shoreline to reach a remote stream and then hiked another mile up a creek to a small section of water to fish.
“We didn’t have much time to do any fishing for ourselves,” Jen said. “We were busy unhooking and releasing fish for the kids.”
Five-year-old Molly Nye hooked onto a salmon so large, it almost pulled her in. Fortunately, her sisters helped her fight the fish, which they eventually landed and released.
“We caught about 100 salmon that day,” Ben said. “The kids were able to see marine life, learn about bears and how to travel safely in bear country and received an overview of wilderness plants.”
Orca offers kayaking, glacier hiking, bear watching and flightseeing adventures, in addition to a variety of remote backcountry cabins for wilderness exploring. On one of their non-fishing days, the Nyes spent the day exploring and playing on a glacier.
Orca Lodge is open from May through October. Accommodations include multi-bedroom suites for families and three meals a day at the New England Cafe, located on premises. The lodging and trips are commissionable to travel agents.
“We’re already booking our next trip to Orca to see more bears,” Ben said. “Orca offers the best deal for families looking for variety in an all-inclusive package.”