Lodgepole pine from northeastern BC was selected for its attractive golden glow and lasting beauty. A unique company from Wonowon, near Fort St. John in northeastern BC, was contracted to build the lodge. Kanusa Construction was comprised largely of a group of families as the core with various subcontractors hired on. They moved to Naden Harbour in March 1991, distributed throughout the available accommodation onsite, on the MV Driftwood anchored offshore and across the harbour at Peregrine Lodge.
The opening day was a big event! On June 9th, less than three months after the initial footings were poured, government representatives, Haida Chiefs and Elders and islanders from all over “the Charlottes” (as the islands were known), found their way out to Naden Harbour. Floatplanes provided free transportation from Prince Rupert, Sandspit, Queen Charlotte City and Masset. A chartered Convair departed Vancouver at noon with the first group of guests including Haida artists Bill Reid, Robert and Reg Davidson. By the time event host Phil Reimer called everyone to begin the ceremony, 500 people were on hand! After the speeches from chiefs and dignitaries came performances from traditional Haida dancers. The highlight of the ceremony was the naming of the lodge, an honour bestowed by respected Haida elder Grace Wilson. It is called “Ta Ja’uus Na Ka Ganaas” which means: “A Place to Weather the Storm”. There was a traditional scattering of eagle down, drumming and dancing followed by a huge feast of traditional Haida delicacies.
In winter of 2000 the Queen Charlotte Lodge was purchased by a group of 3 Vancouver businessmen led by Paul Clough with partners Pat and Tim Delesalle. The new owners enthusiastically made very significant investments in improvements to the property and equipment. Paul implemented new standards of business operation that started the Lodge on the path to an expansion of services and facilities. Over the next few years the business grew and improved steadily.
The fleet of custom-built, 21-foot fishing boats expanded to 18 at that time with the introduction of deluxe features like electric downriggers and satellite radio. The aging wooden docks were fully replaced by specially constructed facilities on 4 concrete floats. Encompassing the weigh-in station, Pro Shop, washrooms, specially ventilated locker rooms for flotation jackets and gear, offices, staff accommodations, fish processing / freezing and marine mechanical shop, it stands out as the best fishing facility on the coast.
In 2003 the company purchased a cedar house on the waterfront in Masset harbour to operate as a fully-guided fishing lodge called Masset House, introducing a fleet of four 23-foot Grady Whites moored at the new Masset docks. The project performed well but with the economic challenges of 2008 it was decided to close the fishing operation in Masset and move the 4 Gradys to the lodge in Naden Harbour. This bold move provided yet another turning point in the evolution of QCL. After 17 years of using exclusively aluminum boats, the lodge began a program, which by 2015, had evolved to comprise 15 deluxe, fully guided Grady White vessels. Coincidentally the approach to fishing at the lodge had evolved from being primarily self-guided to employing a team of 34 guides in 2015.
The look of Queen Charlotte Lodge evolved over the same period as we continued to develop the brand; ranging from visual improvements on the property through new corporate colours to a revision of the company logo. The creation of the “hooked Q” signified the start of a new phase of the “QCL” story.
In 2010 the provincial government officially renamed the islands Haida Gwaii as part of a reconciliation protocol between British Columbia and the Haida people, leaving the name “Queen Charlotte” on the outside, so to speak. As a result, the name QCL – Haida Gwaii and the corresponding logo have emerged as the company’s popular identity.
Another turning point in the business came in 2003 when Harbour Air announced that it would close its floatplane operation at Sandspit, leaving many lodges scrambling for alternative transportation. The answer came from Vancouver Island Helicopter who used a number of Bell 212 machines on the islands to service the logging industry. Moving 13 passengers with a 15-minute flight from the Masset Airport, the twice-weekly process called “changeover” became much more efficient and reliable. The distance was less than half and the turnover time for the machines on the ground was much quicker. Competition for a limited number of machines brought about the introduction of the current travel configuration, which is a far cry from its origins!