Idaho and Montana are each blessed with remote, spectacular fly-in lodges. Now that the elegant new Minam River Lodge is completed and open, you can add Oregon to that list.
First opened nearly 70 years ago, the Minam River Lodge has been thoughtfully re-imagined as an elegant hideaway, filled with handmade touches by local artisans. The literally hand-built log cabins and their custom-built furniture are all made with native woods. Local farms and an onsite garden are fully utilized to create the lodge’s own distinctive cuisine. Amenities include a wood-fired hot tub and rustic sauna, each just steps from the wild and scenic Minam River. Life’s complications fall away as you reconnect with nature. No need to bring your cellphone or computer (no service here); just relax in the tranquil surroundings. Go hiking or horseback riding, fish along the Minam River, get a relaxing massage, and gaze at the star-filled sky. With accommodations for just 40 guests, the Minam River Lodge feels private and intimate.
As you fly over, you’ll see that the Red’s Horse Ranch airstrip is only about 750 yards south of the Minam River airstrip. See photos and captions for tips on landing at Minam. Bring your own tiedowns (Aviation Consumer rated these the best; they’re even made in nearby Enterprise, Oregon.). The lodge website provides a detailed description of recommended operating procedures. You should have backcountry experience before flying in, but you don’t need a Super Cub or the like to fly here; the owner arrives via his Cessna 206.
The property on which the Lodge is built dates to a homestead established around 1890. Mert and Erma Loree purchased the property and built the original Minam River Lodge from 1950 to 1951, using materials ferried over the mountains by mule. Hunters flocked to the lodge for years, finding great success in an area known as “Mert’s Meat Locker.” Back then Red’s Horse Ranch was an iconic dude ranch that drew celebrities including Burt Lancaster.
In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, designed to preserve areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Eagle Cap Wilderness was placed in the National Wilderness Preservation System and eventually grew to 359,991 acres. In 1994 the Forest Service acquired Red’s Horse Ranch and now maintains the buildings with the help of volunteers. You can camp onsite but the buildings are closed. But the Minam River Lodge remained open as a rare private in-holding, surrounded by protected wilderness. The lodge changed hands several times and eventually fell into disrepair.
In 2011, Barnes Ellis purchased the property. A native Oregonian, Ellis explored much of the Northwest as a boy, and the Minam River Lodge became one of his favorite places. When he saw it was for sale, he was inspired to restore it, and worked to assemble a team of architects and craftsmen who shared his dream of rebuilding the lodge and cabins for new generations to enjoy. The construction crew milled their own lumber and re-purposed as many materials as possible from the original structures. From the lodge and cabins to the wall tents, hot tub, and bath house, the team created numerous unique dwellings where people can hear birds sing in the morning, coyotes howl at night, and the Minam River rush by without end, under rustling leaves. After six years, the new Minam River Lodge opened in May 2017 to rave reviews and is normally open from Memorial Day weekend through November 1. Building this retreat has been a labor of love and a gift to outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Learn more about all you can see, do, and taste here, as well as the selection of accommodations, in the accompanying photos and captions. Enjoy!
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