The Historic Taku Glacier Lodge

Taku Lodge was originally built by Dr. Harry C. DeVighne in 1923. He opened it up as one of Alaskas first Hunting and fishing Lodges available for overnight guests. The lodge was used as a base camp as they conducted their excursions all around the valleys and streams of the Taku River. Also check out https://www.masonicsupplyshop.com/masonic-pendants/

In the fall of 1930, Mrs. Erie L. Smith visited Taku Lodge while touring Southeast Alaska on her yacht, the “Stella Maris”. Mrs. Smith bought Twin Glacier Camp as a second home for both summer and winter use. Her son, Hack, stayed on at Taku Lodge year-round as a caretaker. In the summer Hack kept a crew of men busy constructing new buildings and maintaining the camp. Also helping out with year round caretaking was Mary Joyce. Mary was originally hired on as a private nurse for Ms. Smith and Hack, but quickly fell in love with the lodge and stayed on to help out with the year round maintinance and upkeep of Taku Lodge.

Mary and Hack had began raising sled dogs during their years at the lodge, putting them to work in the winter hauling firewood and using them for travel on the frozen Taku River. It did not take long for word to spread about these Taku River huskies. What started as a hobbie for Hack and Mary quickly became a business as they began to sell well trained sled dogs all around the state of Alaska and Western Canada.

In 1934, Hack set out on a hunting trip on the Stikine River. While in Wrangell, he suffered a heart attack and died. Mrs. Smith was very distraught at the loss of her son, and decided she did not want anything more to do with Taku Lodge. Mary had always expressed a passion for the  Taku River, and Mrs. Smith did not have the heart to take that away from her. Mrs. Smith was happy to give Taku Lodge to Mary Joyce.

Mary Joyce was an adventurous girl. When she received an invitation to participate in the 1936 Fairbanks Ice Carnival, she decided to make the trip overland by dog sled. She set out from the lodge in December of 1935 with five dogs and a loaded sled to travel the1,000 miles to Fairbanks. Mary spent three months on the trail of which she was only  actually able to travel fifty-two days. She averaged twenty-miles a day in spite of temperatures to fifty degrees below zero and only a few hours of daylight each day. The sled and harness she used on the trip are on display at the Taku Lodge.

After her journey Mary opened Taku Lodge and operated it successfully as a tourist resort, calling it Twin Glacier Lodge. She owned Taku Lodge until 1942 when she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Royal O’Reilly. In Juneau, Mary opened two bars on South Franklin Street and lived above the “Lucky Lady” until her death in 1976.

The Taku Lodge officially became Taku Glacier Lodge in 1949. There have been several owners and many colorful stories since. In 1971, Taku Lodge was purchased by Ron and Kathy Mass of Juneau. After several hard working years of restoring the lodge the Maas’s decided to share their love of the Taku Glacier Lodge with visitors of Southeast Alaska by offering the Wilderness Salmon Bake & Scenic Flight in 1979.

In 1993, the Maas family decided to retire and sold Taku Lodge to a Juneau couple, Ken and Michelle Ward. Ken was raised in Ketchikan, and moved to Juneau in 1967, where he later owned and operated an air taxi business, Juneau’s Ward Air. Michelle was born in Seattle and raised at the Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy, Alaska. She has worked for Alaska Airlines since 1973. Ken and Michelle were married in 1985, and they have five children who have grown up spending summers at the Taku Lodge.

Over the years, many people have called Taku Lodge home. Each summer a crew of nine employees occupy the small cabins surrounding Taku Lodge. Taku Glacier Lodge is their home away from home as they welcome guests each day of the summer season.

It is because of the wide variety of people involved with Taku Lodge, the many visitors, and the overall love for this magical place that the history of the Taku Lodge is still alive today.

Wings Airways is honored to offer our Taku Glacier Flight & Feast Tour and we hope you will join us on this once in a lifetime experience!

Wing Airways

Wings Pilots


Mike Stedman (Owner, VP of Flight Operations Wings Airways, President of Wings of Alaska)

Mike Stedman was born in Sitka as a 4th generation Alaskan. Both his Great Grandfather and Grandfather were homesteaders on an island south of Juneau. His wife Lori is part Athabascan native, with a family history that spans Alaska’s history. They have two grown sons, both electricians, both in Alaska. Stedman’s Father and Uncle worked for Alaska Coastal Airlines (see Waterfront History) introducing him to aviation at an early age.

The combination of interaction with many well-known bush pilots and a true passion for flying created a natural career in Alaskan aviation. His professional career began with Haines Airways out of Haines, Alaska flying scheduled and charter flights throughout Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. He joined Wings of Alaska in 1988 as a line pilot and worked his way through the ranks as Check Airman, Assistant Chief Pilot, Chief Pilot and onto Vice President of Flight Operations. Today Stedman wears two important hats as V. P. Of Flight Operations for both Wings of Alaska and the employee owned Wings Airways. Stedman also serves on the Board of Directors of the Alaska Air Carriers Association. As a owner and board member of Wings Airways, which operates under the historic Alaska Coastal Airlines certificate, he is a part of the company that introduced him to aviation through family tradition and is carrying on the Alaska Spirit.

Dan Corson (Director of Operations)

Dan Corson gained a degree from the Center of Aero Space Science from the famed flight training school, the University of North Dakota. After graduation he gained airline experience working at the Minneapolis International Airport as a “rampie”. He then gained flight time as a flight instructor with Buffalo Aviation. He spent any extra time working a wide variety of jobs including blackjack dealer and framing/matting for his fathers business. In 1996 he became a Corporate Pilot in Buffalo, Minnesota. Corson had known a pilot from the Juneau area, opening the door to Alaska and a dream of becoming a bush pilot. His wife Becky agreed to the adventure and Corson joined Wings of Alaska in 1998. Today he holds many titles as Assistant Chief pilot, Check Airman, and Safety Officer for both Wings of Alaska and Wings Airways. Perhaps the most important title of all is being father to sons Denny & Corbin, possible future bush pilots in the making.

Rusty Shaub (Owner)

Rusty Shaub first came to Alaska in 1968 to work for the families tire business. Work involved traveling throughout Southeast Alaska’s logging and construction camps servicing heavy equipment tires. Travel involved quite a bit of flying in floatplanes to access camps throughout the region with no road access. He moved to Ketchikan in 1975 and began flying his own Cessna 180 floatplane a few years later. In 1985 he switched from the passengers seat to the pilots seat and began flying as work instead of flying to work. In Ketchikan Shaub flew for Westflight until he and his family moved to Juneau. In 1986 he began working for Wings of Alaska and has been a valuable team member from that point on.

During his time with Wings he has been a Line Pilot, Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, and occasionally lends an extra hand in the maintenance hangar. At this point in his career he enjoys the summers in the air and the winters in the hangar where it doesn’t rain, snow or blow. His motto, as any pilot could appreciate, is “working in a place where the ceiling is always in the same place is a darn good thing”! With the creation of Wings Airways Shaub became an instrumental element in the ownership and management of an employee owned company. Throughout his years of flying he has operated a variety of radial engines taking him to every corner of Southeast and beyond. The exciting part of flying Wings Airways aircraft today is the advance from the radial engines on the deHavilland Otters to the turbine engines. The increased performance, power, speed and reliability have these floatplanes flying better than ever. They have also been a vital improvement in correcting environmental noise concerns our harbor side neighbors had with the traditional radials. Shaub has been with Wings through each change and advancement over the years and will continue to provide his experience and expertise into the future.

Wayne Love (Owner)

Wayne Love was born and raised in the Eastern Oregon area. He served in the US Army from 1972 to 1976 with most of his time spent overseas. While stationed in Europe his Armor division was always accompanied by a helicopter unit, inspiring Wayne into the world of aviation. Once returning to Oregon he pursued an education and a career in flying. Beginning with an Associates degree in Aviation he went on to add a Bachelors Degree in Business/Economics from Eastern Oregon State College to his list of accomplishments. After graduation he researched his next move while gaining hours as a flight instructor.

With family already living in Alaska he added it as a possibility while sending out resumes. With the support of his wife Wayne began his first commercial flying position with Skagway Air based in Skagway, Alaska in 1986. In 1991 he earned a position with Wings of Alaska in Juneau where he has been ever since. Wayne became Chief Pilot in 1996 and now holds the title of Chief Pilot for both Wings Of Alaska and Wings Airways. His many responsibilities include the hiring and training of new pilots and overseeing the training program that includes recurrent training for all Wings pilots. With his experience and knowledge he makes an excellent employee-owner in the newly formed Wings Airways.

Wayne and his wife Marlene have three grown children who have had the fortunate experience of growing up surrounded by Alaskan beauty and the hum of aviation.

Sam Wright (Owner,Pilot/Mechanic)

Sam Wright began a lifetime of flight in 1964 in Southern California. His commercial career began one year later. The next 7 years were occupied by Cessna dealership in Southern California flying their various products. Wright took a short break from flying first as a GI, then as a small business owner. After trying other careers he could no longer deny his passion for flying. While working at Cessna he spent seven years hearing romantic Alaskan stories by a fellow employee who was a former Air Force fighter (F-89) pilot, based in Galena, Alaska. The timing was right to follow a dream, so he packed up his car and headed North to the land of the midnight sun. Wright is now a twenty-five year veteran of Alaska with only a two-year break to fly DC-3s out of Charlotte, NC. Wright made Southeast Alaska his permanent home when he joined Wings of Alaska in May of 1988. Today Wings depends on Wright for both scheduled flights and the glacier flightseeing tours flying deHavilland DHC-3 on floats and the Cessna 208 on wheels. Wright calls Haines his home, a small Alaskan town 70 air miles to the Northwest with a population of 1,808. As Juneau is a city with no road in or out Wright commutes to Juneau daily in his own plane. With over forty years of flying experience he was an essential piece of the new ownership when Wings Airways was formed in 2001.

Bruce Tice (Owner)

Adventure runs deep through this Southern California native. Bruce Tice had spent many hours skydiving over sunny California when he decided he wanted to be the one in the pilot seat. This desire led to his pursuit of a private pilots license. However his first trip to Alaska was aboard a sailboat as a part of the Orange Coast College Sail Training Program. With a USCG Masters license he lead the students from Hanalei, Hawaii to Glacier Bay, Alaska. Impressed with the scenery and the floatplane activity throughout the Inside Passage he realized flying in Alaska was his next goal. Tice continued with the college’s marine program and a professional career with the Newport Beach Police department. Not settled yet on what a he wanted to do “when he grew up,” he returned to Southeast Alaska to pursue seasonal aviation related employment.

Wings of Alaska gave him is first opportunity using his boating skills on the waterfront assisting the tug and dock placement when the floatplanes would take off from the side of the visiting cruise ships as well as general ground crew duties. He continued to pursue commercial and instrument ratings at the same time. Today Tice flies a variety of Wings aircraft, with most of his time spent in the turbine deHavilland Otters during the summer months in Juneau. He continues to balance employment with three jobs in two states and pursue world travels. His sail training has taken him on voyages from the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia (where he participated in the great Sydney-Hobart Race of 1999), and South even further to Antarctica. Tice believes that these experiences combined with the structure of the Newport Beach Police Department make his ownership in Wings Airways another successful adventure each year.

Al Clough (Owner)

Al’s family moved to Juneau when Alaska was still a territory. He was raised in Juneau graduating from Juneau- Douglas High School in 1972. While in high school he spent summers on the Juneau Icefield assisting scientist with various research projects.

Al’s work on the Juneau Icefield developed into an interest in earth science and he attained an MS degree in Economic Geology from the University of Idaho College of Mines. He has worked in mineral exploration throughout Alaska, much of the Western USA and Australia. He continues an active interest in Alaska mineral resources by being a partner in a small mining company that holds and explores gold and other metal mining claims in various parts of Alaska.

Al’s field work on the Juneau Icefield and much of his mineral exploration was supported by small aircraft and helicopters and this lead to a growing interest in aviation. While exploring for gold and diamonds in Western Australia in the early 1980’s he started flying as a private pilot. After returning to Alaska in 1984 Al bought a Piper PA- 12 (Cub) that he still owns and operates. Al uses his cub like people use their 4×4’s in the lower 48 states; for access to hunting, fishing, exercising the dog or just enjoying the Alaska outback. He started flying commercially for Wings Airways and sister company, Wings of Alaska, in 2002.

In addition to being a commercial pilot Al is a registered professional geologist and also a fully certified Ski Instructor. During the winter months he teaches skiing at Juneau’s Eaglecrest Ski Area on his days off from Wings.

Al and his wife Jeffra, a part time dispatcher for Wings, reside year round in Juneau.


Gary Thompson
(Assistant Chief Pilot)

Gary Thompson was raised in Washington. He attended Western Washington University where he received his degree in Business Administration. After graduation, he worked in wholesale computer sales until he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of being a pilot.
He earned all his ratings at a flight school in eastern Washington, then spend 2 years building time working as a flight instructor. In 1993, with 800 hours logged, he moved to Juneau, Alaska, having heard that this was the place to build time toward flying for the big airlines.

Needing more than 800 hours to fly for the local airlines, Gary took a job with Wings of Alaska working on the ramp and as a mechanic’s assistant. He bought a Cessna 150 and continued to build his time until Wings made him a pilot in 1995. Gary has since accumulated over 6000 hours flying in Southeast Alaska, and is now an Assistant Chief Pilot for Wings. Having fallen in love with Southeast Alaska, he decided that this was where he wanted to spend the rest of his life, and abandoned his original plan to be a jet jockey. In spring of 2001, Gary started dating another pilot, Susan, who then flew for Skagway Air Service. They were married the following winter, and now reside in the Mendenhall Valley with their beloved black Lab, Cooper, and their calico cat, Tica. Gary has since traded in his Cessna for a 1946 Taylorcraft floatplane that he and Susan use to explore the beauty of SE Alaska. They share their love to Southeast by air, land and water with their son Lucas.

Troy McClanahan (Assistant Chief Pilot)

Troy McClanahan was born in Ketchikan, Alaska where float planes are a part of life. Flying has been a dream of Troy’s for as long as he can remember. His earliest memories include sitting on the shore watching the float planes take off and land in the harbor. When he was 20 years old he left Southeast Alaska to get his pilot’s license in North Carolina. He returned to Alaska shortly after. He started  loading planes as a ramp hand for a local air taxi company, working his way up to dispatcher while building time to be a pilot. He has flown a wide variety of aircraft over the years including Cessna 185, 206, 207, Grand Caravan, DeHavilland Beavers and Otters, a Medevac King Air throughout Alaska and Montana, a Q400 for Horizon Airlines, and ending up full circle doing what he loves best, flying float planes in Southeast Alaska. He lives in Juneau year-round with his wife, an air traffic controller (aviation runs in the family), five children, and three dogs.


Our Floatplane Fleet


The Wings Airways fleet of 5 DeHavilland Otters have a unique history that is highly regarded by the pilots that fly them and the mechanics that care for them. We also have quite a following from former and current aviators who know and respect the story of the deHavilland aircraft.

The Otters were converted between 2004 and 2005 from Pratt and Whitney radial engines to Garrett TPE331-10 turbine engines. With these 900 horsepower engines the aircraft reliability and safety factors were substantially increased.
 
For an added margin of safety Wings has installed modern Chelton GPS based EFIS glass cockpits in all of the Otters. We also take one step further to ensure each passenger enjoys unrestricted views as everyone has a window seat.
 

DeHavilland Otter

First flown at DeHavilland Aircraft Company, Toronto, Canada on 12 December 1951, the Otter’s design was similar to but larger than the company’s Beaver. Both aircraft were designed to operate from rugged bush country as well as in cold weather operations. The Otter was in fact originally going to be named the King Beaver and it followed its predecessor’s configuration very closely. It featured a conventional stressed skin construction and had a braced -wing with full-span slotted flaps with the outer portions acting as ailerons. The design proved to be highly versatile and could be operated on wheels, floats or skis.
 
Impressed with the performance of the Otter, particularly its ability to operate with heavy loads out of unprepared airstrips, the U.S. Army purchased a large number of them under the designation of U-1A. After evaluating a “loan” Otter from the Army, the Navy purchased four of them in January 1955 as UC-1As to serve as an air arm for Task Force 43 during Operation Deep Freeze I in the Antarctic. Procurement of a further fourteen, later designated as U-1Bs, included some for other countries. Nine of them with wheel/ski configuration were to further supplement and replace Otters in the Antarctic. Most of these planes have either been retired or gone on into private service. Some of both aircraft have been retro-fitted with turbine engines instead of radial engines. Today Otter’s are in high demand around the world, especially on floats in Alaska, where the vast majority are based.

FAQ

If you wish more information please contact us.

What is a floatplane?
A floatplane is an aircraft that utilizes water as its runway with the use of floats or pontoons instead of wheels. This is a popular mode of transportation throughout Southeast Alaska for access to remote locations or communities without a land based runway.

Will I have a window seat?
EVERYONE enjoys a window seat.

Where are we located in Alaska?
We are located in downtown Juneau with our own floatplane dock next to the Cruise Ship Docks.

What is the difference between the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield and Glacier Bay?
Glaciers are magnificent where ever they can be viewed. The major difference between these two locations is the time it takes to get to them from Juneau. The Juneau Icefield is directly in our backyard. To access Glacier Bay requires a minimum flight of 45 minutes in each direction. The magnificent glaciers of the Juneau Icefield will be visible just ten minutes after departing our downtown Juneau floatplane base.

Can you drive to the Taku Glacier Lodge?
No road system extends to the remote Taku Glacier Lodge. Access to the Lodge is strictly by floatplane or small-motorized riverboat.

Do you serve anything other than salmon at the Taku Lodge?
We still focus on what we do best…and that is grilling fresh wild Alaskan King Salmon over an alder wood flame. However, we have added chicken to our service as an alternative to the Wild Alaskan King Salmon. We do recommend that every guest taste the salmon, as even the discriminating palate that dislikes salmon may be surprised by the excellent and unique flavor this fresh and wild King Salmon provides. ***And special note: with the amazing side dishes NO ONE has ever left the Taku Glacier Lodge hungry!

Where do you get your King Salmon?
Fishermen right out of Taku River catch most of our King Salmon. Other times of the season we may buy it from a nearby town so you will always have it fresh from the salt water. We only serve Wild Alaskan King Salmon (Chinook).
Are the Taku Glacier Lodge bears “wild”?
Most definitely! The bears have NEVER been fed by anyone associated with the Lodge.

Do glaciers really move?
Motion and change define a glaciers life. Healthy glaciers are always advancing. However, depending on the season and overall climate most glaciers are melting faster than they can move down the valley. The Taku Glacier that you will be flying over is one notable exception having advanced over ten miles down valley in the last 100 years. The Taku is currently near equilibrium – its rate of advance and melting is almost equal.

Will I walk on a glacier?
To flightsee by floatplane is the ultimate opportunity to see more of the glaciers themselves. Although we will not land on a glacier we will be flying past a variety of glaciers and their amazing surroundings. Floatplane travel allows you to experience an overall view of the Icefield and the different personalities of the glaciers that flow from it.

Will I see the Mendenhall Glacier?
Locals know the Mendenhall Glacier as the “drive-up glacier”. All glaciers are magnificent and this is one that you can see while in Juneau with a simple twenty-minute drive from downtown. The visitors center provides access for viewing from approximately one mile away, it is not accessible by foot. Its easy access has made the Mendenhall Glacier well known. We highly recommend that you see glaciers from the air!

Why do glaciers look so dirty?
Glaciers are one of Mother Nature’s most effective erosion agents. The various rock debris you see on the glaciers are the result of the scouring of the bedrock as it moves down the valley.

What if I weigh over 250 pounds?
We do not have any weight per passenger restrictions on our aircraft and no additional charge for guests over 250 lbs. We will ask for your weight as the FAA requires a full weight and balance record per aircraft.

Do you want my weight with or without clothes?
Well, what ever state you happen to be in at the time of your flight. (We actually get this question often)

Can I take photos from the plane?
Everyone will have a window seat for fantastic opportunities to take photos. We highly recommend you bring plenty of film and back up batteries. Digital still and motion cameras also work well and are highly recommended. One important tip is to make sure the flash is OFF to avoid glare from the windows.

Should I tip my pilot?
Tipping is not required, however should you feel your pilot or the staff at the Lodge provided that extra effort in service, then tips are always appreciated.

What kind of weather should I expect?
Expect the unexpected! We have experienced “typical” summer days ranging from 45 degrees and raining to 85 degrees and sunny…and all in the same week. It is always smart to plan for anything up here in Alaska.

Do you fly in the rain?
The Tongass National Forest, an actual rainforest, makes up much of Southeast Alaska. We Alaskans have learned to appreciate the rain and never let it stop us do what we need to do. If it is otherwise safe and quality flying weather, we will fly in the rain. A little known fact is that the rich blue hues in the glaciers are more vibrant to the eye on an overcast day. Most photographers utilize Mother Nature’s magic when trying to capture the amazing blues!

What if the weather is “bad”?
Our pilots are experts in the decision making process when it comes to Southeast Alaska weather. Safety of our passengers and employees is our number one priority. We will not fly if it isn’t safe. Our second priority is quality, and we wont fly if it isn’t going to be a quality tour. Our reputation is too priceless to send guests out…and have them not see anything.

What should I wear?
The weather can vary drastically here so the best idea is to bring layers to be prepared for anything.

What if I have a physical limitation?
Some mobility is required to enter and exit the planes. We do have assistance in the form of additional ramps into the planes and a motorized “jitney” (or Alaskan 4-wheel drive golf cart ) at the Taku Glacier Lodge for guests seeking assistance between the floatplane docks and the main Lodge building. We simply ask that you know your own limitations. Entrance into the planes requires negotiating five to six ladder -like steps and there is minimal walking at the Taku Glacier Lodge. Although some guests will want to participate in the interpretative nature walks and nature trails you can make the time at the Taku Lodge what you want!