Longtime fishing guides and King Salmon residents buy Bear Trail Lodge

Apr 6, 2017

Nanci Morris Lyon and Heath Lyon bought out their partners to become full owners and operators of the Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon.

Heath Lyon and Nanci Morris Lyon stand in the Bear Trail Lodge, which they now own.
Credit KDLG

The Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon is now fully owned and operated by Nanci Morris Lyon and Heath Lyon. The couple has been guiding fishing trips in Bristol Bay for decades.

In the 30 years that Morris Lyon has been guiding fishing trips in Alaska, she has become known by some as the pink lady on the river. someone gave her a pink hat with the slogan ‘Simply the best’ during her first year of guiding.

“I put the hat on my head, and the next thing that I hear are the rumors that nobody can cat fish in a pink hat,” she says. “Me being the person I am, I was a little perturbed, so I was bound to prove them wrong. It became my moniker.”

The pink stuck, and she came to own a pink boat. Again, the pink color was unintentional on her part.

The Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon
Credit The Bear Trail Lodge

“I’ve kind of become the pink lady out here without actually wanting that to have happened.”

She hired Heath Lyon as a dock hand in 1991 and trained him as a guide in 1992. The rest is history, she says. They have been guiding together ever since.

The Lyons ran the guide operations for the Bear Trail Lodge’s original owners, Morry and Donnalee Morecroft, when they built the lodge in 1999. When the Morecrofts sold the lodge eight years ago, the Lyons became partners with Brian Kraft and David Sandlin. As they have grown into running the lodge, Morris Lyon says, she has picked up more than just that pink fishing cap.

“You have to wear all kinds of hats. You forget counting them because it doesn’t even make sense anymore,” she explains.

They handle everything from airline reservations and fish processing to food and gear.

For their services they charge anywhere from $5275 for three days and three nights at the lodge to $9250 for seven days and seven nights. About 250 to 300 guests per year come from all over the world for the wide array of freshwater fishing opportunities.

“We’ll fish for everything from all five species of salmon to the trophy rainbow trout in the area, the grayling, the char, the Dolly Varden and even the pike and some offshoot breeds like that,” Morris Lyon says.

On March 31, the Lyons made it official and bought their partners out. Morris Lyon says that the opportunity for them to buy the lodge was an unexpected one.

“We just had this really unique opportunity that we never imagined would happen at all in our life time. We had two partners in the lodge and they had much larger financial means than we did. We had the opportunity to buy them out, and there was a financier from back east of all places that was looking for investments in Alaska. And we just ended up being in the right place at the right time. And we are now full owners of Bear Trail Lodge.”

Heath Lyon scoops a fish from the river that a Bear Trail Lodge guest caught.
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

Morris Lyon anticipates that the day-to-day operations will remain largely unchanged. What she is excited for is to bring the lodge back into local ownership.

“One of the reasons that I really am proud to own the lodge is it was built and begun by somebody who lived out here and was a resident out here. A lot of the inside workings of the lodge, literally the timbers and what not, the beams that it’s built with have come from old canneries from around here. I kind of feel like it’s being brought back to the bay again, and it’s back in local hands again”

The Lyons call Bristol Bay home and have for a long time. It’s that love of the place and their investment, not just of money, but of time and heart that keep them there, says Morris Lyon.

“This place is become a part of me my heart is here now. I absolutely adore the fisheries. I adore the biology and natural wonders that we have out here. Really I feel like I’m the fortunate one to be a part of this little piece of earth, and I find it to be heaven on earth.”

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.