The Branham history in Alaska goes back to the late 1930’s with Bud and Dennis Branham paving the way by building some of the first lodges in Alaska. Their pioneering spirit lives on with Dennis Branham’s adoptive son, Chris. Chris’s natural father, Clary Palmer-Wilson, was a great white hunter in East Africa where he met Bud Branham and formed a working partnership. After hearing Clary’s concerns for his son’s future, and because of the growing unrest with the approaching independence of Tanganyika, they decided Bud would bring Clary’s oldest son Michael to the United States where he would see to his college education and eventual employment in the outdoor business which was currently generating a great deal of interest, especially in Alaska. Soon after, the next oldest son Christopher was sent to Alaska to help Bud’s brother, Dennis Branham, with the same sort of offer; a college education and experience in the lodge business. Since both Bud and Dennis were pilots, it made sense to teach Mike and Chris how to fly. They both became skilled pilots and Chris has now been an active Alaskan bush pilot for 45 years. Chris is the last of the “African Branham’s” still residing and operating wilderness fly fishing lodges in Alaska.
Twenty years ago, Chris and Linda Branham had a dream to create a five star remote fly-fishing lodge in southwest Alaska. With Chris’s knowledge and experience, he knew that to make his dream a reality, he would have to offer a fishing and lodging experience unlike any other in Alaska. Combined with Linda’s business and culinary background, it seemed like the perfect fit. Their dedication would eventually turn Royal Wolf Lodge into a place worthy of their hard work and dreams.
The Branhams’ soon discovered a Native allotment of 120 acres prime parkland within the Katmai National Park and Preserve. After a nail biting but successful final deliberation with the Native family and the BIA, they were able to purchase outright some of the most desirable and pristine tracts of private land available within the park. The setting provides two large lakes for easy float plane access, rolling hills and tundra forests, is bordered on the south by the Nonvianuk River and is surrounded by the snow peaked majesty of the Aleutian Range and Nonvianuk Lake. This makes it not only a highly workable, but highly desirable location for a fly-out wilderness fishing lodge in Southwest Alaska. The beauty of this pristine area is a fly-fisherman and naturalist’s paradise. Flight distances to fishing streams are minimal (5 – 15 minutes) and better yet, the home river provides some of the best wild rainbow fly-fishing in the area. The home river is so close to the lodge, literally walking distance from the guest cabins, there is plenty of fishing to be had if inclement weather should keep you from flying. The Nonvianuk provides large indigenous rainbows, all five species of salmon, Arctic Char, Grayling and Lake Trout. With all this a few footsteps from your cabin, it is no wonder this was such a desirable location for a 5-star remote fly-fishing lodge.
In the spring of 1993 Chris and Linda flew their Helio Courier down to the property from Anchorage and walked the boundaries of the land. They camped that night and by morning the decision was 100%. Spending a night with loon serenades and witnessing huge rainbows rising on the Nonvianuk River, they knew it was the right decision. The ground breaking occurred in 1994 and June brought a full house of pioneering anglers. That first spring they stayed in wall tents with only a single outhouse; later in the week they placed bets on who got to use the first functioning shower. With the main lodge only semi-completed and Linda making all the meals, cleaning all cabins, doing all the laundry and acting as hostess, she had no time for anything else but falling into bed at night, sometimes clothing still intact.
Since 1994, Royal Wolf Lodge has kept up the high standards Chris and Linda first set. The lodge now has six guest cabins, a large living room with full bar, dining room with a fully stocked library on one end, a large wrap-around deck, commercial kitchen, a full spa facility with Finish Sauna and a separate massage therapy room. Each year something is either upgraded or added, with the guests comforts being the highest of priorities. Besides always focusing on catch and release wild rainbow fly fishing, we have added Spey fishing for rainbows, with some of the top instructors in the world.