Digest>Archives> April 2002

Cordova Rose Lodge and Lighthouse: A Far North Paradise

By Jeremy D'Entremont

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Odiak Pharos, the northernmost lighthouse in the ...
Photo by: Bob and Sandra Shanklin

Alaska’s Cordova Rose Lodge, located in an isolated coastal village on Prince William Sound, is on a landlocked barge with its very own lighthouse. The lighthouse, named “Odiak Pharos,” is an official navigational aid listed by the Coast Guard. It’s also believed to be the northernmost lighthouse in the United States.

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The lighthouse and lodge are in a spectacular ...
Photo by: Bob and Sandra Shanklin

The area is a paradise for nature lovers, with sea otters, seals, sea lions and Orca whales, as well as the largest shorebird and nesting waterfowl migration in the northern continent every spring. In the clear blue-green waters salmon, and halibut challenge fishermen.

The barge was brought to the site in 1964. It’s a rigging scow that was built in 1924 in Kodiak, Alaska and worked the Gulf of Alaska as a pile driver and fish trap setter. The present site was once the location of a floating fish cannery.

Previous owners used the barge as a machine shop and a houseboat. The lighthouse was built in the late 1970s by Bob Ardvison, a fisherman in Cordova, after he landlocked the barge and built up the ground around it. Bob wanted a light to help guide him back home up Odiak Slough. After a great deal of effort he convinced the Coast Guard to list the lighthouse as a navigational aid along with two channel markers.

The current owners, Gaye and Gary McDowell, took over the lodge in 1998 and have been renovating it ever since. Besides opening the inn, they have introduced complete adventure trips and excursions, with home cooked evening meals.

Bob and Sandra Shanklin, “The Lighthouse People” who have photographed every lighthouse in the U.S., have stayed at Cordova Rose Lodge. Sandra reports that reaching the lodge is an experience in itself. “Odiak Pharos is the only lighthouse in Alaska you can drive to,” she says, “provided you can get your car on the ferry to Cordova. Every other lighthouse in Alaska requires a boat or a helicopter to access. The scenery in any direction in Cordova is breathtaking.”

The Shanklins flew to Cordova, quite an adventure as Sandra describes it. “Cordova sits in a bowl of mountains, making landings especially hair-raising. As soon as the Alaska Airlines plane hit the ground we heard the engines reverse thrust to slow the plane, as the runway of ‘Mudhole Smith’ International Airport is very short. There is also always a chance of a moose on the runway.”

The Shanklins loved their experience at the lodge and lighthouse. “The breakfasts were great at the Cordova Rose.” Sandra says. “We also found that since it was a small town, almost everyone knew who we were and what we were doing a day or two after we got there. Everyone was friendly and helpful — Alaskans are a special breed of people. We stayed in a room where we could view Odiak Pharos, day and night, and it was especially fun for the ‘Lighthouse People’ to see its little beam shining over Odiak Slough and Cordova. Finding Odiak Pharos made our trip to Cordova even more special.”

As the McDowells put it, “Cordova is a place where you forget your problems and enjoy getting up in the morning, being who you are, where you are one more day. No words or pictures will prepare you for the beauty of Cordova, Alaska. You must experience it!”

All this and a working lighthouse. What more could anyone want?

If you would like more information about the Cordova Rose Lodge, you can write to: 1315 Whitshed, Box 1494, Cordova, Alaska 99574. Or call 907-424-7673 or email to: info@cordovarose.com

This story appeared in the April 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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