Situated near the Cordova Rose Lodge, the iconic Odiak Pharos Lighthouse is recognized by the Coast Guard as an official aid to navigation. Photo by Dick Shellhorn

Nestled on the southern banks of Odiak Slough a mile out Whitshed Road is the iconic Cordova Rose Lodge. The large two-story structure sits atop a barge named the Berry #1 that was built in Kodiak in 1924. 

The Berry #1 worked the Gulf of Alaska as a pile driver and fish trap setter until it was towed to its current site just after the 1964 earthquake. 

The site was formerly the wintertime storage location of a floating cannery that the Clemens brothers would tow across Prince William Sound to operate in the Eshamy area during the summer.  

Used as a machine shop, a home for a recluse, and a houseboat over the years, Bob and Rose Arvidson took ownership of the barge in 1964. 

They began the process of remodeling the facilities atop the barge as well as landlocking the barge by building up the surrounding property with rock and fill. Eventually they created a u-shaped moorage basin for Bob’s gill-netter. 

Bob, who was an Eagle Scout, graduated from Cordova High in 1952, and went on to earn a PhD in psychology. Born in a family of hard-working local fisherman, the story goes that he soon decided that salmon were much easier to outsmart than humans, so he resumed a career in gill-netting. 


However, during the off-season he put all that education to good use. He and Rose, an accomplished gardener, historian, and photographer, set to work in creating an astonishing array of structures on their man-made harbor. 

The exterior landscape consists of a breakwater with a lighthouse, bridges, a gazebo, a sailing ship mast, and a statue of the Greek mythical character Sisyphus. 

The myth tells that Sisyphus was being punished by the Greek god Zeus, who told him he had to push a boulder up a hill forever. Every time he got it to the top, it would roll back down and he would have to start over. 

It has been said that the statue reflected Arvidson’s philosophy that everyone has their own rock to push. Knowing Bob’s sense of humor, perhaps it was simply a reminder of how many rocks he moved to create his masterpiece.  

The crowning achievement of Bob’s endeavors has to be the lighthouse he built in the late 70s to help guide him up Odiak Slough when returning from gill netting on the Copper River Delta. 

Named the Odiak Pharos, it took him several years of paperwork in a Sisyphusian-like effort to convince the Coast Guard to recognize the lighthouse as an official aid to navigation. 

Incidentally, the original Pharos Lighthouse was built from 280 B.C. to 247 B.C. at the mouth of the Nile near Alexandria. Made of granite and limestone, it stood 387 feet tall before being destroyed by numerous earthquakes in the 1400s. It was considered to be one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, and the light for Pharos was created by a furnace at the top. 

The Odiak Pharos is still listed as an official navigational aid and is believed to be the northern-most lighthouse in the United States. 

The Rose Lodge was purchased by Eldon and Jan Glen in 1992. 

They renovated the structure atop the barge and remodeled a building next to it called the Gear Shed. They operated it as a B&B, as did current owners Gaye and Gary McDowell, who took over the Lodge in 1998. 

When visited in 2002 by Bob and Shannon Shanklin, “The Lighthouse People” who have photographed every lighthouse in the United States, they noted that it was the only one in Alaska that could be reached by car. All others require boat or helicopter. 

Ironically it is that very feature which has put the Rose Lodge and surrounding structures in peril. The edge of the barge abuts Whitshed Road. In fact, the edge of the road looms about 25 vertical feet above it. 

The oft-delayed Whitshed road project, which includes a bike path beside the road, will need right-of way-space.  

The original Pharos was destroyed by acts of nature. What will be the fate of the Odiak Pharos? 

This story originally ran in the Nov. 17, 2023 issue of The Cordova Times.