The area surrounding the lodge at Nonacho Lake. Photo supplied by Myles Carter
Myles Carter believes the secluded lake that’s been a part of his family for generations could be about to enjoy its best summer yet.
Carter runs Nonacho Lake Fishing Adventures, a lodge that offers fly-in fishing “near the map’s edge” on Nonacho Lake, nearly 100 km east of Great Slave Lake.
The lake has been a part of the Carter family since the 1950s, when Myles says his grandfather, a commercial fish buyer, took floatplane rides to scope out the best lakes in the territory.
“They got to test a lot of these lakes, and Nonacho Lake was producing incredible lake trout and northern pike,” says Carter. “That’s how this started – and we’re still there.”
It hasn’t always been that simple, though.
Myles’ father, Merlyn – for whom Hay River’s airport is named – died in a bear attack in 2005. After that, Myles says, the family lodge effectively closed down for more than a decade.
Around seven years ago, the desire to reopen the lodge became too strong and Carter returned to the lake. But then the pandemic arrived.
“We got hit hard head-on with Covid, as most tourism operators did. That really hurt tourism. But the summer coming up is looking like a real busy summer for me, and I’m pretty excited about it,” he said this month.
Carter has been involved in the family lodge since his late teens, but Nonacho has become his project since 2016, when he returned to reopen the premises.
“I was doing a little bit of contract flying and a little bit of office work, and that’s just not who I am,” he said of the decision to come back.
“I was out at the lake and I thought, you know what, I’m going to get this going again and give it a push, see where we can go with it.
“We’ve had some other challenges along the way, but it’s such a beautiful part of the territory.”
Carter said the absence of most tourism from 2020 to 2022 – during which the NWT had varying forms of public health restrictions on travel – demonstrated the industry’s importance, making him all the more excited to have such a busy summer planned.
“I sit there and think, sometimes, my mom and dad – to get one group up here takes a lot of work,” he said of his parents’ work running the lodge.
“Over the years, mom and dad have brought a lot of people through the territory. And that’s really important for tourism because those tourists support the hotels, the restaurants, the airlines, the charter businesses, the hardware store for buying supplies, grocery stores for their trip – they’re a big part of everybody’s life up here.
“We have to look after these people, I believe, and that’s what mom and dad always taught me. Tourists put a lot of food on everybody’s table up here in the North, so we’ve got to treat them with respect and show them a good time.”
Carter believes that approach is why some of Nonacho’s guests have been returning for decades.
A party from Wisconsin, he said, have been regulars at the lodge since the early 1970s and were some of the first guests back to Nonacho last summer, as restrictions on travel from the United States finally eased. They’re booked for another trip next year, too.
“They’re almost like family,” Carter said.
Every time they come back, the lodge looks a little better. Carter said re-establishing the lodge after 2016 took “a lot of work” rejuvenating weathered buildings in the bush, “but I’ve got it going now, and it’s good.”
For NWT residents who want to experience the lodge, 2023 isn’t quite fully booked.
“There are some weeks I do have availability. I’ll squeeze people in if they’re serious and they’re looking for certain dates. We can talk and figure something out,” Carter said.
“A lot of people don’t realize what is in their backyard but since Covid, some have learned what we have to offer,” he added, referring to residents who used staycation time to visit Nonacho.
“Most people have never seen it out there and it’s really special. Once you experience it, it’ll never leave your mind – or heart.”
This article appears as part of a paid partnership between Cabin Radio, NWT Tourism and the Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment celebrating Tourism Week 2023 in the Northwest Territories. To explore more, visit Spectacular NWT on Youtube.