Long before European settlers came to Alaska, local Athabascan tribes sent scouting expeditions up the valley. Those expeditions never returned. To this day, the elders in Glenallen will tell you their people believed the valley to be haunted, and that is why they never settled here.
“We are the first human beings to ever settle in this valley,” says Paul Claus. “As a result we fly places every week that no human being has ever been.”
It was Grandpa John Claus who first settled at Ultima Thule. In 1958, John was a schoolteacher in Anchorage. But his passion for the wilderness drove him to the cockpit of his very first plane, an early Piper Cub similar to the Super Cubs used at the lodge today.
By 1960 he had fallen in love with this patch of land by the Chitina, a hundred miles from the nearest road. He staked a claim under the Alaskan Homestead Act, and was granted five acres if he could make any use of it.
“These 5 acres were mine,” says John with a smile. “With a 13 million acre backyard.”
Armed only with axes, John and two Eskimos built the first log cabin by the shore of the Chitina. Over the years the river flooded twice, and the settlement moved farther up the side of the mountain. Ultima Thule has grown – it now offers all the luxury and hospitality of civilization to travelers in the deepest wilderness. But those same, hand-hewn logs still form part of the main lodge, the primal heart beating at Ultima Thule.
In 1982, newly married, John and Eleanor’s son Paul, along with his new bride Donna, made the land their permanent home and began building the lodge.
In the years since, they’ve raised three children here on the land. Ellie 23, Jay 20, Logan 14 have grown up in this home in the wilderness. They’ve learned to hike, fish and live off the land. Jay and Ellie are talented pilots and experienced wilderness guides, who are now beginning to take the reins as the next generation of Clauses to welcome guests to this remote patch of paradise.
Testimonial: Forbes “ultimate unplugged vacations” 2008