History of The Black Bass Lodge
What’s easy about building a lodge in the middle of Baja? Nothing.
It all started over 25 years ago when Keith Berkley, a grad student at SDSU, and some of his buddies read about a place with some of the most abundant bass type fish in Baja California, and possibly the world. It was a long journey from San Diego that ended with a 60-mile dirt road guaranteed to flatten at least 1 tire along the way. But the adventure was worth it. He fell in love with the fishing, surf and soul of the town.
Punta Abreojos was famous among Baja adventurers, but difficult on even the toughest of vehicles. When a traveler got to Abreojos in those days, there was a degree of respect that came between the campers.
In spite of the difficulty, a relationship between the adventurers and locals developed. Keith and his buddies would bring down things for the people in town that are hard to get in a remote Baja environment, and in return, the locals would help them with their deep knowledge of the environment and were happy to share their beautiful yet rugged homeland.
With the help of a local, Keith and his friend Eric were able to secure some beachfront land just outside of town. Then began the most difficult task of trying to build a remote area, off-the-grid lodge, and with little or no building skills or tools. Old rusty hand saws and drills had to suffice until they were able to purchase their first generator. The power tools that followed really helped, to a degree.
Nothing was easy about the project. From getting supplies, to camping in harsh heat and wind, to laying each brick by hand with few construction skills and funds. Even with local help, progress was sloth like. At one point lots of fresh water was necessary, so they rented an old yet watertight panga and paid the water truck to fill it. The cows and coyotes would come each night for an unwelcome drink.
The first structure was finally built around 1998. It was essentially a small square room that served as the kitchen, sleeping area and place to hang out. But it was shelter. And it helped to springboard more trips with more people. The more people that came down for the early years, the more people supported the effort with small and large donations, camping stuff, tools, or really anything.
Realizing his lack of construction skills was hurting production, Keith decided to pursue construction as a profession, and after some time, Keith earned his Contractors License and started a construction business in San Diego. Then came more responsibility as he raised 2 boys with his wife Holly.
Busy with family life, work and limited funds, building beyond that first structure was a challenge. With each step forward, there would be a step back. Due to the harsh environment, a delay in making the long trip back to Punta Abreojos, meant much of what was built before would get dilapidated. Roof leaks, wood rot, rusty electrical systems, dead and overheated batteries, failed windmills as the wind was simply too strong. Keith found himself spending most of his time fixing what had already been created. Rough conditions, two toddlers and wife was not meshing too well. Trips became less frequent and the dream was all but dead. It really helped to get the spark back was Keith purchased a nice trailer and parked it where the lodge is now. The main room could now be used for cooking, tool storage, and materials. The family could be comfortable in the trailer watching movies and playing games, while the sand and wind whistled outside. Thanks to that trailer, the trips started up again. By 2006, there was a functioning bathroom and shower for the campers, so there were more and more trips.
It wasn’t until around 2015 that things started to really happen. And that momentum was due to three main factors. First, Keith’s success running a San Diego construction company gave him the experience needed to efficiently build a lodge. Two, the dirt road to the town got paved so 62 miles of pure hell was now a breeze. And three, the locals all had cell phones now, so communication was so much easier. This made managing a project from 650+ miles more doable.
Keith got inspiration for the Lodge's design from Howard Blackson, a designer and city planner. From that design, Keith and team created floor plans, and would send them to his Manager on site to get bids for small parts at a time. Money could be sent instantly via PayPal and Western Union type technology to purchase materials and pay the workers when work was completed.
So many times in remote areas, function far outweighs form. Having a structure is fine, but the inspiration behind the lodge is something more. More than simply keeping the wind, sand, and sun out, Keith wanted to create something truly special. Local artists were hired to paint the walls, ceilings, and bathrooms. As the final touches were being put on, each pocket of the building was examined for potential art. Faux cave paintings, Baja maps, fish murals, sun designs and even artwork and etched glass from Anthony’s seafood in San Diego. Anthony’s was instrumental in forming the town of Punta Abreojos in the 1950’s. They drove to San Ignacio to convince two families to come fish and work the point of Punta Abreojos. Unfortunately, Anthony’s closed, Keith and Holly bought some of the art and pieces from an Anthony’s Fish Grotto auction. It really adds to the feel and connection with the town’s history. The Black Bass Lodge is hard to get to, but once you are there the art and architecture are a nice reward.
The Black Bass Lodge you see today opened to the public in 2018. It was starting to gain momentum and word of mouth among fisherman, surfers, kite surfers, kayak enthusiasts, and adventure travelers who could rent a room by the night and enjoy great meals. Then 2020 hit, and the idea of renting rooms by the night and letting guest share dining and living areas had to change. Today, the lodge is only available to groups who are looking to rent the entire lodge (Over 3500 square feet with 4 rooms, 3 patios, lounge, 4.5 baths, dining room, and bar. Sleeps up to 15 people). A private chef is on-site to cook up the freshest local ingredients. Guests from all over the world now come to enjoy empty beaches full of sealife, incredible waves, and abundant fishing.
Photo below: The Black Bass Lodge in 2020.
Click here for more recent photos of The Black Bass Lodge
Click here for more recent photos of The Black Bass Lodge