Driving through the Wallowa Valley, "the land of winding rivers," it is not difficult to see why Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce tribe fought so hard against a federal government trying to force them from their ancestral home. This area is stunning, nestled at the foot of snow-capped peaks, a green oasis in arid eastern Oregon. The Wallowa Lake Lodge, built in 1923 at the foot of Wallowa Lake, itself a geological oddity, gives visitors a perfect base for exploring one of the most wild and beautiful places in America.
A three-story lake lodge imbued with the cozy atmosphere of timbered walls and stone fireplaces, the Lodge has withstood the crushing snows that permanently closed an amusement park that was one of its main attractions back in 1940. Nestled amid towering Ponderosa pines at the south end of the lake, its 22 rooms and 8 cabins provide a peaceful getaway to visitors looking for a combination of beauty, relaxation, and adventure. The area is rich in Western history, and the scenery is nothing short of awesome.
The cabins at Wallowa Lake Lodge are open all year round for rental. The main lodge building is only open full time during the summer and only on the weekends during the rest of the year from mid October until Memorial Day weekend. The summer season runs from June 1 to October 15th, but the main lodge can be booked for special occasions like weddings and conferences during the rest of the year.
The lodge has 22 rooms, mostly 1 bedroom, but there are several two bedroom units that can be reserved as well. All of the rooms are nicely decorated with rustic 1920's period furniture and artwork that lend a nice touch the wilderness lodge experience. All of the rooms at Wallowa Lake lodge are different and some are larger and better situated (Lake view) while others are smaller and quieter. Rates range from $80 per night for smaller rooms in the off season to $170 per night for the largest room during the peak season.
The Wallowa Lake Lodge cabins, which are open for rental year round, come in several configurations. There is the Sugar Cabin Studio cabin (the smallest and cutest - we have rented this one), four 1 bedroom cabins, and three 2 bedroom cabins. The cabins range from $100 per night for the smallest during the off season up to $235 per night for the largest cabin (the 2 bedroom) during the summer season. All of the cabins have a kitchen although the kitchen in the studio cabin is very tiny. Several of the cabins have wood burning fireplaces and for these cabins fresh firewood is brought daily which is a very nice touch. Some of the cabins have a view of the lake, some don't. If you are not familiar with the cabins, make sure to specify a lake view. Daily housekeeping is done on all rooms and cabins at Wallowa Lake Lodge.
Wallowa Lake Lodge has done extensive restoration work to the building and the furnishings in recent years to ensure that the 1920's look and feel is as authentic today as it was when the lodge was first opened for business. Another nice perk is that unoccupied rooms are left open and lodge guests are encouraged to tour the open rooms as much as they like. Since all of the rooms in the main lodge are different in configuration depending on where they are located in the building it makes it nice to see what the other rooms are like and maybe find the room you would like to stay in on your next visit to the lodge.
However, the lodge is generally full during the peak summer months of August and September, so don't count on many rooms being available for touring besides your own if you plan your trip during this period!
The entire property is a no smoking zone and they do not allow pets to be brought into the lodge or cabins or anywhere on the property. That mean you can't leave the pooch in the car or RV. The lodge will charge you $100 cleaning fee if they catch you smoking or find a pet in a room or cabin.
Even the vaguest recollections of Old West history usually conjure up the name of Chief Joseph, the "Red Napoleon" admired even by his enemies. The nearest town to the Lodge is even named for him. The Nez Perce tribe, long friendly to the white man, renounced that friendship when a gold rush in the Wallowa Valley brought floods of white settlers encroaching on their land. The federal government, which had granted the land to the Nez Perce in perpetuity, reneged on the promise and tried to relocate the tribe to a much smaller reservation in Idaho. Pursued by 2,000 U.S. cavalry, Chief Joseph conducted a brilliant, 1,700-mile retreat toward Canada that ended only 40 miles short when he made his famous announcement that "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." Joseph never saw the Wallowa Valley again, but his name is all over it, from a commemorative monument at the lake to the rather charming tourist town of Joseph, Oregon nearby.
The Wallowa Lake Lodge has witnessed boom and bust, but like the lake and the mountains, it endures. The area has been a tourist attraction since at least the 1880s, and the Lodge was built to accommodate sightseers admiring the spectacular views, so at odds with the rimrock and sagebrush of the rest of eastern Oregon. Wallowa Lake itself is an almost perfect bowl, created by the huge wall of rock and gravel left behind by a receding glacier. It offers miles of boating, fishing, and just floating around in peace. It stands at the entrance to the Eagle Cap Wilderness, a paradise for hikers and horseback riders. For the really adventurous, it's not far to Hell's Canyon on the Snake River, where Lewis and Clark (who incidentally were befriended by Chief Joseph's father) came through the area on their way to the Pacific Coast.
The most interesting and colorful of the Wallowa Valley hotels, the Wallowa Lake Lodge really does stand with a foot in both worlds: a living relict of the past, located next door to one of the trendiest art towns in Oregon. Nestled between the high desert and the peaks, this mountain lodge represents the best of Oregon's past, present, and future.