A Brief history of Twelve Acre Lodge (est. 1948)

It all began with a loan of $300.00 from renowned Newfoundland businessman, Gerald S. Doyle,  and the fulfillment of a business dream by brothers Don and Brett Saunders of Gander  Bay.  This lodge was originally built and opened for business in 1948 here on Cleaves Island.

The location is halfway between Gander Bay and Glenwood and was called after “Old Man Cleaves” who previously had a log drivers’ camp on the island.

The site was chosen by the Saunders boys because of its proximity to great fishing pools.   “And it was a very pretty place, a  level grassy ground in a grove of tall birch and aspen……” (excerpt from the book, Rattles and Steadies: Memoirs of a Gander River Man by Gary Saunders.)  It was also high enough to escape the annual spring flooding and had a fairly good beach for unloading guests and supplies.  Some years later, the breastwork along the River was built to prevent erosion.

For many years, the Gander River was in fact the highway to Gander Bay so this central location was well suited for bringing supplies up from the Bay and guests down from Glenwood via the famous Gander River Boats.  These boats were developed and perfected by a number of generations of Gander Bay boat builders to suit the special conditions of the Gander River.  One of Saunders’ American guests was so impressed with the abilities of these boats that he bought one and, at great expense, had it shipped back to Washington, DC, for cruising up and down the Potomac.

Prior to the arrival of outboard motors, the canoes were pointed at both ends and the workhorse would be poled and rowed back and forth between Gander Bay and Glenwood carrying supplies of all kinds including such oddities as a Holstein cow and her calf.

The advent of the outboard motor was a Godsend to the men who had to make the back-breaking, two-to-three-day trip between the two communities.  One should be aware that Gander Bay was not serviced by a road until 1960!

One only needs to reflect on the camp as it is today and realize that everything – to an item – was transported in by these wonderful Gander River Boats.  Worthy of note is that one of the strangest pieces of cargo, if not the heaviest, ever carried in a Gander River Boat was a hurricane fighter plane that crashed  in February 1943 in a bog just below Johnathan’s Brook in Third Pond.  The Saunders boys got the contract to bring it down river to Gander Bay and did so in a number of trips by lashing two Gander River Boats together, catamaran-style, and transporting it down to Gander Bay where the RCAF arranged the SS Glencoe to take it on to Lewisporte.

The Saunders successfully ran the camp, hosting many local, Canadian, American and European guests; many of whom returned year after year to their favourite fishing retreat.  Amongst their guests was Ben Wright, editor of Field and Stream;  Ebb Warren, outdoor editor of True magazine; as well as famed fisherman, Lee Wulff.

My dad, Henry, was one of the local guests who frequented the River and anecdotally on a fishing trip with dad, this is where I stayed and caught my first salmon at the age of eight.

In 1966 the camp changed hands as the Saunders sold the camp to the Buchan’s Mining Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the American Smelting and Refining Company.  The camp was enjoyed by their executives, customers and guests for a number of years until it was subsequently sold to the paper mill operators, Abitibi Price (then owned by the Reichmann’s) for similar purposes.

Then, with the downturn in both the economy and the paper industry in 1984, a decision by Abitibi to sell non-core assets saw the property being sold to Douglas Enterprises Ltd., a company owned by myself and good friend, Gerry Critch.  We enjoyed many wonderful years of fishing and “times” on the Gander River in running the outfitting operation until 2002 when I took sole ownership of the Gander camp and Gerry took sole ownership of another camp we had also co-owned in Terra Nova.

Today the Gander is primarily a grilse River with the occasional salmon in the 8-15 lb range being caught, there are also still a number of larger salmon frequenting the River: the largest known salmon caught being 42 lbs.  Many people will tell you, though, that pound for pound, the grilse, or smaller salmon, will put up the best fight.

So with the wonderful fishing and the many upgrades, Twelve Acre Lodge has continued operations, and it is wished that all guests will enjoy the wonderful experience that the Saunders boys envisioned so many years ago.  Truly a pleasurable wilderness experience.

As part of the camp’s history, I would be remiss if I did not mention and thank the camp’s wonderful guides who have looked after the camp and its guests so well.  Dave Gillingham and Perry Bath have both been with the camp for over twenty-five years, and Norm Downer is approaching that milestone.

Hope you enjoyed this little bit of background on Twelve Acres and Like other fishing camps, many parts of the history are best left untold !


Chris Collingwood Dated:  October 4, 2010

Comments are closed.