Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in Manitoba is one of the premier Canadian fishing lodges. It first opened in 1949 and has expanded over the years to meet the changing needs and expectations of its clientele.
In present times, from the totally ecological Great Gray Owl, to the incredible moderness of the Boardwalk Chalets, to the beach front luxury of Park Place, and to the remodeled elegance and comfort of Master Angler’s Row, we provide a choice of accommodations to meet your needs as well as your budget. As a result, Aikens Lake has become one of the best luxury Canadian fishing lodges.
The Beginning of Construction
Eric Carlson, the first proprietor of the 9 acres on Aikens Lake, had had a trap line in the area since the early 1940s. His cabin stood close to today’s lodge. One day, he decided to approach the federal government seeking permission to fish commercially on Aikens. This had been tried unsuccessfully back in 1938. The government suggested to him that tourism and sport fishing might be a better idea.
Eric and his son Eddie began preparations in the fall of 1947 for construction the following spring. Trees were downed and brought into camp in the winter with the aid of a three-dog team. It was, of course, much easier to let the dogs drag the trees through the snow than to carry the logs in the summer!
The Grand Opening
On May 19th, 1949 Aikens Lake Lodge made its grand debut. Among the structures that Eric and Eddie had built was the lodge, which is now used for storage (called "Le Portage"). The first two cabins, cabins 1 & 2, were also up, although they have since been torn down to construct our Boardwalk Chalets. In 1950, Eric’s son Alfred came to help build 5 more cabins, which were called Wilderness Trail (they have since been torn down to construct our Sunset Chalets). Eric and his wife Elsie Abestine spent the winters at Aikens Lake, where Eric trapped and built boats in the lodge dining room.
In the Portage, there is a trap door which leads to an underground storeroom connecting to numerous tunnels and pens where the Carlsons kept their animals in the winter time. Eric was a trapper and would spend weeks away from Elsie in the wintertime.
The dock wasn't always in the calmness of the back bay. With engines only being a few hp, it would have taken too long to bring the boats all the way around the peninsula every morning and night. Most of the fishing was done in the little section of Gammon River flowing into the lake. There was also some lake trout fishing done in front of the lodge. There are still old dock cribs on the main beach in front of "Le Portage".
Guests arrived at Aikens Lake by air. Ontario Central flew out of Kenora and Central Northern Airways flew out of Lac du Bonnet. Some guests came from Winnipeg to Lac du Bonnet by train.
The Legend of Elsie
Some of our guests have had the opportunity to sit around the campfire and hear about Elsie, our friendly neighborhood ghost. In fact, this is more than just a clever spinster's imagination. Although Elsie passed away in Winnipeg, and not at the lodge, numerous staff members have seen Elsie in the past. Everytime she has been spotted, it has been either in, or around, "Le Portage"... her old cabin. The oddest episode happened back around 1994. Gil Lavack, head guide at the time, was sleeping heavily at 6:00 AM.
He felt a hand shaking him and a female voice urging him to wake up. Assuming it was only one of the girls from the camp, he ignored it for awhile. After much persistence, a groggy Gil turned around and was staring directly into the image of Elsie, 1950's attire and all. He could not sleep another wink, and at breakfast was completely shaken up. This is one of many encounters, but is probably the closest contact anyone has had with the apparition.
The Gaffray Years
After 18 years of operation, Aikens Lake Lodge was sold in 1967 to Arthur Gaffray, a pilot, who had first flown in to Aikens Lake in 1953 while hauling freight. In 1956, he began to fly guests into the lodge.
During the Gaffray tenure, the kitchen and dining room were built along with the motel unit known now as Master Angler’s Row. The North Star and the Lone Coyote cabins (staff quarters) were also erected.
The Lavergne/Frechette Partnership
In 1974, Gerry Lavergne and his partner Antoine Frechette bought Aikens Lake Lodge. The partnership dissolved in 1980 and Gerry continued alone. The Master Angler’s Club Room was added to the dining room. Orion, (the current Managers Residence) was built along with a modern shower and laundry facility.
The Turenne/Lavack Partnership
In the fall of 1988, Aikens Lake Lodge was sold to Gerry & Lorraine Turenne and Philippe & Jackie Lavack. It became known as Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge. The first major purchase after acquiring the lodge was the sawmill. It has enabled us to produce our own wood. Not only does this save us the great expense of buying the wood and flying it in, but gives us the unique opportunity to build hand-crafted log structures. These cabins, especially the Great Gray Owl and Boardwalk Chalets, have become some of the most beautiful and unique accommodations that are unmatched among Canada fishing resorts
PPVCAP & the Turennes
In 2005, Phil & Jackie retired from the lodge business. Chris Jensen and the PVCAP team entered the fold to work with the Turenne family in bringing Aikens into a new era. The new partners put their immediate stamp on the lodge by investing heavily in the infrastructure of the lodge, which was essential in getting us to where we are today. Their philosophy was that they had loved Aikens so much as guests over the past 13 years, their main focus wasn't to change the philosophies at Aikens, but rather their goal was to bring the cabins and boats up to the same level of quality as the customer service and the rest of the experience had always been for them... and boy did they accomplish that! In those first three years, new structures went up in quick succession starting with "Le Canot" (2-storey men's residence which today houses 16 male staff/year), two new Sunset Chalet cabins, a new laundry facility, guide lockers, and the Ursa Major (office, store, manager's residence). This made everyone's experience off the water that much better. They also brought in our new fleet of incredible Lund Alaskan boats, a revamped fleet of 4-stroke engines to provide reliability and safety on the water, and a luxury van to help shuttle our guests from Winnipeg to Silver Falls in comfort. The modernization of a 55 year old lodge was well under way!
Since those first frantic years, annual reinvestment in the lodge has led to continued improvements including a remodeling of Master Angler's Row Suites, renovations at Park Place, Great Gray Owl, the main lodge, North Star (girls residence), Orion (managers residence), the Lone Coyote, new permanent docks at the lodge and GGO, more boats, new walk-in freezer & storage, and most recently the new construction of the Lost Lake Outpost Camp. It's this commitment to excellence that shines through to all our guests when they step off the plane and see the excellence and craft in every structure at Aikens Lake. It shows that we are not here for the short term - we live and breathe Aikens Lake every day of the year, and we want your experience with us to be as good as can be. Like Doug Stange from In-Fisherman Magazine said all those years ago... "As good as it gets, is that good at Aikens". It continues to be true to this day.